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How not screw up when choosing support staff for mail, chat, social networks, and instant messenger

When a company decides to launch text support, the temptation is to transfer agents who have successfully worked in voice support for several years. But a simple transfer from phone to chat can destroy your support. Find out why this is happening and how to check if a person is qualified for a text support job.

Katerina Vinokhodova
Usedesk Co-Owner
Since last year, businesses have been actively converting communication with customers over to text communication channels. Now everyone has either a chat, instant messenger, or support through social networks, or even all all of the above. These are not guesses, but the results of our last year's research.
The reasons for this excitement are quite specific and understandable:
1. You can handle several chats at the same time, so text support is faster and cheaper than phone calls.
2. You can work remotely from home, in coworking locations, coffee shops, and even while sitting on a park bench. The client will not hear dogs barking, the murmur of a fountain or children's squeals. This is especially true in a pandemic when companies had to transfer people to remote locations.
3. With text channels, there is enough time to think and formulate a thought. The client will not hear pauses and filler words during the tense thought process, searching for of a better solution.
4. It is easier and more efficient to work with instructions and visuals — you can always send a picture or video instead of explaining by voice.
5. It is possible to transfer the dialogue to a colleague, for example, if they are better versed in the topic or if the agent needs to leave urgently.
6. Working through text channels is calmer and less energy-consuming than live communication on the phone when you alone with the client and their emotions.
All this looks great, but there is a problem — text channels are only a lifesaver for a company if they employ people capable of such work. But how can you know which candidate will do well and bring support to a new level, rather than only increase the number of dissatisfied customers and tarnish the company's reputation? In our company, candidates go through five stages before we trust them to communicate with our clients.

Step 1. Determine the communication channels

When companies begin to embrace text channels, it may be tempting to transfer everyone from the phone to text support, but this decision can be fatal. The point is, a person who speaks well does not necessarily write well. For them, this can be a lot of stress, and for the company, it can result in unhappy customers, loss of time, money and valuable employees. Conversely, if a person writes well, they do not necessarily know how to speak well. Not everyone can concentrate, quickly find a solution and formulate it in a way that is understandable to the client. For some, this takes time.

Within text channels, everything is the same — the choice depends on which channels we are hiring employees for. If you need someone for mail, we are looking for someone who answers thoughtfully and knows how to analyze a large amount of data. If we select a person for chat, we are looking for someone who can conduct a dialogue quickly and concisely formulate thoughts. If we need a universal employee, we are looking someone who can do both.

Step 2. Filtering candidates at the response stage

Many candidates can be removed at the response stage to avoid wasting time and effort processing inappropriate candidates. Technical details help us with this. These are the signs that show how attentive and responsible a person is and how they will behave as part of the team.

For example, in a vacancy, we ask you to send a cover letter with a short story about yourself and to give links to examples of your work. If the person instead sent an archive file with the words "everything is in my resume," we we will not proceed with them. Another option — we attach a test task to the vacancy, ask for it to be completed in Google Docs, and set a deadline for applications. If sends a test file late or does not follow instructions, they will also be inattentive in the workplace.

Conditions that can be specified in the job listing to filter at the response stage:

  • To send replies to a vacancy only to a specific email/Telegram/Vibe, that is, to one or several particular channels, and in the subject line of the letter, write "Response to the text chat operator vacancy."
  • Tell us a little about yourself in a cover letter, the limit is 1,200 characters with spaces.
  • Submit a test task in a Google document and send a link to it, and answer questions on a Google form (give a link).

Step 3. Test literacy, writing style, and ability to formulate thoughts

It is important to understand what the candidate's writing style is and how much it matches the company's style. For example, a former bank employee who writes with template responses applies to a vacancy, and we have user-friendly support, where you need to use emoticons. Such a person will have to be retrained and it is not a given that they will succeed. Therefore, if we don't consider the candidate valuable enough to take the risk and spend our time and energy retraining, it is better to refuse them right away.

A universal test would be the cover letter for the job application. From it, we immediately understand how competently the candidate writes, how they think, how they formulate sentences and in what style. The accompanying letter clarifies whether they make logical connections between sentences and whether they understand what we want from them in the cover letter.
If you are interested in a vacancy, send your resume to the email address... and answer the following questions:

1. What role does customer service play in the life of a company?
2. Name three books/articles about customer service or management that you have read recently.
3. Why do clients need Usedesk?
We refuse ✖
Как работали с клиентскими заявками раньше
Such an answer is an indifferent reply.
Passes on ✔
Как работали с клиентскими заявками раньше
The applicant knows how to find non-standard comparisons – this is a plus for us because we will have to explain complex things in simple language. I read the literature on the topic - it means that he is interested in the field and wants to develop. I studied the product before responding. Writes competently, coherently.
If you feel that the cover letter is not enough, you can give additional homework on which the applicant can think and formulate. At this stage, you can identify cliché phrases and information style and get a sense of how they'd care for the client. The essence of the task depends on which channel we select a person for: for mail or chat/messenger/social networks.

