How to Set Your Social Media Customer Service Team up for Success


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With companies growing their presence on social media, the need to properly structure the customer service around social platforms becomes even more important. Many large brands already have dedicated teams handling these messages, but struggle to find the best set up to manage both great customer experiences as well as productivity targets.

Find your social media stars

The best performers in the customer service team aren’t necessarily best suited for the social media customer service team. Representatives with exceptional written communication skills, who are emphatic, proactive, creative professionals with the ability to self-manage are the best fit. In addition to these skills, these representatives need to be passionate about social media and understand different types of users, cultural references and current trends.

Cultural and subjective language understanding is crucial on social media; for example, not getting an expression or (subtle) sarcasm can have a big impact on customer relations. As a result, the best choice is usually a representative with the same native and cultural background as the region they’re servicing. For team members that speak the language but haven’t actually lived in the country they are servicing, they will need additional cultural training and guidance.

Measure the right KPIs

When is a social media customer service team successful? How can you measure success? These questions relate closely to the “why” behind a company’s reason for using social media. Below are four key areas matched with appropriate KPIs.

  • Brand awareness: Best measured by follower growth, engagement and reach, which all stand out as important success metrics.
  • Brand reputation: Captured by response time, resolution time, customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and sentiment.
  • Brand loyalty: Tracked by following conversations about your brand, engagement and CSAT.
  • Conversion: Monitored by follower growth and conversion rates.

Know your KPIs and define them

Defining your KPIs is the first step to making sure your customer service team is able to fulfill them. Here are a few guiding definitions for common KPIs broken down into two sections: productivity and customer experience.

Productivity KPIs

  • First response time: Time elapsed between initial customer messages and initial replies from the customer service representative.
  • Average response time: Average time elapsed between all customer messages and representative replies. As social media is an asynchronous channel, multiple messages are sent in a conversation.
  • Case resolution time: Average time elapsed between initial customer message and final message to resolve the issue.

Customer Experience KPIs

  • Customer sentiment: Qualitative assessment of the customer’s emotional state based on the tone and content of messages and driven by tool sentiment engine. Disclaimer: sentiment technology alone does not provide 100% accuracy; human review is often needed.
  • Customer sentiment change: Change in sentiment as a result of brand interaction. While individual sentiment is important to track, it doesn’t show you the impact your efforts. The impact is being able to see and quantify the change from negative to positive sentiment as a result of an interaction.
  • CSAT: Customer survey to measure how satisfied the customer was with the interaction. The key is that the timing needs to be just right—it should only be deployed after the issue has been resolved. If a customer inquiry spans multiple channels, it is more common to have a general CSAT survey that accounts for the experience in social media. The survey setup needs to be short, easy and mobile friendly. To account for unbiased responses, the survey must be prompted using preset rules and sent to the customer via private message.
  • NPS: Net Promotor Score survey asking about how likely the customer is to recommend the brand to others.
  • Engagement per interaction: Total likes, comments and shares of an interaction. It’s important to highlight which interactions generate the most engagement with your community.
  • Community growth: The amount of new fans or followers to the account over a given time period.
  • Conversion rate: The amount of sales generated through traffic coming from social media. By using unique links in customer interactions, brands can track if that interaction actually led to a sale.

How to best organize for social media

Having a customer service team that already manages other asynchronous channels gives you additional flexibility to also manage social media interactions. Representatives can easily switch between other tasks when social media volumes are low, leading to cost-efficiencies. Alternatively, with dedicated teams focused on social media, you have the benefit of leveraging specialized talent leading to higher quality output. However, this set up is only efficient with high volumes.

Tracking intra-day volume patterns from your social media channels allows for better forecasting and scheduling of your team. It’s important to consider the percent of messages that required a response and the Average Handling Time (AHT) associated, compared to the messages that only required a direct action (e.g. tagging) and the AHT associated to that. Understanding these needs will enable companies to schedule and manage shifts more accurately.

For lower volume queues, it’s best to staff according to opening hours and targeted response time. Due to rising response time expectations, social media is usually considered to be a live channel when scheduling staff.

Many social media teams deal with high volumes of ‘noise’ (messages that do not require a response, but need to be tagged for insights). Fortunately, many social media enterprise solutions now offer automatic routing and tagging options that pre-filter messages based on agreed rules. This way, spam is filtered out and only messages that require a response are routed to the response team – a big win for team productivity!

Collaborate across the organization

Marketing teams will have their own campaign and community strategy, PR teams focus on managing risks and Customer Service teams aim to provide a great experience in each interaction. Balancing all these different agendas requires working collaboratively toward a common set of goals and creating a communication plan that outlines each stakeholders’ responsibilities.

With the possibility of unexpected backlash from your customers, having a fast and adequate response in place is crucial. In order to do so, the customer service team must monitor all social channels actively. With proper escalation paths in place customer service teams will be able to spot potential pain points before they worsen.

An example where collaboration is key is with content campaigns, which if successful will generate high levels of engagement. Ensuring customer service teams are ready for the sudden influx of interactions and questions will allow them to properly anticipate and decide on how to answer to frequently asked questions related to your campaign.

Social media teams are the front line for direct, public customer feedback. Open communication, adequate staffing, and insightful scheduling will prepare them best for quick action and long-term success.


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