Customer service representatives are the underappreciated front lines of any business. They will make the difference between keeping customers and having to go out and find new ones. It’s always much easier to keep the customers you’ve got – and then let them do your marketing for you, through word of mouth. But how can you find customer service employees who will present your business in the best possible light? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Look for energy
One of the best-kept secrets of customer service is the amount of energy that it takes to do this kind of work. Customer service employees must interact with people all day long, giving the impression that they feel cheerful and helpful – whether or not they actually do. If customer service employees are not actually extroverts, they must at least be able to fake it – and that takes energy. In a sense, these employees are on a stage all day long.
When you interview a candidate for a customer service position, take note of whether your applicant seems energetic. Does he or she walk briskly into the interview room, or shuffle in slowly? Does he or she have a firm handshake? Consider the sound of your applicant’s voice – cheerful or tired? In addition, you may want to ask your applicant what his or her hobbies are – if your potential customer service representative has any very physical hobbies, such as playing basketball or doing yoga, you can probably assume that he or she can be relatively energetic.
2. Look for empathy and sensitivity
A customer service employee representing your company should be able to indicate to customers that he or she cares about their needs. You’ll want to find someone who can demonstrate that he or she really cares about people – not just about a few people, but about all people. Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Rogers would have made an awesome customer service representative! Ideally, you’d like your new hire to feel the same way.
3. Look for intelligence and creativity
Companies that are renowned for their amazing customer service tend to have customer service representatives who are able to come up with creative solutions to a customer’s requests. How can you tell if your applicant is intelligent and/or creative? You might find clues on his or her resume, but I am a big fan of using the interview process to give a job candidate a chance to show what he or she is capable of. Ask creative questions and listen for creative answers. Think about challenging situations that customer service representatives at your company might face on a regular basis, and ask your candidate how he or she would handle the situation. Or ask your candidate to describe how he or she has handled difficult or challenging situations in the past.
4. Don’t feel that you must hire an extrovert
This goes against conventional wisdom – many people feel that anyone hired to work with people all day should be an extrovert. It’s true that this kind of work may be more challenging for introverts than it is for extroverts. But if an introvert wants to do this kind of work and is otherwise qualified, you would be well advised to hire that person. Here’s why: studies show that extroverts tend to dominate a conversation, while introverts listen more carefully. As a result, introverts often make a better impression on customers, who sometimes have a hard time getting extroverts to understand their specific needs.
5. Look carefully for applicants who are a good fit with your corporate culture
The best example of a company that does this may be Zappos, an Internet clothing and shoe store. Zappos doesn’t give its customer service representatives scripts, but instead trains them to listen carefully to customers and respond to a customer’s needs, taking as much time as necessary to ensure that the customer is satisfied. Plus, it places special value on employees who are a little bit quirky.
According to CEO Tony Hsieh, one of the interview questions that Zappos asks its job candidates is, “How lucky are you?” Know your office culture, and think about what will make an employee a good representative of that culture.
A word to the wise – often customer service jobs have high turnover rates. Don’t let that be the case at your company. Make sure that your customer service representatives are well-treated and aware of how much you appreciate their hard work. Remember, when it comes to customer service representatives, as with customers, it’s easier to keep the ones you have than it is to find new ones.
About the Author – Brendan Cruickshank has spent the past 8 years in the online job search and recruiting industry serving in senior roles with major sites like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. His expert insight on topics in employment and jobs trends is regularly seen in publications including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.