Chapter 3: Assembling Your Social Customer Service Team

It is rare to come across a traditional customer service team that is perfectly suited to 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 skill sets needed to be a great agent over traditional channels like phone and email.

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Great social customer service agents should:

Be personableDuring the interview process, assess whether this person can actually hold a conversation about a particular issue. Create a problem-solving scenario which involves a conversation back and forth; this can be the best way to judge how affable they are.

Be confidentContent on social media can vary greatly not only in topic but also 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.

Be curiousWhether recruiting internally or externally, it is essential that social customer service agents have the eagerness to not only 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 are interested in developing the social customer care function.

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

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 'roll with the punches' by responding professionally in any scenario.

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.

Is it best to promote agents internally or 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.
  • 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.

All of this said, sometimes fresh minds bring fresh ideas. Companies should not be fearful of looking outside for external talent.

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, and 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.

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 guide themselves through any social media eventuality. Even after agents begin responding on social, there should be ongoing training; social media is constantly changing, so agents must carry on learning and improving. 

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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.