Coaching Social Customer Service Agents

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Published:  April 21, 2016

Coaching in our centers can involve a wide variety of coaching activities and communication skills. Our agents may be focused on only one type of customer interaction or a blend, depending on how our center functions and the level of agents we employ.

Social media has become a major customer engagement opportunity for companies, whether with internal customers, or with external consumers or business-to-business customers. Often social communications have been centered in marketing departments using staff well versed in the various social applications and networks but more companies are now shifting these interactions to their contact centers.

Our centers may already be actively engaged with customers using multi-channels including phone, live chat and email, and therefore have trained their agents to discuss problems and products in both verbal and written formats.

As we know, chat is very fast paced, sometimes to the detriment of agents who are juggling five impatient customers simultaneously. Email often has a slower response time, allowing our agents to review and revise responses before hitting “send”. Verbal phone skills contain some elements of written communication along with other skills such as voice tone added.

Even if an agent is successful in the channels above and active in their own personal social media interactions, there is a big difference between representing your company and using their personal social communication style.

Some companies assume that socially connected agents will have skills naturally and only give feedback when errors are made, unfortunately a complaint I also hear from our phone and chat agents. Instead of making skill assumptions or waiting for skill issues to surface, we need to have a consistent method of coaching social service skills on a regular basis and action plans that are proactively helping agents be successful. In this age of “tell all, show all”, our agents need to understand the need for caution when responding to your customers, and in fact the world with posts open to all to view. There are also other skills that you need to be coaching on a regular basis.

Social Service Skills Opportunities

How can we help agents who are transitioning from phone, email or chat roles into social service interactions? Which skills can we help our social service agents focus on and improve?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • WRITING STYLE: Help them to develop a casual, friendly but respectful writing style. How do they respond to questions beyond a “copy and paste” method?
  • KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER: Our writing may be more casual but we need agents to still sound knowledgeable and also to mirror the posters style if appropriate (is it a boomer posting or a millennial? What do we know about this poster?)
  • SOCIAL CUSTOMER “ERUPTION”: Angry customers may use vulgar language more freely due to the anonymous nature of some posters. What is your policy for handling these situations?
  • EMPATHY: How can they lose the “canned” phrases that sound unnatural and robotic in writing? Empathy must sound even more personal, human when it’s written and loses voice tone.
  • PROFESSIONALISM: Responses and comments are read by everyone on public sites and can be searched online. How do you want your agents and your company to be perceived?
  • ACCURACY: Mistakes happen and agents need to learn how to apologize and own up to errors made without making excuses or blaming others. What approach should they take on Twitter versus Facebook?
  • AVOIDING TAKING PERSONALLY AND SOUNDING ARGUMENTATIVE: Some “trolls” post lies, negatives & about customer experience that didn’t happen; what should your agent do if that happens?

How do I coach Social interaction skills?

  • Role-play: Create an internal Social Media training site for practice with newer agents where you can post and allow them to comment. Then reverse and you act as the agent responding to their customer posts.
  • Side-by-Side: Sit with the agent at their desk and observe how they interact, navigate through knowledge base info. You can compose responses together to real customer questions and comments.
  • Group Brainstorm: Review old challenging customer posts with your Social Service team in group meetings. Pair up into problem solving teams and ask each team how they would respond and why. Have each team work privately on the issue and them ask each team to share their thoughts and possible responses.
  • Follow-up & Motivate: As with all coaching, look for improvements, even small ones, and praise the agents for improving. Encourage them verbally and in writing. It’s not always about the big money, big prize contests.

Help your social agents to be successful by actively coaching with them regardless of the channel used. Find interactive ways to make learning fun and ongoing. Daily and weekly recognition of efforts goes a long way to encourage our agents, especially given the unique challenges that come from social customer service.