Training Social Care Agents
Illustration by Scott Belyakoff

If your contact center is among the many that are considering adding social media to the channel mix, one of your top considerations will be how to staff this highly visible medium.

Whether you decide to recruit social customer care agents from outside your center or promote from within, you’ll need to expand your coaching and training processes to include topics and skills specific to this channel. According to customer service and sales training expert Mike Aoki of Reflective Keynotes, there are three critical issues centers should address in training:

  • Criteria for when to take a conversation offline (i.e., what to address through social media versus asking the customer to call in for a one-on-one private conversation).
  • When to alert other departments, such as marketing or public affairs, in case those areas need to prepare a general media response via press release, interviews, etc.
  • Writing style and word choices, so that agents sound warm, friendly and conversational in tone.

Pat Perdue, a speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in social media for contact centers and chief customer experience designer at Socialicity, offers the following advice: “The best training provides social media customer care staff with very clear guidelines on what responses should look like across each medium, including voice and content. Ideally, the organization’s marketing and advertising staff can participate in this portion of the training. In addition, if there is an existing social media customer care team, there are likely well established standards that can be used as templates for training. Extensive role-play works well in getting the newly hired agent up to speed before placing their words in front of the eyes of the world.

“A solid training program will spend a significant amount of time establishing a clear understanding of all regulatory restrictions, and will provide clear guidelines about what action to take if there is even a small risk that a restriction might be encountered (such as what to say to a banking customer requesting financial advice over Twitter),” he explains. “Agents have to be comfortable to reply in voice, and quickly. To do so they need to be 100% sure of where the boundaries are.

“The same holds true for customer identities and sensitive customer information. Agents need to be aware of when it’s OK to continue the conversation over the public forum, and when they need to take the conversation to a more secure environment, such as over the telephone. The risk to customers’ personal information being divulged is a huge area of focus for many industries who can otherwise benefit from social media (banking and pharma are two good examples). A misstep in this area could leave the company exposed to embarrassment at best, and potential legal action at worst.”

Finally, make sure that you have a monitoring process is in place to review new agents’ responses before they’re posted. “Agents will make mistakes,” Perdue says. “The trick is catching those mistakes before anyone hits the send button.”