Customers all over the world today can click and purchase products and services without any assistance. The need for a human interaction typically comes after the purchase, when the customer needs some form of assistance, wants to make an inquiry or complaint. At this point, it is the customer service team that is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the customers’ concerns are addressed in a manner that leaves them feeling good and confident in the ability of the brand to meet their needs.
The days when customers had to tolerate poor service have long gone, they will also not put up with indifference or poor treatment from employees when they reach out to a brand for any reason. Companies lose an estimated $62 billion each year as a result of bad customer service, recruiting the best customer service employees is critical for improved customer satisfaction and profits.
Employees in customer service will take a lot of heat from customers when products or services fail to meet their needs or expectation. If you make the mistake of hiring the wrong people to fill your customer service roles, no amount of training is going to turn those employees into customer service superstars – they will handle the interactions poorly and end up costing your business customers.
Because customer service is less about skills or experience and more about attitude and personality, there should be deliberate and well thought out criteria of selecting only those candidates, who are naturally friendly, eager to help, and confident. Adopting a once size fits all approach when recruiting for customer service positions ends up placing the wrong people, in that key role. Here are steps you should take to recruit the best customer service employees –
1. Filter For The Best Candidates
Not everyone is suited for a role in the frontline or customer service, it is important to filter out people who simply aren’t suited to this role in order to have a pool of candidates who have better potential to excel and deliver the minimum service standard for customer satisfaction. The filtering process begins long before the tests and interviews. It starts with the job description.
Ensure The Job Description & Requirements Are Clear
The job description for the role has to be very clear and detailed about the sort of traits, skill set and personality required for the role, as well as the responsibilities that come with it. This helps in ensuring that only candidates who (believe they) possess the required skills apply for the role (Read this article How to Write a Customer Service Job Description That Attracts Top Talent).
Don’t forget to also look internally. If you have employees who fit the role, selecting them is very advantageous as they wouldn’t require training, because they already have good knowledge of the products and workings of the organization.
Check For Personality
The next step is to first have the candidates fill out a Myer-Briggs Personality Type questionnaire. Companies like Disney and General Motors have made use of Myer-Briggs on employees for decades and with good reason. This questionnaire gives you better insight into the personalities of the candidates you are about to interview.
The ENJF personality type, as outlined by the Myers-Briggs® Test (MBTI®), details individuals who are passionate, empathetic, supportive and reliable. These qualities make the ENJF personality type best suited for a customer service role. (You can take a free personality test here)
Some organizations also administer basic qualitative/quantitative competency tests at this stage, to further filter out candidates who do not meet competency standards. However, I would recommend that too much focus shouldn’t be put into candidates’ performance in such tests. Don’t get me wrong, the candidate should be able to spell their names, demonstrate problem-solving skills & use a computer at least. But remember, in customer service, it is always best to test for personality and attitude, then train for knowledge and skills. Be more concerned about how much the candidate cares about people than about how much they know.
It is easier to teach a person how to use a computer, or make a calculation than it is to train the same person to be patient, friendly, outgoing or empathetic.
Highlight those candidates who fall into the ENJF personality type category, and proceed to interviews.
2. Interviewing Customer Service Candidates
You now have a pool of candidates and a good insight into their personalities. It’s time to invite them for interviews. At this stage, the aim to meet and interact with the candidates to ascertain if they have the traits and skills requisite for the customer service role.
In some organizations, the first interview is not like the traditional interview model most people are used to. The candidates are allowed to interact freely with each other, with hiring managers and with employees of the company, then they are shown the various products and services of the organization on offer and asked questions, while the recruiters make keen observations of how they interact with people, answer or ask questions and react to various events during this interview.
At the end of this, candidates who failed to make a positive impression on the recruiting managers are weeded out, and the rest are moved to the next stage.
Not every organization has the necessary resources to follow through with this model, which is effective in picking out candidates who are best suited for a customer service role. It’s no problem, you can skip this stage and move them right into the interviews.
5 traits to look out for when interviewing candidates for a customer service position –
1. Friendliness and Smiles
A friendly upbeat individual makes a great fit for a customer service role. This is an important trait for a customer service employee. One that recruiters should actively look out for. One good way to find out is to ask the candidates a question like;
Are you nice?
