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Chapter 4

A Customer Experience for the Social, Mobile Customer

4

It’s rare to come across a customer service team that is perfectly suited for the demands of social media. On social, agents become brand ambassadors and therefore need to possess all the skills that come with a public-facing role, on top of the abilities needed to be a great agent over traditional channels like phone and email.

Great social customer service agents should:

Be personable: During the interview process, assess whether this person can actually hold a conversation about a particular issue. Create a problem-solving scenario that involves a back-and-forth conversation; this can be the best way to judge how affable he/she is.

  • AGENT HIRING TIPS:

  • Give the agents some sample tweets or posts to reply to under timed conditions. You’re not only checking for skills such as writing to a time limit, spelling and grammar but also for personality and an understanding of the nuances of the social channel.

  • Ensure that during face to face interviews, you are asking questions around how the agent thinks about customer service. Find someone who can show empathy and place themselves in the customer’s shoes.

  • You’re giving this agent one of your most public channels. If you wouldn’t mind their responses being posted in the Daily Mail, then they are the right agent for you!

Be confident: Content on social media can vary greatly not only in topic but also in the action needed from the agent. Some messages might be answered easily, while others might require escalation to another department. Very likely, many of the mentions might not include actionable customer service issues at all. A great social customer service agent must have the confidence to trust their instincts to quickly assess the context of a message and then be able to take the appropriate action. This should be tested alongside the ‘personable’ actions.

  • AGENT HIRING TIP:

  • Interpersonal skills are essential for a social customer agent. Here are some examples of the types of skills are our customers recruit for: empathy, self awareness, calm under pressured conditions, can do attitude, proactive, ability to multi-task.

Be curious: Whether recruiting internally or externally, it is essential that social customer service agents have the eagerness not only to learn new tools but also to know the industry inside-out. The best indicator for this is how well the potential social agent has up skilled themselves in previous roles, and the extent to which the are interested in developing the social customer care function.

  • AGENT HIRING TIP:

  • Are social agents already using social media channels in their spare time? What are they doing to improve their knowledge of these rapidly evolving channels everyday?

Finding Your Best Agent

Be articulate through writing: Social agents must be able to succinctly and effectively answer customer service queries in 140 characters. Good spelling and word choice is also important; minor errors can tarnish the brand’s appearance and damage credibility with the customer.

  • AGENT HIRING TIP:

  • What is taking team from the phones? Taking team from the phones doesn’t always equate to a good social agent.

Be resilient: No matter the context, social agents must be able to react calmly, assess a situation and respond back to the customer. They must be able to show not only patience, but an ability to ‘role with the punches’ by responding professionally in any scenario.

  • AGENT HIRING TIP:

  • You can teach crisis management but an agent managing social needs to keep a cool head in a crisis. Ask questions in the interview about how the agent has coped with an irate customer, what negotiation techniques they’ve learnt, or examples of how they’ve turned a negative customer experience into a positive one.

Have real empathy for the customer: Every action an agent takes must revolve around making the customer happy. Make sure potential employees have this focus and talk about the customer during the interview process through practical scenarios.

  • AGENT HIRING TIP:

  • Every action an agent takes must revolve around making the customer happy. Make sure potential employees have this focus and talk about the customer during the interview process through practical scenarios.

Empowering agents for social customer service success

Before agents start posting from branded accounts, deliver training to establish the right social customer service processes. Training will not only prepare them for different situations, but will also empower agents to take ownership of any social media eventuality.

1Take social back to basics Even if agents are already using social media personally, start from the ground up.

2Keep training simple If your organization is not planning to track sentiment, don’t introduce it at this stage. Keep it as simple as possible at the start, then expand as confidence and experience grows.

3Review content and responses Regularly review your agents’ responses and give feedback, even after training is over.

4Discuss successful customer engagements Hold up best practice examples for social media from relevant industries and highlight their positive aspects.

5Train as a team Rather than one-to-one sessions, take the opportunity to build a close-knit team by involving everyone.

6Set clear targets Clearly lay out your expectations so agents understand that social, like any other part of the business, requires a formal strategy and target-based approach.

Is it best to promote agents internally or to hire new agents for social?

While great agents can come from both sources, we generally recommend promoting from within whenever possible for the following reasons:

  • You are able to identify agents who already have both strong writing skills and a great rapport with customers

  • The agents will already be familiar with your core contact center operations, allowing you to focus on social training

  • Joining the social team should be a reward for excellent work. Social agents are typically seen as the ‘elite’ team within the contact center

  • Since social customer service is a relatively young field, there is currently a very small pool of agents that have social on their resume, giving outside recruitment little advantage

Companies sometimes think that only ‘Generation Y’ social media natives can be social agents—but we have seen great success in training agents of all ages in social media, so don’t see this as an obstacle to recruitment. Social media knowledge can be taught; the personality traits that make for a great agent are harder to find.

Management and Team Feedback

Take time with your agents once a month / quarter as a team to review responses together.

  • What could have been done better? What worked well?

    Is there improvement needed in the tone of voice?

    What tactics are there to take a neutral customer to a very satisfied customer?

Ask your agents what would make their job easier to manage:

  • Do they need more empowerment and autonomy, to deliver quicker responses?

    Do they need more team leader support to resolve in channel or check their responses?

    Do they need access to other systems across the business to efficiently resolve in channel?

Training Module: How to resolve a customer query on social customer service channels

Listen: Social is a passive channel in that a customer posts something and might not reply for a few hours. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give the customer the opportunity to tell their complete, uninterrupted story.

Empathize: Empathy creates an emotional connection, a trust that is crucial to demonstrating an authentic willingness and ability to help the customer. Consider using phrases like “If I were in your shoes…” and “Your reactions are completely normal…” to validate the customer’s feelings. Have a bank of these phrases ready in a playbook for agents to refer to.

Personalised Responses: Sometimes, this is all the customer is looking for, a personal reply and acknowledgement of a problem. The power of a sincere apology if a customer feels aggreived should never be underestimated. You must take ownership and remember, the manner in which you apologize matters greatly—apologies cannot be scripted.

Resolve: Speed is critical to recovery especially on social channels and is best achieved when the maximum amount of authority possible is delegated.

Diagnose: Seek perfection, and settle for excellence. Remove any personal guilt as an agent and examine the processes related to the service failure. Returning customers will appreciate your efforts to improve the experience.

Management Tips

  • Regularly check the quality of responses

  • Resource volumes appropriately: mistakes on social usually originate from overworked agents

  • Be dynamic with social customer care

  • Have an approval procedure in place for social media crises

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