Provide Social Customer Care Agents with Situation Guidelines for the Contact Call Center
Illustration by Alex Kucsera

While a good social service training program provides agents with a basic understanding of how social media works and the differences for engagement among the various social networks, it’s also important to provide them with guidelines on how to handle the various types of situations they are likely to encounter.

You’ll have to do some homework beforehand to research the types of situations (e.g., complaints, questions, compliments) that you want your agents to respond to as well as how you want them to respond. Start by tracking the conversations that people have about your brand online, advises Jim Iyoob, executive VP of Customer Experience and Operational Excellence at Etech Global Services. “These are great questions to ask and seek to answer as your contact center begins to establish a social media channel,” he says. “Doing your best to answer these questions will help establish a plan for dealing with these issues when they arise.”

Plan also to spend a significant amount of time to provide a clear understanding of all regulatory restrictions, and 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), says social media speaker, trainer and consultant Pat Perdue, CEO of Socialicity Media.

“Agents have to be comfortable to reply in voice, and quickly,” he explains. “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” (see “Social Media Customer Care Agents,” Pipeline, August 2013).

Practical Tips for Call CentersPractical pointer: To give social customer care agents a good understanding of your company’s social media workflow, ICMI’s Training & Development Manager Elaine Carr recommends the following physical activity: Break trainees into small groups. Provide each group with construction paper and yarn, and ask them to construct an interaction flowchart on a classroom wall. Groups can use the construction paper for the flowchart decision points and the yarn to connect each points. Give each group different types of situations. “The combination of participating in an active exercise while consulting with the other group members to think through how the flow should go, where the decisions have to be made, what the decisions are, how each changes the flow and what inputs you need will significantly increase your agents’ understanding and retention,” she says.