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Successfully Measuring Social Customer Service Performance

In order to grasp the full impact and ROI of social customer service, companies need to measure it in a way that enables comparison with—and benchmarking alongside—more traditional customer care channels, such as phone, email and chat. Without measuring real customer service KPIs over social, it is difficult to resource teams for spikes in volume, improve the quality of agent performance and deliver the best customer experience possible. Below I have outlined the most important metrics to measure:


What it is:

  • Inbound volume — Count of incoming messages on all social channels. Allows you to understand the bigger picture, and for calculating the % of customer service issues compared to the total number of social inbound messages
  • Response volume –– Count of responses issued by brand
  • Volume by category — Count of messages by interaction type. This includes broad categories such as marketing messages, PR messages, and customer service messages. It also includes subcategories within these; subcategories for customer service might include the number of issues related to deliveries, product, website, etc. Make sure that this categorization matches your organization’s existing categorization used in the contact center for other channels such as phone and email, enabling you to match ‘apples to apples'
  • Case/conversation volume — Count of groupings of messages pertaining to individual customer issues. By grouping messages into meaningful customer conversations, it is possible to count how many interactions agents are performing

Why it’s important:

Measuring volumes makes your other KPIs meaningful. Still, it’s important to note that they do not constitute KPIs on their own, as they don’t measure performance. You cannot control your inbound volumes or your volumes by category. Rather, these metrics are important for providing a baseline from which to understand your other metrics. It’s hard to understand what a change in handling time or response time means unless you can match them up with changes in volume over social channels.

Average Response Time & First Response Time

What it is:

  • Average Response Time — Average time elapsed between all customer messages and agent replies
  • First Response Time — Average time elapsed between initial customer messages and initial agent replies. This can be compared with the metric of Average Speed of Answer (ASA) on traditional channels

To illustrate the difference between the two, it’s helpful to look at this timeline of an interaction between an agent and a customer.

Social Media Response Time

Why it’s important:

Regardless of channel, response time is a key driver of customer satisfaction, with first response time particularly important over social. Because of ART and FRT's close relationship to customer satisfaction, these two metrics typically provide the foundation of your Service Level Agreement (SLA). A strong internal SLA for response time   ensures consistency––both among agents and for your social customer service operations as a whole. 

It’s crucial that you be able to measure these metrics and your performance against your SLA in real time. If you have a sudden spike in volume, you need to be able to reallocate resources in order to bring the SLA down to baseline.

These metrics also enable you to compare your team’s performance in and out of operating hours. Many operations, especially in their nascency, are not able to scale to 24/7 social customer service. As a result you want to be sure that your hours of operation match customer expectations; if you see that your response time in business hours is wildly off from your response time overall, that can present a business case for you to shift or expand your hours of operation.

Handling Time

What it is:

  • Handling Time (HT) — Amount of time agents spends processing an issue. Handling time includes all activity, including elements such as reading the issue, tagging category and marking sentiment, looking up customer account info, making any notes about the issue, and drafting responses.
  • Average Handling Time (AHT) — Average amount of time agents spend processing issues over a given period. AHT can be measured for individual agents or for multiple agents if they’re handling the same issue (i.e. not re-routed, or frequent shift changes, assignments, etc.).
  • Total Handling Time (THT) — Total time agents spend processing issues over a given time period.

To help clarify the difference between these three metrics, this diagram provides a timeline of an agent dealing with issues as they come in. AHT is slightly different for social than on more traditional channels such as phone, in which one issue is dealt with at a time. Issues on social are split up; you might respond to one Tweet and not return to an issue until the customer Tweets back hours later.

Social Media AHT

Why it’s important:

Handling time is one of the first true cross-channel metrics for social customer service, enabling you to compare the performance of social against performance on other channels. Measuring social customer service with traditional metrics is a challenge when social is so fundamentally different; first response time on social is fundamentally different than first response time on other channels. Handling time, however, provides the ability to clearly compare social to traditional channels such as phone and email. If it takes 10 minutes to resolve an issue via email and 5 minutes to resolve an issue on social, you have a solid justification for the ROI of your social customer service operation.

Handling time is important for agent performance evaluation. If you have an agent whose average handling time is significantly off from his peers, that might mean it’s time for some coaching from the manager. It also enables you to measure the effect of process changes you have made in your organization. For example, if you want to add an approval workflow for your agents, in which a manager spot checks 20% of all issues, you can track and benchmark the impact of the change on your handling time.


What it is:

  • Sentiment — Qualitative assessment of customer satisfaction based on the tone and content of messages
  • Sentiment Conversion — Change in sentiment as a result of brand interaction. While, individual sentiment is important to track, but it doesn’t give you a story to tell. The story comes from being able to actually see and quantify the conversion rate (from negative to positive).

This diagram shows a sequence of interactions between a brand and customer, resulting in a successful sentiment conversion.

Social Sentiment

Why it’s important:

By measuring sentiment conversion, you can analyze the level of service you’re delivering, as well as the impact of any changes you implement (such as releasing a new tone guide). Sentiment can also contribute to your ROI model, enabling you to measure your revenue protected by improving customer sentiment.


What it is:

Deflection Rate — Percent of issues received over social media that are not resolved in-channel, but moved to a 1:1 channel such as phone, email or chat

Why it's important:

Deflection is very important, but under-utilized by most organizations. In most cases, redirecting customers away from their chosen support channel is one of the worst customer service experiences possible—forcing customers to repeat themselves in a form they haven’t chosen. 65% of customers report that in-channel resolution is the most important part of a good customer service experience.

The ability to do private communication within social media (direct messages in Twitter, private messages in Facebook) means that the vast majority of customer service issues can be handled without deflecting to another channel (aside from regulated areas which may entail secure communication channels). In order to ensure the highest customer satisfaction, we recommend that brands handle customer service issues in the same channel to which they are received, wherever possible. Even in regulated industries secure web forms can be used alongside social media to provide as seamless an experience as possible.

When you are not able to solve a customer issue publicly on social due to privacy issues, you should follow up with post issue resolution on that given channel. This not only shows you still care, but allows for issues to be resolved in the public eye. Issue resolution in one-to-one communication is fine - but you must close the loop afterwards. Even just a simple thank you to the user for their time and patience can suffice.

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