Mail. We are looking for those who have the skill to research a problem and structure large amounts of information. For example, to draw up some understandable instructions for the client or provide a response to a complaint in detail. Mail requires more concentration because the answers are, as a rule, more detailed.They are given after the person has checked all the information, sorted it out and written everything down in detail. Therefore, people who can take a problem, analyze it and describe the solution are suitable for email support.

To test this skill, you can give the applicant some text and ask them to structure it.

When it comes to chat, instant messenger and social networks, people are needed to simplify complex things and write quickly to respond to situations faster than by email. You need people who can do everything quickly and summarize the essence of the information for chat.

Here you can give a test task in which the candidate will need to shorten a lengthy piece of text.

Below is a sample assignment to test skills for written channels.
There is a critical issue that almost stops the client. The developers find the cause cannot give a time frame for a fix.
The client writes: "When will you fix it? I can't work!"
Write a message to this customer.
We refuse ✖
Hello! We are clarifying the reasons for the error. The service will soon operate normally. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Template phrases, no deadlines. Didn't explain the answer.
Passes on ✔
Hello Customer! Sorry for this mistake. Right now, we are the cause, so I cannot say when we will fix everything yet.
I will keep you informed and let you know as soon as we find something. In any case, I will return to you within a day with an answer.

(Here, it is essential not to provide compensation right away because the client's main problem is that nothing works. Discounts will only piss them off because the problem is not being solved. If there is an alternative, even if it is not very good, it would be a better offer so that the client has a chance to get the job done. And return to him, as promised, even if the situation does not change.)

Explained the answer, indicated the terms of communication, easy, simple language.
We invite those who pass the test task to the test game.

Step 4. We look at how a person thinks and makes decisions

Of course, we do not give the candidate real chats, instead, we play a test game with them that is as close to normal conditions as possible. It's like a military exercise — it looks like a real battle, though everyone knows it's all for fun. We send messages to the candidate and see how they act: what questions they ask, whether they go to the knowledge base to look for an answer, whether they ask senior employees, or try to find a solution themself. To check how a person acts independently, we suggest that they sort out a non-standard situation. For example, imagine that they are at a gas station, have already refueled and wants to pay for gas but the machine ate their card. What should they do? It is good if the candidate quickly finds their bearings and remembers that the card can be on their phone, and if not, that they can transfer money to another card and pay. There could be many solutions.

From the test game, you can immediately see how quickly a person understands, how they are with logic, how quickly they finds a solution and formulate an answer, how they develop it, competently and sensibly, or at random. Do they stumble on difficult moments? Do they fall into a stupor if something is not clear? Are they afraid to ask, or do they ask questions boldly? There is no correct solution here. We just note for ourselves whether the work and speed suits us or not, and if it does, for which channels.

For example, in a chat, a person must be multitasking. That is, they must keep everything under control. Since they will have to conduct several chats simultaneously, they must not lose the thread of each conversation and be able to react quickly. Plus, they should be as attentive as possible because they must move from answering one thing to another. All this can be checked with a test game.

And for working on social networks, a useful skill is to be able to come up with original answers. Here, as a test, you can pick up angry comments and stupid questions from clients or get them from the internet and invite the candidate to come up with an answer to them. Social networks need a person with a brighter image who is more daring, who can be creative on the spot. It's almost impossible to teach this, so you need to look for people who can already do it.

Step 5. During the interview, we check the candidate's ability to handle stress, energy and compatibility with the team

To test a person's ability to handle stress, we questions. For example, imagine that you need to work an extra two hours because we have a rush job. Nobody demands it from you, but you know that there is a problem. What will you do? There is no right answer here, this is a test for adequacy.

One person will say that they work inside and out[RJ1] , but not because he don't care, but because they had a problem with time management earlier, that they will be more productive when they are rested. Another answer could be that they value stability and work strictly according to the schedule and the problems outside of working hours do not concern them. A third might be that they are ready to work longer. They always do this and can wake up at noon to work. The last one is a bad answer, as it suggests the person will quickly burn out.

Support work takes a lot of energy, so it is not suitable for everyone. An energetic person asks questions themself, answers our questions in detail and is not limited to monosyllabic answers like, "I have been working in this area for five years." They are not silent while waiting for a question, but instead talk about everything in detail, smile and joke. It is clear that they have something else to say. They do not hesitate with difficult questions and talk boldly about their mistakes and what lessons they learned from them. They also speak calmly about what they are proud of, and it can be seen that they are motivated by their achievements. Indeed, in essence, energy is a person's motivation, and if they are passive and weak in dialogue, they simply cannot work in support.

We definitely notice all the little things that show how a person will behave when they start working for us at the interview stage. Did they come on time for the interview, did they give notice if they would be late or could not arrive, or did they not come and only call the next day?

Maybe some points are important only to you. For example, it might be essential that a person has hobbies and is diversified. Or is might essential for you that they listen to rock music, or that have tattoos, or not. You select a team for yourself, and it will be great if you have the same outlook. If you see that you will not be able to work with a person for some reason, it is better not to take the risk. Trust your intuition.
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