Customer service is a tough industry to work in. It’s easy to see why: people rarely call a company to let them know they’re completely satisfied with the product and haven’t experienced any issues at all.
Customers tend to call when something goes wrong. The product/service they purchased is not up to their expectations, they have an issue with delivery, or they can’t find this or that piece of information on the company website/user manual. Or any other issue out of the thousands of things that can go wrong.
There’s a common denominator in all of those issues: a problem. Customers tend to call with a problem and they expect a solution immediately, or at least in the very near future.
Moreover, some customers may even be angry about their issue. Maybe it’s not their first time calling about it, or maybe they’re just impatient people who tend to raise their voices more easily than others. Sometimes there may be issues with the product or service, but once in a while, you may experience plain, old bad customers.
Whatever the reason, the bottom line is this: customer service representatives have to deal with annoyed, impatient, or confused (and possibly irritating) customers on a daily basis. And while doing so, they have to maintain a polite, cheerful, and positive attitude.
The customer is always right, right?
Not everybody is suited to be a customer service representative. But a person desperate enough for a job may pretend to be anything for the duration of a job interview.
So how do you know who to pick when looking for new employees?
Create a pool of candidates
Recruitment should be an ongoing process. Even if you don’t have any current open positions, encourage potential applicants to reach out to you.
Feature an interactive, online test on your website. Display a basic questionnaire with questions you’d ask any applicant looking for a job at your customer service center. Should an applicant reach a certain score (e.g. 40 favorable answers out of 50 questions), ask them to send in a resume.
Collecting resumes regularly allows you to scout for talent at all times. If a position becomes available, you can reach out to an already existing pool of candidates, which saves you time and allows you access to talent who may not be actively looking for a job at the time you advertise a new position.
Use your employees as recruiters
Your employees may be the best recruiters for your business. Their circle of friends most likely includes people they went to college with, and possess a similar set of hard skills.
As an added bonus, having a friend at work will reduce the time any new employee needs to fit in, and it also saves you trouble with onboarding. You can simply let the existing employee shoulder the majority of onboarding work for their friend.
Look for soft skills
Customer service representatives need to have a lot of factual knowledge. Otherwise, how are they going to help customers fix their issues with setting up their software, putting together their furniture, or resolving a particularly tricky travel visa issue?
However, factual knowledge can be learned. Soft skills are harder to acquire, as they usually stem from a candidate’s personality and upbringing.
First of all, your employees should possess a certain eagerness to help others. Without this, how could they become excellent at serving customers?
When checking resumes, look for volunteer experience or specific customer-facing roles. Restaurant servers, shop assistants, or healthcare personnel can make excellent customer service representatives.
In addition, the best candidates should have a positive attitude, a healthy dose of respect (both for themselves and others), a great orientation for detail, and the ability for teamwork. But how are you supposed to find all of this out based on a resume and a short interview?
Luckily, you don’t have to.
Organize assessment centers
Anybody can pretend to be anything for ten minutes. What they can’t do is pretend to be good at something while doing it.
Assessment centers give you the option to see candidates in action. Devise assignments for applicants that closely resemble actual tasks on the job and have them perform those.
Try to make the setting as natural as possible; for example, go to a different room and call the candidate as if you were an angry customer, demanding help over an issue.
You can tailor the assessment center to your actual needs and the time you have available. It’s worth to invest the time; the more tasks you can test the candidates on, the better a picture you get of their actual abilities and their ambitions.
Through an assessment center, you can ensure you hire the best candidates for the actual job requirements and not the ones with the best self-marketing skills.
US companies lose an annual $62 billion due to bad customer service. No wonder: it’s one of the most important reasons why a customer abandons a business.
But remember, getting the best candidates is not enough. You have to take the time and effort to constantly nurture and guide them, allowing them to grow both personally and professionally with your company. Otherwise, they’re just going to leave and force you to start the whole recruitment process all over again.