Cover Story

What to Consider in Launching a Social Care Program

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine.

Social customer service is rapidly becoming the new, critical channel to drive satisfaction and loyalty. Some organizations are using this channel to listen to customers to improve marketing, products and support. Others are engaging with customers to address individual issues and reduce the volume of traffic to other support channels.

There is growing pressure on companies to develop social care programs due to the hype and expected growth of the channel. Savvy customers add to the pressure by asking questions on social networks and expecting answers.

In response, contact center outsourcing provider TELUS (News - Alert) International has released a whitepaper, called Measuring Social Customer Service in the Contact Center – Metrics & ROI,in partnership with Kenna Inc. and Oracle (News - Alert) Corp. It explores how to implement social customer service and address challenges along the way.

 Dilemma One: Opening the Floodgates

The first question companies often ask is how to control the volume of online interactions. The magnitude of conversations can seem overwhelming, but in reality, not all social conversations require a response. Companies depend on robust listening platforms to filter and prioritize relevant social conversations from inappropriate or extraneous chatter.

Dell (News - Alert) handles this situation very well, having adopted social media early and continuing to invest in well-designed social sites and listening tools. Its infrastructure now manages 25,000 social conversations per day.

Technology platforms are also evolving to score automatically posts based on relevance, urgency and influence. As a result, conversations requiring immediate attention are prioritized and no time is wasted manually sifting through hundreds of posts to identify hot issues that necessitate careful and immediate attention.

Dilemma Two: Channel Redirection

Another common challenge when introducing social care is the difficulty in tracking metrics and ROI as conversations bounce between multiple channels (chat, e-mail, and even voice).

Ideally, customer questions are addressed in the social channel of origin. A dilemma arises, however, when customer issues are too complex or sensitive to solve in the channel of original contact. In these situations, agents should request to move the conversation to a more secure or private channel, such as chat or voice.

We call this channel redirection, and it does have its benefits: Customers get a quick resolution to their complex problems, while companies route customers to agents with the right skills. It’s a win for both sides.

However, this also presents new issues with collecting metrics. How do you accurately measure performance when conversations take place in multiple channels? And how do you measure customer satisfaction when agents from different channels are involved?

Fortunately, evolving technology will help solve these issues as well. Many social care solutions are available to extract, analyze and present performance data – and we can expect more robust solutions in the near future to track the flow of social conversations through the call center.

Dilemma Three: Metrics

Another common problem is determining how to measure return on investment – and deciding which metrics are most important to your organization. Contact center metrics are well established, and many of them can be adapted to a social care environment. 

For example, to measure demand, consider the following metrics. Direct volume measures the total number of social posts directed to a company on its social pages. Relevant volume measures the total number of relevant social posts that should be responded to by a company. Listening volume measures the total number of social posts that meet the requirements of the listening platform

To measure the efficiency of the social care channel consider the following. Service level measures the percentage of incoming posts that an agent answers. Average handle time measures the average amount of time agents work on social responses. Abandon rate measures the percentage of posts never responded to or looked at.

And finally, to measure agent engagement consider these two metrics. Outgoing volume measures the total number of responses posted by company representatives. Proactive volume measures the total number of unsolicited messages sent to social customers from company representatives – a measure of outreach activities.

The use of social customer service will only increase as consumers spend more time online. Social media has opened a back door into customer service, forcing companies to formalize their approach. The key to success is to view social care as simply another customer contact channel requiring the same science and rigor of contact center measurement. Doing so will provide the framework to measure social care effectiveness and ROI as a valid customer service channel.

Walter Van Norden is marketing director at TELUS International (


Edited by Stefania Viscusi