5 Qualities to Look for When Hiring Customer Service Staff
The quality of the customer service that you offer to your clients can truly make or break your business, today more than ever. No matter how great your product or services are, your business will struggle to grow and prosper if your customer service recruiting just isn’t good enough.
This is true for every industry. Having a top-notch staff providing support for your customers can take your business to the next level while offering your customers a poor customer service experience can set you back – both in terms of profit and reputation.
A recent customer service research report conducted by American Express shows that people who have poor customer service experiences are more likely to talk about them than people who have positive customer service experiences. And in this day and age, in which it’s so easy for everyone to share experiences thanks to social media, you really can’t afford to offer your clients subpar support.
But assembling a great customer service staff is easier said than done for a couple reasons. Firstly, the turnover rate in this industry is very high. A study by Cornell University states that an average call center experiences a yearly turnover rate of about 33 percent.
Considering the amount of training you need to invest into getting your customer service reps up to snuff, the cost of constantly having to look for new staff can be astronomical.
That’s why you owe it to yourself to do everything you can to get the right people on your customer service team; people who will not only delight your customers but also want to stick around and grow with your company.
Customer service is often seen as a thankless job, filled with stress and angry customers yelling at you. While it’s not all bad, it’s certainly not something that anyone can do. If you want to find employees who are going to be a great asset to your customer service team, here are some very important traits you should be looking for during the recruiting and interviewing process.
If you’re not a “people person,” you’re probably not going to be a good customer service representative, no matter how hard you try. Customer service is all about talking to people and helping solve their problems. You’re also talking to a wide variety of different types of people. This means that if you’re not personable enough to talk to and deal with people from all walks of life, you’re not going to have success as a customer service agent.
If you are not comfortable talking to people, how are they going to be comfortable talking to you? It’s not going to happen. So, as a manager looking to hire a customer service representative, you need to look for signs of discomfort and anxiety during the interview process.
Of course, even the best candidates are going to show some signs of nervousness, but if the candidate is sweating up a storm and is looking very uncomfortable and nervous while talking to you, there’s a good chance that they aren’t customer service material.
In customer service, you are dealing with people all day long – that’s literally all you are doing! You can easily tell by paying attention to a candidate’s body language and tone of voice if they are comfortable talking to people and whether they would be able to be comfortable talking to a vast variety of people throughout the day, every day.
If they don’t appear confident when talking to you during the interview process, they are probably going to crack under the pressure when having to remain relaxed, confident and polite with people all day, most of which are probably going to be a lot less friendly than you.
Quick On Their Feet
One of the best and most challenging things about working as a customer service agent is that all of your days a different. Sure, you might be answering calls, emails and web chats all day, every day, but you are always speaking to new people and solving new problems.
You never know when you’re going to get an angry customer that you’re going to have to try and calm down. You never know when you’re going to have to lead a customer through a very long troubleshooting adventure in order to find a solution for them. And since the job is so unpredictable, you really need to be able to think quickly and react quickly to whatever comes your way.
When you’re interviewing your candidates, it’s a good idea to present them with a few completely different hypothetical situations to see how they react to them and whether they are able to quickly brainstorm and find solutions without skipping a beat.
It’s even a pretty good idea to give them fairly bizarre situations to work with, just to see whether they are going to react professionally and if they have the needed creativity to find outside-the-box solutions even when they don’t have a lot of time to think about it.
Customer service agents need to be easily adaptable, flexible and quick-thinking. Another thing to look for is whether the answers they give are simply tailored towards getting them out of a bind of if they are putting the customer’s needs before theirs in each hypothetical that is presented to them.
As already stated, it’s hard to create a realistic situation during the interview, because of the unpredictability of the job. As a customer service representative, you’re going to be speaking to different people with different needs and different ways of asking you for help.
While some might be friendly and ready to work with you to find the right solution, you need to be ready for the angry customers who aren’t going to be very patient with you. And that’s why great customer service staff members need to be patient, no matter how impatient the customer on the other end of the conversation is.
Good customer service agents will be able to be patient enough to calm down that angry customer who doesn’t seem to want to listen to reason. To test this out, engage in a little bit of role-playing in which you are an unruly and disgruntled customer and see whether the candidate is able to effectively diffuse the situation.
Most importantly, pay close attention to whether the candidate is on the verge of losing his or her temper. If they can’t get through a fictional run-through with their potential employer without losing their cool, they certainly won’t have the patience to get through a real conversation with an angry customer without self-destructing.
As we mentioned earlier, employee retention is disastrously low in the customer service industry and the money spent to hire and train new representatives can really take a toll on your business.
That’s why it’s important to try to find people during the interview process that show a desire to grow within your company and stay loyal to you. Of course, it’s not just up to them, there are things that you need to do as an employer to make sure that your employees want to stay with you, and it’s not always about money. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to identify candidates that appear to have a sincere interest in what you do and are looking for job stability.
If these customer service representatives do show the potential to grow within your company and lead, make those opportunities available to them. It’s always better to hire for managerial roles from within the ranks than it is to look for outside candidates.
Employee retention is likely to always be a problem in this industry, but the more you can do to decrease the number and frequency of people leaving your business, the better.
Customer service staff members aren’t simply receptionists who are going to be talking to customers and then transferring them to more knowledgeable people within the company. The customer service agents are the most knowledgeable people on your staff!
No matter what your service or product entails, they need to know it inside and out. That’s why it’s important that customer service representatives are quick learners who are going to be able to quickly become the customer-facing experts on your product or service that will be able to offer instant solutions to them.
Try to identify whether the candidate you’re talking to seems genuinely interested in what you sell or if they just want a job. The best candidates will have already researched what your business is about and they’ll be able to explain your product and services to you quickly and clearly if you ask them to.
It’s a good idea to hire candidates who have prior experiences with businesses within your niche, but it’s not absolutely necessary. It’s actually sometimes better to hire a candidate that very clearly demonstrates a thirst for new knowledge than someone who has a background that is consistent with your business.