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The Most Important Social Customer Service KPIs

Is there any acronym in business more contentious than KPI? Especially in social customer service, key performance indicators are like a double­-edged sword.

One school of thought is that contact centers and customer service agents should focus on efficiency​—​answering queries and getting customers off the line as quickly as possible. This is actually the classic way to think about customer service KPIs. But more recently many brands have started to recognize the importance of empathy in social customer service, and a whole new set of KPIs has been created to measure how much effort agents make to connect with customers and what business results come from this effort.

I want to take a closer look at social customer service KPIs and talk about these two supposedly opposing approaches before suggesting a happy medium, which I think is the way forward.

First Response Time: The Holy Grail?

Remember that ​scene​ in ​Indiana Jones and​ the Last Crusade when Indy has to choose the real Holy Grail from dozens of golden cups? Social customer service KPIs are kind of like that, though thankfully not so life­ or ­death. Many contact center managers believe First Response Time is the Holy Grail of social customer service. And why not? Responding to customers quickly seems like a great idea.

But here’s the thing: a quick response is only meaningful when it comes with a real solution. It’s more useful to put an emphasis on First Contact Resolution (FCR), and ensuring that customers only have to ask once when they have an issue to be solved. ​Quick responses are great, but quick resolutions are even better.

The great KPI debate all comes down to what we think customers want: empathy or efficiency. Is speed really the bottom line for social customer service? Or should we pay attention to the growing body of evidence suggesting that ​customers really want a human connection​ and a sense of personalized service that’s also efficient and results­ driven?

Empathy vs. efficiency

I hate to be divisive, but it’s true. Contact center KPIs come down to these two values. Deciding which you think is more important will in large part determine the direction of your contact center and how you evaluate performance. It’s difficult to put an equal emphasis on both efficiency and empathy when deciding how to evaluate social customer service agents, but it’s not impossible. It comes down to which KPIs you use.

Knowing that ​today’s digital customers put a premium on personalized customer service​, the savviest brands from a customer experience perspective (think Zappos and Apple) are putting an emphasis on empathy in customer service rather than boilerplate efficiency. It’s a good idea to at least familiarize yourself with this way of thinking because it’s working wonders for some of the world’s biggest brands, who know that excellent customer service is directly connected to customer experience and loyalty, and can actually be more effective than paid marketing.

The happy medium

At the same time, you’ve got a business to run, and the famous Zappos 10­ hour customer service phone call or sending flowers and a handwritten note when things go wrong isn’t feasible for every contact center. So there’s still room for efficiency in the social customer service equation, but perhaps ​we’ve got to think about efficiency in new ways​.

Many outsourced social customer service agents only get paid for calls that are under three minutes​. That means efficiency is being emphasized to the detriment of empathy; the main objective is to get the customer off the line as soon as possible. That’s not ideal, nor is having every incoming query result in an all ­night chat session. There’s got to be a happy medium somewhere.

Of course there is. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular social customer service KPIs, what they’re good for, and what they really measure. Doing so makes it clear that ​KPIs are not all created equal​.

Social Media Customer Service KPIs

Social customer service KPIs that emphasize both efficiency and emotion (like ART and PSL) are ultimately more valuable than those that only result in efficiency. ​Contact center managers should encourage their agents to value each customer as an individual​, and to treat each query as an opportunity to connect with the customer in real ways. They can do so by putting these well­ rounded KPIs into practice at the workplace. That’s what human­ centric customer service is all about; it values not only the agent’s time, but the customer’s emotions, which are, after all, the motives for the decisions they make.

The more contact centers know about their customers and agents, the more easily they can start emphasizing real human connections and not just really fast customer service. It takes some pretty powerful ​social customer service software ​to do that, but these solutions already exist. Soon we might be able to end the customer service KPI debate, once and for all.