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How to recruit, manage and train social customer service teams

Learn why and how you should recruit a social customer service team for your business
David Friel

/ Last updated on 17th October 2017

This topic can draw fierce debate and sometimes becomes a proxy fight between “old” and “new” ways. Some argue it is just a matter of finding people who are strong text based communicators. While others argue the whole nine yards around needing a “bean bag” culture and people that “get” social. It is, therefore, important to have developed your own carefully considered point of view based on understanding these different perspectives and underlying issues.

Related: 4 Ways to increase customer retention

Consequences

Assuming you chose to see some degree of difference between the cultures of mainstream and Social Customer Service, it follows that the recruit-train-manage cycle is correspondingly different. Therefore success comes from recognising and delivering against those differences. Equally, failure results from doing the same things as before while still expecting a fresh outcome.

However, it could be that you do not want to change any of the fundamentals. For instance, employee and customer feedback suggest your existing approach already works, and there is no case for change. If this scenario fits then just “continue as normal”.

Issues

  • The long-standing advice around “not pouring new wine into old wine skins” can apply here. If you want to attract and retain the right talent, make sure you tune into current market perceptions around what being in the Social Customer Service business means to potential recruits. They might not come if the job offer is framed in traditional contact centre language. After that they might not stay if placed in the culture and supervisory style of existing Customer Service. That said, some organisations have successfully positioned them as an elite team embedded within Customer Service as a role worth aspiring to in an advisor’s career path. What’s right for your organisation?
  • Performance management of Social Customer Service teams also requires some serious thought. Non-Customer Service recruits probably won’t welcome traditional performance expectations around tightly bounded time management and internally focused metrics. Also bear in mind that like customers, this type of person relates to social media broadly. It is more about customer engagement and less about whether it is labelled as a Marketing, Sales or Service communication. Some managers and supervisors will need to embrace a new mindset if they want to keep hold of this type of person.
  • Make sure your induction programme is suitable. Think through what should remain from the existing version and what needs reinventing. For instance, consider the format. Contact centre induction is typically crammed into an intense, upfront period, after which ongoing support is tightly rationed. Does that model work for the behaviours you want to encourage? Then think through the relevance of your content in the same way. Probably the “traditional” induction programme contains valuable guidance on corporate policy that needs to be carried over.Equally, there are probably new topics such as corporate social media policies that have to be included, for instance, have you a section on the legal ramifications of communicating on social networks? If you are encouraging a more authentic and personal style of interaction, what are the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable social behaviour? How do you influence this? Once you start thinking it through, you discover there are plenty of issues that need tackling at the induction stage.
  • Sometimes Social Customer Service teams are expected to move heaven and earth to fix things for the customer. This is probably already on top of compensating for shortfalls in poor mainstream service. Therefore if you are expecting your team to act as “sort anything out” ninjas, recognise this extra value regarding pay, profile and internal status.
  • Are you building any potential rivalry between mainstream and social service teams? If any real differences become known in terms of recognition and reward, make sure you provide a careful explanation where needed.
  • Some organisations issue social media guidelines for personal use. If these exist, make sure your own guidelines for the Social Customer Service team are congruent.

Quick win version

Mandate a cross-functional task force that ideally blends Customer Service and social media operational expertise to produce a “starter pack” version for use in the first six months of setting up a new team.

Follow-up actions

1. Gather the best minds to debate the issue of any differences between existing and Social Customer Service teams. Link back to ownership debate in question 2.

2. Create appropriate job briefs and recruitment profiles. Remember roles in support communities need separate definition. Set remuneration to match role responsibilities. Define how roles fit in as part of a career path.

3. Establish and evangelise the Social Customer Service team’s service mission, their internal positioning and mandate to help empower them.

4. Develop an appropriate induction and development strategy for all roles.

5. Review and upgrade the induction course material. Focus on specific communication skills for each of the platforms you intend operating on.

6. Review your performance and quality assurance framework to ensure it supports the development of desired behaviours. Tweak accordingly.

7. Frequently review the team’s progress in the formative stages using customer and employee feedback. Use mystery shopping techniques to identify emerging best practice and areas of team/individual weakness. Network with other Social Customer Service leaders to access and swap learning.

Tips

  • Talk to Social Customer Service team members (your own/others on site visits) and find out what they see as the similarities and differences in approach between social and traditional.
  • Seek out recruiters and training partners who claim expertise in Social Customer Service and engage to find out what they know. Even use them if you are impressed!

Related: How to recruit great employees

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