Social customer service is not new although many questions still arise about it, one of which is; who is best suited to serve these channels? Since millennials "know all about social media" often they are dealt the hand of social customer service. If being familiar with the channel (or being in a certain demograhic) is important, to what extent should it influence your decision to place agents on it?
For millennials social media is a normal part of their day-to-day lives and has been for a long time. They were the first generation to truly adopt social channels and they don’t view them as new or complicated, there is no fear associated with social media use.
Customer support through social channels brought a challenge customer service teams hadn’t encountered previously; customer interactions were taking place in the public domain. The implications of everything being in the public eye are wide and far reaching including; customers being empowered, organisations under more pressure to get it right first time and the ease at which prospects can gauge a company’s customer service.
The characteristics that make a great customer support and great social customer support vary somewhat. To understand whether one generation is more suited to social customer support over another let’s consider the different requirements for social and support.
Characteristics of a Great Support Agent
1. 1-to-1 Communication.
3. Problem Solving.
7. Phone skills.
8. Product Knowledge.
9. Willing to go the extra mile.
10. Team Player.
11. Happy to be managed.
Characteristics of a Great Social Support Agent
1. 1-to-1 Communication.
3. Problem Solving.
6. Product Knowledge.
7. Willing to go the extra mile.
8. Team Player.
9. Brand Affinity.
13. Sense of humour.
15. Public Communication.
There is considerable amount of overlap of characteristics between the two roles. What’s interesting is if you overlay both sets with typical characteristics of millennials, this helps us get closer to identifying whether millennials are best suited to social support or not. Before this keep in mind that millennials were born between 1982-2004, according to Forbes columnist Neil Howe, are now mostly in their 20s and teens and many are eligible to work in contact centres.
Comparison of Characteristics of regular Customer Support Agents, Social Customer Support Agents and Millennials
From viewing this it’s easy to assume that millennials will make great social customer support agents however I decided to compare it with a view on baby boomers instead of millennials to compare the difference. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and are in their 50s and 60s, many are likely to occupy in senior level positions.
Comparison of Characteristics of regular Customer Support Agents, Social Customer Support Agents and Baby Boomers
Do the Differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers matter for Social Customer Service?
The biggest difference is that a number of characteristics that great social customer support agents possess are also possessed by the typical millennials but not baby boomers: expediency, assertiveness, flexibility, social media skills and being specific when dealing with customers. However much of the rest of the graph is similar. There is some movement the characteristics that all three possess from diagram to the next for example 1-to-1 communication is seen as a typical trait in baby boomers but not millennials.
But do these differences mean that one generation is more suited to social than another? Probably not, the variances are not so stark that one is far superior than the other and the characteristics are none than can't easily be learned. The above highlights important traits that may be lacking by certain generations which an organisation can easily combat with training, social media policies and guidelines. Consider also the prioritisation of each trait, do baby boomers posses all the critical traits? Perhaps there are only one two key areas they need to upskill upon. The chances are; if you have a good support agent they can be trained to suit most channels. It’s also important to remember that the characteristics mentioned above are generalisations and whether they are present varies from one individual to the next.
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