No social care program can be successful without the right people interacting with your customers and prospects. The hiring of the front-line social care staff should be thoughtful, strategic, and intentional, as it will set up the rest of the program to be able to scale in the future.
What complicates the hiring process is that the social care agents will likely report up through an Operations or Customer Service division, whereas you as a social media leader may be part of the Marketing or Communications team. Customer Service will likely already have a robust hiring process in place; it is important for you to respect that process but also to introduce some additional steps that will ensure the right kind of agent behind the proverbial wheel.
The first question people usually ask when thinking about hiring for a Social Customer Care team is whether they should prioritize Customer Service experience or social media prowess. Of course it is preferable that candidates have both, but if you must choose then the choice is clear: It is much easier to teach social media skills than it is to teach someone how to care for a customer.
The patience, empathy, compassion and friendliness that a Customer Service agent must possess to be successful are extremely difficult to teach. Have you ever experienced a cashier who seemed to consider you an interruption to her otherwise pleasant day? What are the chances that you’d be able to train that person to genuinely care about each and every customer as if they were family?
Just because someone is good at social media doesn’t mean they know the first thing about how to treat your customers. Sure, it helps if the candidate is active on Facebook and Twitter and understands the nuances of hashtags and DMs, but the mechanics of the various social media platforms can be taught; empathy cannot.
The first step is writing a solid job description. Again, you may have to start from an existing Customer Service job description, but that’s OK. Generally the types of skills that are found in a telephone, e-mail, or chat agents are transferrable to Social Customer Care. But you’ll need to tweak it a bit and add a few more requirements. Specifically:
Writing Skills: These are a must. Social Customer Care agents must be able to communicate effectively with the written word, more so because much of the communication will be public. These public responses are a reflection of your brand, so you don’t want them littered with spelling and grammar errors or sentences that don’t make sense. Make sure you require at least one writing sample as part of the candidate application.
Writing in 140 Characters: Twitter writing skills are even better. Writing on Twitter is a slightly different skill than writing in other forums. Remember when your high school English teacher told you to “write tight”? She probably explained that it was important to eliminate really superfluous words that needlessly extended your already lengthy sentences even more than they had to be just so you sounded more intelligent to those reading your paper and filled up the entire page with words and… well you get the point! This is a critical skill on Twitter given its limitation of 140 characters per tweet. Even in Facebook, it is important for Customer Service agents to get to the point quickly, not waste the customer’s time, and not say more than what needs to be said. If the candidate is not active on Twitter, look for related skills like journalism (especially headline writing), copy editing, advertising copy writing, or SMS marketing.
Social Media Experience: While being active on social media is not required, it definitely helps. People who frequently use social media platforms have an inherent sense for how each of them work. They know what a hashtag is, and that one or two is ideal on Twitter but many more are acceptable on Instagram and despite Facebook’s efforts, not many people use them there.Perhaps most importantly, people active on social media understand the importance of the “social” in social media – that it’s about the conversation and engagement with people, not the brand shouting its message with a megaphone.
Ideally, you or someone on the Social Media team can also be one of the interviewers for each candidate. If left to the Customer Service team to interview alone, the key components listed above likely won’t get prioritized. For example, they may not be used to reading and reacting to writing samples or asking about social media experience. Another benefit of the social media team participating in the hiring process is that it forces collaboration with Customer Service. Now both groups will have an incentive to hire the right people for these critical roles.