Published: February 21, 2018 | Comments
Hiring social media customer care agents can be a tricky thing for contact center leaders. There is often a desire to cross-train agents from other channels to ‘fill the seat’ or become “super omnichannel agents.” While I certainly understand the need for this type of thinking, I believe it is setting up your social media customer care program for a rough and rocky road that might not lead to success.
The Same, But Different
There are some common customer service skills that agents need regardless of the channel they're supporting, but some are unique to social media. Many of the most successful customer service agents are empathetic, good listeners, have high emotional intelligence, and an innate calling to be helpful. They are not typically boastful, arrogant, or ego-centric. The rock star agent is skilled at multitasking, has a deep understanding of the products they support, and can express themselves in the simplest way possible to translate corporate and industry jargon into plain language.
So, which of your existing agents might be best equipped to manage social media contacts? Social media is a text-based support channel, making it easier to add to a chat or email support agent’s skill belt, while phone agents might have the hardest time adapting to the new channel. Text-based channel agents all need to have the ability to speak a common language with their customer; they also need to know when to be verbose and when to be succinct. It is a commonly held truth that it is harder to convey emotions and tone in writing than using a voice or body language, especially when emojis haven’t made it to most accepted business lexicons. After having the ability to write well, there is the need for agents to type quickly and with a high level of accuracy. Some social media channels don’t allow message editing and instead have to be deleted and resent, but deleting it does not guarantee the internet won't get a screenshot first.
A Strong Understanding of Brand (and Channel) Voice
Let’s not forget many brands have a specific language they want agents to use when working directly with customers and that may not be the one they want to use in social media so agents have to know which one to use and when. For example, a bank may want their phone and chat agents to be very formal. No contractions, always use we over me, etc., but on social media, they want to be a little more "hip" or conversational, so they encourage the use of common text-speak like “lol,” “ikr,” or “ttyl.” These varied requirements based on the channel can add to agent stress when it comes to managing quality--especially if they are changing channels throughout the day.
One of the often-overlooked skills necessary for success as a social media customer care agent is the ability to read and comprehend complex interactions. While this seems obvious, there is a difference between reading what a customer said and what a customer meant.
You just told a customer that they would receive their order a day earlier than your sales team initially said. They respond with, “Great! I really wanted that before then.”
You just told a customer that their order would be delivered a day later than your sales team initially said. They respond with, “Great. I really wanted that before then.”
Same response, right? Not really. The use of punctuation emphasizes parts of the sentence and creates two very different reactions. The first customer seems happy to hear the good news. The second? Not so much. On a phone call, this is a little easier to understand in the voice of the customer. In a text-based communication, it isn’t as easy, especially if you're handling several different interactions at once. Imagine getting both of those replies from a client at the same time, in the same channel, and on the same tool. If the agent isn’t reading both of them carefully, there is a potential for embarrassment.
The bottom line? Not all customer service channels are the same, so you can't expect to hire and recruit using the same criteria.
Social media customer care agents need the ‘traditional’ attributes of a contact center employee, but they also need a few unique skills that may not be important for phone agents.
Here’s a summary of what to look for in your next social media customer care agent:
- Ability to write quickly, clearly, and in line with your brand voice
- Ability to read quickly and comprehend the intent of a customer
- Ability to multitask, but also keep up with several streams of thought at the same time
- An understanding of the culture used in the channels they'll be supporting
What skills would you add to the list? Comment below.