Managing The New Social Customer Agent


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Customer service has changed. It still remains a brand differentiators. But now, more than ever before, we live in a new age of self service and customer needs are different. They are intensified. In the age of self-service and digital mobility, the significance of contact center representatives has increased enormously. Part therapist, technologist, emotional coach, guru, he or she that knows all, they need to interact with customers enormously differently. Customers, who now hold the power of social media enabled devices, search, google and visit social communities for answers. They “know where you live” and only call when they need answers that are not accessible from the digital or mobile web. So get ready. Contact center agent need to do their push ups, and lift weights, to deliver experiences envisioned by brands that leverage the promise, with great performance, so the customers experience is nothing short of excellent.

Today, customers have a universal channel via the digital web, chat, community and social media enabled platforms, to gather information or vent their grievances regarding a brand. The accused (the brand) pays a heavy price in terms of reputation and sales, if the performance is not good. Call it performance anxiety, but today’s customer-centric market demands more efficient call centers that are immensely proactive, and identify and prevent potential customer issues before they go viral. As such, skills demanded of a call center agent to survive and thrive in this highly competitive environment are far from basic. And, while they don’t have to wrestle an 800lb gorilla, they do have to deal with irritable, short tempered customers, who have little time to wait around for the wandering meanderings of inefficient people, systems or processes. So get your act together!

Agents today need to exhibit people skills, hard-core marketing and selling abilities, in addition to technical and emotional intelligence to find employment. Writing skills too have become mandatory to be able to communicate efficiently on social media platforms. Companies expect agents to be adept at engaging customers across various channels including email, voice-based communication, instant messengers, mobile devices and social pages.

While hiring agents with essential skills is important, it’s equally important to be able to retain such expertise over time. Call centers witness on an average more than 40 percent attrition every year. So, how can companies preserve the knowledge and capabilities of call center agents, young digital natives, that are in high demand?

Set Realistic Targets
Supervisors must set work targets based on realistic analysis of the contact center operations. Allowances for agent activities such as meetings, training time, break hours, and work-offs and holidays, must be made while setting targets and schedules. Today’s digital native values his freedom more than anything, give them flexible schedules to have a life.

Study of call history gives insights into peak and low-call hours, which help supervisors set schedules accordingly. Work and resource allocation planning must be flexible enough to handle unexpected deviations in real-time; for example, in case of an unexpected increase in call volume, supervisors must be able to free existing resources or allocate new ones.

Monitor Agent Performance
Adherence to set targets and schedules is important to achieve desired results. Managers can ensure schedule adherence through review of agents’ daily work reports. Work reports also provide inputs on agent performance so that corrective action can be initiated sooner and performance improved.

Empower Agents
Install technology and cross-train; introduce processes that make agents’ jobs easier for them. Integrated knowledge hubs that provide seamless access to customer information and issue history make agents well informed to handle conversations smoothly. Agents must also be given the freedom and training to come up with spontaneous solutions rather than just reciting pre-developed scripts. One client that we’ve worked with had agents video tape answers to frequently asked questions and posted this on the FAQ section of their website.

Keep Agents Motivated
Appreciate outstanding performances of agents regularly through words and rewards. Communicate company vision to agents clearly so that they know firsthand how valuable their contribution is to the company; this knowledge motivates them to perform better.

Hire Smart
In addition to assessment tools that evaluate a candidate’s soft and hard skills, use simulation techniques to know if the candidate suits the job exactly. Simulation techniques create a make-believe call center environment where the agent handles customer issues as if in real-time.

Today’s agents are well connected, leverage their knowledge and get them involved with the organization more. You might just be surprised as to what they come up with.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Keith Fiveson
A driven communications, customer care, operations, transformation consultant. Helping clients develop people, using convergence based technologies to brand, expand and optimize the customer experience globally.


  1. Keith – I agree on the need to elevate the role and skills of the contact center agent. In fact, I would go so far as to state that this must extend to virtual agents when a customer engages over a self-service channel. Just as a caller has no patience to wait while a live agent tries to discern why they are calling, the same holds true for self service. These channels must have insight into the products and services the customers has purchased along with their interaction history. And once the call reason has been determined, it is critical to direct them to the information or person who can quickly and effectively address their needs. Gone are the days when we can simply route calls to a general purpose IVR queue.

  2. Scott – you are 110% correct! The CRM direction we are going in will ask us if we want to be a part of the Facebook and Twitter sphere, to get social with brands and in many cases identify issues BEFORE they call (call avoidance). Getting to this multi-channel approach is still a long way off for most companies I am afraid.

    Still, strategically speaking, multi-channel, integrating social, digital and virtual (cloud) is the direction that the market is going in; and, those that get it will be separated as the “mighty brands” from the less fortunate. BTW, so many fantastic cloud offerings in place, or coming online, so virtual agents are in a good position to access these capabilities, regardless of location.


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