Working in a contact centre is largely how you’d expect - rows upon rows of desks with the constant bashing of keyboards, repetition of ‘can I help you’s?’ and ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ Themed fancy dress days, endless charity raffles and some questionable canteen lunches...
It’s now been five months since I left the contact centre of a leading UK supermarket but questions from my new colleagues have led me to reflect on my time as a social customer service agent.
The promised land
I joined the social team after three months in the contact centre. During those three months, I dreamed of the day I’d be accepted into the ‘cool gang’. The social media team didn’t wear headsets, didn’t hear the angry voice of Mr Jones when his shopping was late and they didn’t dream of the phone lines going down. The social team were not limited to a specific area of queries - like ‘groceries’- they answered everything, so my first month was spent gaining this knowledge. The training was full on, but as soon as I joined the team properly, I understood why: I needed to be able to answer all the impossible questions the team faced on a daily basis.
On social, anything goes. Would you call to ask that burning question about the average number of nuts in a Fruit and Nut? Probably not - but would you tweet? Hell yeah!
It was immediately clear that the team was made up of huge characters who each had their own written styles and skillsets. They used those styles to add a hint of personality when resolving customer issues. The agent doesn’t want to write the same standard response, just as much as a customer doesn’t want to receive a canned response. We looked for alternative ways to say things and points of reference that were personal to the relationship we had built with our customers.
Keeping ahead of the tide
Far from the perception with-in the contact centre that all we did was check our Facebook and Twitter profiles, the team fought against the tide daily to keep within a SLA of 45 minutes. Each day on the team was different, this was definitely working on the front line of customer service. We had a policy of respond to everything and anything, whether that be about which cows our milk came from or who our favourite member of One Direction was.
On social we heard about things first, the patterns of messages would emerge hours before a call reached the rest of the centre. This meant by the time everyone else had heard about something, we already had a strategy and a response from the PR team. This allowed us to prevent issues from spiralling out of control by truly meeting them head on and giving our customers the quick, accurate and personal responses they expected.
Spreading the Love
There was always a huge sense of wanting to do more for the customer within the team and using the power of social media to go that step further than what’s expected.
If we could send a child a handmade birthday card, or a bunch of flowers to someone who’d fallen in store or even a surprise gift for someone whose experience didn’t live up to the standard we would expect, we’d do it. Unlike our contact centre friends, the voice agents, we were lucky to be more creative with complaint resolution. Especially when you work for a huge brand, something so simple can ensure the customer feels valued and instill brand loyalty.
Among the infinite cups of tea, The Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame and increasingly ridiculous follow challenges, the team loved their jobs. There was also an enormous sense of pride in the tone of voice we had created for the brand and an eagerness to keep up with this evolving world of social media. This culture was what drove the results we achieved, kept us going when a crisis hit and kept us laughing every single day.
A customer wants a response that’s personal, empathetic, accurate and timely. It’s as simple as that.