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Opposing Viewpoints: The Helpdesk and Support Team Take on Social Support

Note from the editor: The helpdesk and support team play very different roles within the contact center. As such, they approach and see things differently.  We want to explore those differences in a featured article each month. To wrap up our February editorial focus, this edition is focused on all things social!

ICMI: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when implementing social support in your contact center?

BW: Within our contact center, we faced a number of challenges, but determining who would handle this new channel was by far the most important.  The Support team already had a full plate with Email, Phone, and Chat support for various products.  Adding to a full workload could result in a less than perfect customer experience throughout all channels.  We all know that when dealing with social media, the experience needs to be perfect, so it never needs to be rushed. 

Therefore, we turned to our Support Help Desk.  Our Help Desk is a smaller team that’s more technical in nature.  They are Support’s technical resource for issues that are beyond the basic scope of Support.  While they stay busy, they aren’t typically engaged with customers throughout all hours of the day, which means they have more time to focus on individual issues that arise.  They also come from a Support background and are experts when it comes to engaging customers.  Combine their technical expertise with their customer experience, and you have the perfect combination for great social support.  

JM: Our biggest challenges came in establishing policies and procedures that would allow us to be most effective in fielding customer complaints. Since it was all uncharted territory, there was definitely some trial and error until we found a process that worked.


ICMI: How does hiring/training the social agent differ from hiring/training a traditional phone agent?

BW:  Since we utilized our Help Desk to handle social support, some additional training was required for software to monitor social channels, but that was about it.  These agents already had everything else they needed in order to provide outstanding support.  If we were to start from scratch though, we would want someone who has experience with social media support.  That could either be previous work experience or personal experience utilizing social support.  When hiring and training, you would want to put special emphasis on finesse, as well as confidence.  It can be a delicate balance, but required when dealing with social. 

JM: In terms of hiring, I recommend to look for fairly similar attributes as a phone agent, with an added emphasis on comfort and understanding of social media. You probably wouldn’t want someone who's never even used Facebook or Twitter (if there are any hold-outs left), but outstanding customer service skills are still the top criterion and are even more important on social media, if anything. With my teams, our social agents do still primarily operate in the traditional channels as well, so their customer service skills stay sharp.

ICMI: What do you think makes a great social agent?

BW: Again, someone with finesse and confidence is going to make for the best social agent.   A great agent is someone who is capable of diffusing extremely public situations in a fairly short amount of time, while all eyes are watching.  A great social agent is also familiar with all aspects of social media and fully aware of the impact it can have on any one individual or company. 

JM: The three attributes I feel are most important are: comfort level with social media, understanding of business sensitivity, and empowerment to seek solutions. A great social agent understands the specific needs of the channel, understands how the business wants to position itself in the social media sphere, and is able to find resolution for customers even when they weren’t able to do so themselves through traditional channels.

ICMI: How can you authorize the use of social media sites w/in your contact center for service, but not for “socializing”? How do you monitor? 

BW: We have no way of actively monitoring an agent’s activity on social media.  We keep track of how many social support interactions are handled through our CRM, which then gives us an idea of how much of their time is utilized handling support inquiries.  If they’re not handling very many, but are on social media all day long, then you can dig a little further to determine where the disconnect is.  However, I think it’s important to trust your agents to do their job, and to empower them to do what they can without micro-managing.

JM: We don’t actually have a strict policy in terms of what sites agents are allowed to be on. Since we have a relatively small social support team, it’s fairly easy to tell whether someone is using social media sites for business or pleasure just by walking around and monitoring.

ICMI: What do you predict will be the next “big thing” for social customer support? 

BW: To be honest, I think the next big thing is going to be successfully handling more and more social support users, regardless of the network.  Right now I would assume that most social users are using it to either give kudos, or to make a complaint and demand satisfaction.  If companies set the wrong expectation that you can get what you want if you go to social, then we’re going to see more and more consumers using it when they’re dissatisfied.  For that reason, I think the next “big thing” will be for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to setting proper expectations. 

JM:  I envision more and more personalized interactions to better take into account the personal nature of social media. Rather than having one company Twitter account, it could make sense in some situations for agents to use personal accounts, assuming they were properly vetted and branded with company information. That would create an avenue for that agent to more easily reach directly out to a customer and the customer would feel like they were getting more personalized service.

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