Social Customer Service – A completely different animal?

I'm Watching YouFor the last 30 years, traditional customer service recruiting, training, core skills, and performance management have not changed dramatically. Service professionals and their management teams have been able to hone the delivery of customer needs through various channels. But are the same attributes that make a great traditional customer service representative applicable for Social Customer Service?

Traditional customer channels & attributes:

Channel: In Person

– 1 to 1+, Face to Face
– Visual presentation & interaction
– Immediate responses are critical
– Quality of written responses typically less important

Channel: Phone

  • 1 to 1 voice conversation
  • Improved with personal connection, tone important
  • Near immediate responses improve satisfaction

Channel: Email

  • 1 to 1 digital conversation
  • Persona driven by written word
  • Between 2-24 hrs is expected turn around time

Channel: Live Chat

  • 1 to 1 digital conversation
  • Typically a casual conversation, short responses, and grammar less critical
  • Immediate responses are critical

But are these the same attributes needed for superior social customer service? Let’s look at responsibilities and qualifications of a social customer service representative.

Responsibilities for “traditional” customer service representatives:

  • Monitor Constant Contact social media outlets/networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs) for customer service related inquiries, complaints, concerns
  • Organize customer service inquiries, concerns, and responses for record and reference track the types of questions that appear on social media outlets
  • Distribute and/or partner with various  internal resources to ensure social media generated issues are resolved and communicated
  • Partner with various internal (possibly external) resources to update customers on promotions, technical advancements, general content, issues or changes
  • Facilitate the Voice of the Customer (Social Media) to various internal departments and individuals to enhance the customer experience and product strategy

Qualifications for “traditional” customer service representatives:

  • Excellent writing and phone skills
  • Strong grasp of the structure, purpose, and tone of social networks
  • Ability to think quickly, and formulate responses within a short turnaround time
  • Ability to communicate on social networks in a professional, yet personable, way
  • Flexibility
  • Comfortable presenting organization’s values, positioning and persona potentially to the  entire social universe
  • Able to “Exercise Responsible Freedom” (See Chip Bell’s Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service)

But what about the last channel: social service? Here’s what social service looks like:

Channel: Social Service

  • 1 to many (possibly thousands or millions)
  • Persona dependent upon media type
  • Response dependent upon media type
  • Your response is now your brand

I think we are dealing with a completely different animal.  So if we are dealing with something different, what should we consider changing?

  • New job titles/roles/descriptions
  • Recruiting – should it need to be socially sourced?
  • On-board training – inclusion of marketing, product, service, HR
  • Core skill development
  • Career progression paths
  • Performance Management
  • Continuous education models

Since this is such a new arena, all comments and thoughts are very much appreciated.

Michael Pace is the Director of Customer Support for Constant Contact’s award winning Customer Support Department and on the Board of Directors for the North East Contact Center Forum. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

photo credit: Sheffield Tiger

3 Responses to “Social Customer Service – A completely different animal?”

  1. Jerome Pineau said:

    Sep 16, 10 at 5:39 am

    I think since Zappos customer service has become a frontline marketing weapon – especially since, given how poorly most companies leverage it (outsourcing it for the past 20 years has not helped), it’s fairly easy to shine at it competitively still.

    In either case, the tools/technologies may have changed, but what is harder to change is the inherent management mindset, present in most organizations, that the customer is a hassle, as opposed to a partner, and that customer service costs are on the loss side of the balance sheet when they should be a profit line item.

    Just my 2 cents on a pet peeve of mine 🙂
    Great post thanks.

  2. Greg Ortbach said:

    Sep 16, 10 at 9:31 pm

    Great post! I’ve never seen it broken down like that. So much to think about!

  3. Social Customer Service – A completely different animal (associate)? - The Pace of Service said:

    Jun 13, 11 at 8:28 am

    […] post originally appeared on Douglas Hanna’s site Service Untitled as a guest post.  My schedule has been tight this week, so I apologize for the lack of originality, […]