When was the last time you were really nice to a customer or colleague?
How long it takes them to come up with an answer and the sort of instances they cite, gives you a better idea of the candidate’s personality in this area. In some organizations, this trait can equally be observed before the candidates begin the interview – while they are in the waiting room. Watch for how they interact with fellow candidates & how easily they smile at others.
I once walked into a small restaurant and sat at a table for over 15 minutes. While I sat and waited to be attended to, I could see staff standing around in corners, none of them came over to take my order. After I waited a few more minutes, I called one of them to take my order, and to my dismay, I was told that I wasn’t in her section, she then explained that the waiter who was supposed to take my order had stepped out and would be back. I insisted that she take my order as I was quite famished and would rather leave than wait for the assigned staff to show up. It was only then she took my order.
I found it disappointing that the in the absence of waiter who was supposed to take my order, none of the other colleagues felt any obligation to attend to a waiting customer in his/her absence simply because it wasn’t their ‘section’. I try to imagine if any customers simply got up and left after waiting for service and if the other colleagues would have made any effort to prevent the customers from leaving.
A good customer service employee must be able to take responsibility for the customers and their requests. Ask candidates scenario questions to judge if they can take responsibility for customer issues. Depending on your industry, ask a question like;
A customer walks up to you with a complaint about XYZ, what would you do to ensure the customer’s complaint is resolved?
The candidate’s answer itself might not be correct, what you’re really looking out for is how much responsibility the candidate is willing to take, and his/her commitment to ensuring the customer leaves satisfied. The candidate’s approach to solving the problem also gives you an insight into their problem-solving abilities.
3. Clear Communication
Anyone in a customer service or front line role would have to interact with customers over the phone or in person, for this reason, your ideal candidates must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with the customers. Look out for candidates who can express their thoughts clearly and confidently. Your best insight into the candidates’ ability in this area is by taking note of how well they express ideas and opinions.
How well does the candidate express him/herself?
How clearly does he/she articulate their ideas & opinions?
Look out for those candidates who can communicate and express their ideas clearly and confidently.
Empathy is a very important customer service skill. The ideal customer service employee should be able to easily empathize with people. The desire to serve & help customers meet their needs springs from Empathy.
Luckily, empathy can be learned (Read: Tips on how to improve empathy), but it is always best to pick those candidates who already demonstrate it or show the potential of being empathic based on their desire to help others.
To identify traits of empathy in candidates, you should ask a question like;
Tell me about the last time you were angry at a colleague.
How did you deal with the anger?
Asking what made the candidates angry helps evaluate their ability to manage their emotion and deal with conflict. Try to find out what brought about the anger and what they did in response to the emotion, and how it all played out in the end. From the candidate’s response, you can determine whether the anger was justified, and how well such a person can handle conflict and manage their emotions. If the candidate got into a confrontation –
Was it done in a civil way? Was it done in front of customers?
You can spot an emotionally intelligent candidate who is empathetic just by listening to their answers.
Self-confidence leads to positive interactions because if a person feels good about himself or herself, it is more likely he or she will be more comfortable communicating with people and working in teams.
Customers want to know that the employee they are dealing with is confident and is capable of giving them the necessary support they need to meet their needs. They need the assurance that the advice, recommendations or products they are receiving are coming from someone is who confident and knows what he/she is doing.
Pay careful attention to the candidate’s body language, it is a good way to access their level of confidence.
Does he or she make eye contact when they interact with people? Do they mumble or ramble when speaking? Do they fidget or bite nails?
What about their handshake? Was it limp or firm?
The self-confident candidate will make eye contact, speak clearly and remain composed as they interact you during this stage.
Customer service plays a big role when it comes to ensuring customers are satisfied and happy doing business with an organization. This makes it important that employees who are recruited for customer service and front line roles are carefully selected to ensure only candidates who can play the role effectively are ultimately employed.
Recruiters must understand that not everyone has the attitude and passion for delivering great service. Hiring right is the very first step, and the recruitment criteria and processes play an important role. When hiring employees for customer service always think about how your candidate choice will impact on the customers. Recruit the best customer service employees, It makes all the magic happen.
Free bonus: You can download this guide as PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or printing it out to share with others in your team -
How To Recruit The Best Customer Service Employees as PDF version