Your customer service employees are your front line. They must help, inspire, connect, and act as a reflection of your company values. But you can only provide top notch customer service with the right individuals in place.
Excellent customer service starts with outstanding hires. Making good customer service hires isn’t just about attracting qualified, competent applicants — it also means establishing a hiring process to assess the necessary traits for customer service success.
We asked experts in various industries to share their customer service hiring knowledge with us. Here’s what to look for when hiring a first-time customer service employee and how to identify those traits during the hiring process:
Patient personalities always prevail
Traits that I look for are patience, communication skills, high emotional intelligence, jovial personality, and creative problem-solving. In our business, customer service is not just about providing solutions to a customer’s problem. The main part of the job involves dealing with our customer’s emotions, making sure their problem is fixed and they are well taken care of. We want to instill excellence when it comes to customer happiness.
In terms of the hiring process, in the first stage, we usually conduct a Q&A to better gauge their personality — because a likable and patient personality plays a huge role when it comes to customer service. We provide mock customer service tests from our existing sample of customer interactions to evoke problem-solving scenarios to gauge their problem-solving skills under pressure, as well.
Jeremy Ong, founder of HUSTLR
Self-awareness equates to coachability
The most essential trait of a great customer service employee is self-awareness, not empathy. With evident self-awareness, an employee is more coachable. They are not going to get it right all the time. However, if they can listen to feedback, evaluate themselves in hindsight, and separate themselves from their performance in one customer interaction or another, there’s opportunity for growth into excellent customer service delivery.
Ask applicants to describe situations specifically in his or her past. Invite the telling of stories and notice where they place themselves in that story. Are they the hero? The victim? What do they emphasize as the lesson? Self awareness should manifest in their capacity to see their own role, their own contribution in all its good and bad parts. Do they recognize something in which they could improve, or is it a story of injustice or survival?
We pair this with a personality test, preferring those inspired by Jung. Then we invite the applicant to comment on what the personality test reveals, how much of it surprises them or seems off. When combined with stories from the past, this yields a fruitful interview, whether in video interview or in-person interview format so the facial expressions are clear.
Patrick Pittman, president of E-Business Coach, Inc.
Creativity is essential for problem-solving
Customer service is our strongest suit. It’s what keeps our customers coming back for more. And that’s because we hire exactly the right people for the job. One Christmas season, we had just over one thousand applications to be a seasonal customer service representative. We hired 11 of them, not based on their experience, but based on their personality — each one was amazing.
We look for two things. First, we look for people who truly love people. Second, we look for creative problem-solvers. In the application process, we ask questions for creative problem solving such as what they would do with a pencil. If they say they can write with it or it’s good for holding paper down on a desk — that’s a no-go. If they say you can use a pencil to poke an attacker in the eye, stir coffee, kill bugs, clean out cracks in a bench, spread peanut butter, play pencil wars, start a fire, spear a fish or use as an axle for a toy car, then we know we have our person.
Dave Munson, founder and CEO of Saddleback Leather Co.
Passion for the product is essential
We found great success with our first customer service hires who are passionate about our space (blockchain/cryptocurrencies). They are people who really try to understand the space and thus have a deeper understanding about the industry.
To assess their passions, ask candidates about their interests or what they do in their free time. Our greatest customer service hires encompass some elements of the different verticals that our company is in. If they read a lot of related articles in the free time, it shows that they genuinely care about the space.
The best approach we’ve found for hiring is to reach out to the users in our platform. We
have a weekly email digest that we send, and we include a small section on the bottom when we are hiring for a role. The best candidates that we’ve seen have come from our users. So leverage your existing customer base for customer service roles!
Tommy Chan, co-founder of AltCoin Fantasy
A can-do attitude is key
First-time customer service employees should possess a can-do attitude and have a positive, enthusiastic disposition. Many customer service roles require interacting with customers, whether it’s over the phone or in person, and a good attitude is a must. Customer service employees must be willing to listen, understand, and see situations from the customer’s perspective. Whenever a customer is upset, it’s easy for them to get emotional and it’s important that reps stay patient with them.
For example, a candidate who formerly worked at a cafe might describe an instance where a customer arrived for a pick-up order that is still not ready. The customer might have been upset during this time, and the candidate may have simply apologized for the error and offered them a complimentary drink or dessert item while they waited. This seemingly simple solution gives us greater insight into how these applicants approach and handle difficult situations with grace.
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com