Most marketers focus the bulk of their energy on creating campaigns that will enhance their brand health, but often overlook the importance of what people are saying publicly through social media about the organic customer service experiences they have. Through recent research, NM Incite uncovered that discussions about customer service experiences on Twitter are becoming a key driver of brand health and brand differentiation. For our first analysis we focused on the financial services industry, and the findings were eye-opening. We discovered that there is an immense opportunity for companies to track customer service performance through social media, and we developed a metric to quantify this and compare across brands. Before we get to the findings, let’s take a quick look at the metric and our process.
Customer service performance constitutes one of the key dimensions of brand health, and directly impacts customer acquisition, share of wallet and loyalty. Gauging customer service performance used to require private feedback loops with an inherent time lag. But those days are gone. Today, customers tweet publicly and instantaneously about customer service experiences they have in any channel (in-person, phone, email, online and social media – known as social care). They are also brutally honest about their feelings. Unlike traditional surveys that poll a consumer’s service experience and include a spectrum of satisfaction, tweets are predominantly binary and convey either highly positive or negative emotional views. Analyzing these posts unveils a simple and transparent barometer for how your company’s customer service is doing across the board. The Customer Service Sentiment (CSS) score, developed by NM Incite, gives companies a score that reflects the level of positive sentiment customers have toward that company’s customer service efforts. The higher the score, the more satisfied the customers are with their experiences.
Now, on to the results. For this analysis, we sampled tweets for 13 of the top financial services players to calculate their CSS scores. Surprisingly, the results reveal a significant gap between the strongest and weakest performers. This was a bit unexpected given that products and services in the financial services industry are often viewed as being commoditized. Discover, Ally, TD Bank and Citi all had a CSS of greater than 50%, with Discover topping the set at 79% positive mentions. At the low end of the spectrum was a major bank with a CSS of only 24% positive mentions, representing a gap of 55% vs. the top performer.
Despite a somewhat negative perception of banks among consumers, it turns out that some brands are actually driving a highly positive brand image via customer service.
— Citi (@AskCiti) January 20, 2012
Digging deeper, the public nature of Twitter allows us to go beyond the positive/negative split of CSS and determine the number of followers for each Twitter handle that posts a message. At a high level, this provides insight into how many followers are being exposed to customer service mentions, adding another layer to the impact of these scores. Across all the financial services companies in our analysis, we found that the average customer service mention was broadcast to over 1,800 followers, confirming the notion that an angry customer can have a serious impact that may ultimately turn a customer service problem into a marketing problem for brands. As a next step, we were able to look at the average follower counts broken out by positive vs. negative tweets, which shed light on another interesting disparity between companies.
Brands with the most positive CSS scores also appeared to have a much higher average follower count for positive tweets vs. negative tweets. On closer examination, it became clear that this was being driven by banks “re-tweeting” positive mentions to their generally large follower base. This in turn appeared to create a disproportionate improvement in the overall perception of the bank’s services. Conversely, some of the brands with more negative CSS scores were actually being undermined by influencers who had a large Twitter following and were on a mission against the company. These negative influencers were proactively seeking out posts that mentioned a negative service experience and then re-tweeting them to further their agenda.
This research pinpoints some key takeaways for brands. While the initial research is specific to Financial Services, the principles can span industries:
- If monitored on a continuous basis, the CSS metric can provide a cost-effective, real-time snapshot of a company’s customer service efforts that can be benchmarked and measured against over time.
- Once CSS tracking has been set up, deeper analysis of the tweets can then be used to identify and track service performance at the level of individual issues.
- There is an opportunity for brands to become savvier and start amplifying positive mentions to a wide audience through re-tweeting. Taken even further, the opportunity can become an imperative in situations where there is an adversary focused on amplifying negative service experiences.
Are these opportunities being leveraged at your company to improve brand health? We’d love to hear your thoughts.