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#hiring for #social #customer #service

In its 2013 Global Contact Center Survey, Deloitte Consulting found that 85% of organizations supported multi-channel customer service (two or more of: voice, chat, e-mail, paper, FAX, video and back office) and 33% provided social media support.

A mere two years later, a similar survey by ICMI reported that 92% supported multi-channel, 42% enabled its customers to communicate via social, and social accounts for approximately 10% of interaction volume. It’s clear that social media customer service is a force to be reckoned with, but is this a good thing for our industry or a case of not being able to get the Genie back into the bottle?

Let’s start with a definition of “social media in the contact center” because I’ve heard people describe it differently. Generally, I define this to be, “the enablement of service delivery between a company and its customers using one or more of the commonly accepted social media platforms.” I would further narrow this definition to specifically include consumer-friendly applications like Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Certainly other platforms exist, but at some point critical mass takes over and it becomes impractical, if not impossible, to support them all.

The social customer experience is delivered by the same kind of person who provides old-fashioned voice support – the agent. The sourcing and recruiting process for social agents needs to be tailored to address the unique process of using social media to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Sourcing. Where would you go look for good social agent candidates? There’s an old adage that says to catch a fish, you need to fish where the fish are. While you can certainly net some quality voice agents by fishing in the social pond, you are much more likely to hook social agents looking here. They are already social-savvy, they know the lingo, and are familiar with the etiquette. So, advertise your open positions in the places these people are likely to frequent: Facebook, Pinterest, for example. Also consider creating a separate Twitter handle for advertising your jobs - @yourcompanyjobs, for example – so your followers can distinguish it from your “corporate” social presence.

You will need to tread a little cautiously here, though. According to the Society of Human Resources Professionals, using social media as a one of your recruiting tools is probably OK, but be careful about what you learn about a candidate there, especially as it related to EEO and protected class information. If you’ve established a candidate’s class membership through your normal consistent and objective recruitment process, whatever else you might learn as a result of their social presence is probably OK to use.

Skillz. As the regulars on #ICMIchat (shameless plug: every Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. ET) know, getting your point across in 140 characters or less can be quite a challenge. Imagine what it’s like to conduct a customer service “call” in this manner. Social communication is generally asynchronous – very query-response oriented – and meaning can often get muddled. It’s therefore vitally important to assess a job candidate for his or her abilities to not only use the technology appropriately, but to effectively communicate.

Social media interactions are devoid of the inflection cues found in verbal communication, so it is critical to ensure someone can communicate effectively without imparting any unintended misunderstanding. The internet is filled with examples of social interactions gone wrong, many due only to the limitations of the medium. An effective strategy for screening for these skills is to present the candidate with a series of scenarios – some straightforward and some ambiguous – to see how they react.

Avoid Stereotyping. Although it stands to reason that Millennials are more comfortable with social media, don’t naturally assume that they can effectively use it in a business context. Using Twitter, for example, as a customer service medium is significantly different – and harder – than using it to communicate and share pictures with your buddies. That’s not to say us older folks – the Baby Boomers – aren’t comfortable with this technology, we just didn’t grow up using it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its report, Labor Force through 2022, Millennials made up 13.7% of the workforce in 2012 and are expected to comprise only 11.3% by 2022. In contrast, Baby Boomers, who made up 20.9% in 2012 are expected to grow proportionally to 25.6% of the workforce. What all this means is that sourcing, hiring, and training plans need to be flexible and focus on uncovering social media skills early in the recruiting process, regardless of what generation the applicant belongs to.

Social media is here to stay and it will continue to grow as a legitimate medium to conduct business. Not only do your operational processes and policies need to keep pace, so do your recruiting strategies.