How to Hire for Social Media Customer Service

Internet based healthcareAs social media scales, more consumers turn to the channel for customer service. In fact, in 2012, brands only responded to about 30% of questions posed via social media. In 2013, this rate more than doubled to 62%, which is a startling 143% year-over-year increase (source).

Business Value of Social Media Customer Service

Customer service via social media proves valuable to the bottom line. Consumers who interact with brands on social media spend more money with that brand and are more likely to recommend that brand. And, customer service via social media is coveted among consumers. When asked how companies could build loyalty, the top answer, chosen by one-third of respondents, was providing “exceptional 24/7 customer service” (On Social, Brands Use Rewards, Customer Service to Foster Loyalty – eMarketer).

Hiring for Social Media Customer Service

As social media customer service scales, there is an increasing demand to hire individuals and teams to service this area. But even though hiring is for the social media channel, social media experience is not as important as one might think to successfully provide customer service via social media. Because of a variety of factors (outlined below), it can be a very tricky position to fill.

I recently listened to a webinar hosted by Conversocial featuring two leading social media customer service teams. Annette Hernandez is the Manager – Customer Experience at American Airlines, and Anne McGraw is the Senior Manager of Customer Experience at Nissan. During the webinar, they discussed how tricky it can be to hire an individual (and eventually, a team) to provide social media for customer service. Even the department where the social media customer service team resides varies greatly.

With that in mind, here are some insights on the nuanced characteristics of individual who can be the best candidates for a successful execution of social media customer service:

  • Training: No matter how much subject matter expertise the individual has prior to the role, they must be in a constant state of training and learning to ensure they are up-to-date on the the intricate details of policies, procedures, and the industry.  In a highly regulated and politically sensitive industry like healthcare, each response in social media must be vetted for accuracy. For example, I’m currently working on one of the most progressive social media healthcare implementation with NY State of Health, New York State’s health insurance Marketplace. Such a novel concept at this scale is always evolving, and the team is must keep up with ever-changing policies. And, there are so many different programs, including qualified health plans, Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus, Medicaid and Medicare, each with their own rules and nuances, that it requires an incredible knowledge repository to provide answers.
  • Ability to collaborate well with others: It would be ideal if team members could collaborate on any non-routine responses posted to the page. There are often a few different ways to respond to help an individual, so talking through options before posting ensures that we’re providing a thorough, yet concise, answer. Also, the question that an individual is asking is not always clear, and collaboration with others ensures a comprehensive understanding of the question.
    • However, it is not always possible for the team to collaborate on every non-routine response on the page. In fact, on the deadline to sign up for health insurance for 2014 (March 31, 2014), the social media team handled posted or more than 1,000 comments on Facebook and Twitter. That’s more than a comment per minute during business hours (8am-8pm) for a team of three individuals! For that reason, a team must have excellent documentation, processes, and tools in place so that they can easily find the answers for routine questions and escalate non-routine questions to the appropriate parties.
  • Humility: Collaboration requires a humble attitude. It’s important that a team member recognize and embrace that work can always be improved when we allow someone else to review it or suggest a new approach. For that to happen, we cannot have egos or personality differences and must work together to come up with the best solution, knowing that our focus is on the consumer. When a consumer is able to get a problem resolved or have an easier path to enrollment because of our efforts, then the team succeeds.
  • Passion: Finally, a passion for serving others is perhaps the most important characteristic in discovering candidates for a successful social media customer service team. Those of us who have provided support and answers find contentment, and even joy, in researching details of policies and procedures as we know that on the other end of that question is an individual who may not have health insurance, may have significant stresses in his or her life, and can have the promise of an easier time at handling the number one cause of bankruptcy in this nation – if we can simply assist.

It’s a privilege to work in social media customer service. I’d love to know about any other characteristics others have found that are critical when forming a successful social media customer service team.

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