The importance of hiring incredible customer service reps can’t be understated. According to Eamon MacSuibhne, Customer Support Manager at eDesk, customer service teams are, “instrumental for helping drive new and repeat business”.
Like many other experts, he believes that creating an extraordinary customer experience boils down to one main thing: hiring the right people.
But how do you even know where to start, when there are so many things to keep in mind? You not only need to work out what you’re looking for in a customer service rep, but also how to initiate the hiring process. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s no wonder that so many businesses dread making customer service hires.
But it doesn’t need to be this difficult. With some expert guidance and a few insider tips up your sleeve, hiring for customer service can become a streamlined and trouble-free process.
If you’re keen to learn how to hire for customer service like a pro, keep reading. This comprehensive guide will provide you with the answers to make exceptional customer service hires each and every time.
When you need to hire for customer service
Customer service staff are the face of your brand. Chances are, your customers will never meet the CEO, marketers, engineers, operational staff, or product designers of the business.
Instead, when they encounter your brand, they’ll come face-to-face with the customer service team. One bad interaction with a team member could be enough to put customers off for life.
According to research from Microsoft, 56% of people say that they would stop doing business based on poor customer service.
On the other hand, experiencing an excellent level of attentive customer service is a way to keep people coming back for more. With that in mind, hiring customer service reps that tick all the right boxes is essential. You’ll find a few of the major reasons you may need to increase your customer service hiring below.
- Your customer satisfaction metric is low. Tracking your metrics is a must when you’re managing a commercial company. Should you notice low levels of customer satisfaction, it’s time to do something about it. Hiring more staff will relieve some of the tension your team is experiencing and give them room to do their best work.
- Your team is struggling to keep up. As your business grows, your existing customer service team may find it hard to meet its demands. Choosing to expand this team and hire customer support agents can lessen the growing burden.
- Your forecasting looks positive. Forecasting the success of your commercial business is vital. When all signs look positive, it could be time to hire more team members. Remember, with more sales and customers comes more responsibility. In order to manage incoming queries from the customer base, you will need a robust customer service team.
Alternatives to hiring more support staff
If you don’t currently have the capacity to hire more support staff, there are other options you can look into. Here are some of the key ways you can bolster your existing team:
- Improve your product and processes. A large percentage of the communications your customer service team deals with will be complaints and support queries. If you’re looking for a way to lower the number of incoming queries, it could be worth investing in your product development and streamlining your processes.
- Look at automated options. Whether it’s using AI chatbots on your website or investing in self-checkout machines, there are plenty of automated options on the table. If you’re not able to hire more support staff for the team, you may want to look at the ways that technology can solve your customers’ problems.
- Consider outsourcing this service. Perhaps one of the simplest solutions to your customer service experience needs is outsourcing. You can work alongside a third-party to offer a well-rounded customer service package to your customers. When you’re looking for businesses to work with, consider how their products or services align with your brand.
- Enhance your shift patterns. You may already have all of the customer service staff you need. Enhancing your shift patterns so that you have more coverage during peak times and less during slow periods could be the answer. Take the time to evaluate your existing shifts and worker patterns and see where you can improve.
Easy-to-follow steps to hiring for customer service roles
Ready to expand your customer service team? Hiring excellent customer service representatives doesn’t need to be a difficult process. You can keep things straightforward with the following pointers.
Define skills and experience needed
First thing’s first, you’re going to need to identify what skills and experience you require from candidates. Consider what this role demands from customer service staff.
Mikkel Andreassen, Customer Experience Manager at Dixa, explains that the very first step when hiring for customer support reps is to create an ideal persona, which is a profile of the person you need for the given job.
“List out all of the skills they need, the knowledge they must have, the type of personality that fits better, and so on.” Mikkel encourages businesses not to dismiss candidates who don’t perfectly fit the bill, as, “Most candidates won’t have every single one of those characteristics, but will probably meet most of them”.
To help you figure out precisely what you’re looking for, you can ask yourself the following questions.
What are the soft skills customer service staff need?
You want to hire customer service agents that excel at just about every customer service responsibility related to their role. “When recruiting for customer service employees, it’s crucial that you focus on assessing soft skills,” says Eden Cheng, recruitment expert and co-founder of PeopleFinderFree.
“For instance, you can make use of behavioral/aptitude tests to get an idea of their personalities or even use real support questions to see how they would respond to a customer.” They explain that the reason this is crucial to do is that friendly customer service representatives often influence a customer’s decision to remain loyal to a brand/business.
To make this as easy as possible, make a list of the key customer service skills you expect candidates to possess. These may include customer service soft skills such as excellent communication, friendliness, and emotional intelligence, among other interpersonal and organizational skills.
What technical skills should team members have?
Next up, you should reflect on the technical or hard skills that the given role requires. For example, if your product is a smartwatch, your team may need to understand its functionality and backend entirely.
Stephen Curry, CEO at CocoSign, also highlights marketing skills as a critical technical skill customer service teams should have. “Customer service representatives are always in touch with customers, so there is a good chance they will be able to promote sales,” Stephen says. “A good representative has the ability to turn conversations into conversions.”
Are there any extra skills that would be nice?
Before you move on to the next step, you need to look at the extra skills that are not essential but would nevertheless support the role. These may include expert knowledge of the products or new ideas they can bring to the table.
Write a job description that attracts the best candidates
When you’ve defined the skills applicants should have, it’s time to write a relevant job description. Getting this aspect of the hiring process right is something of an art. Be sure to include all of the relevant information, such as the experience, skills, and education the ideal candidate needs.
Want to add some extra pizazz to your job posting? It’s worth keeping in mind that the candidate application rate goes up by 34% when a job advert includes a video.
Since customer service roles are based upon personality, you may want to create an engaging video introduction to your company. Additionally, you can consider asking candidates to apply for the position with a video resume.
You don’t want to let the best candidates slip through the net. Whether you’re hiring a call center agent or an online support staff member, you need to be inclusive in the language you use. The last thing you want is to put highly qualified professionals off simply by using the wrong terminology. With that in mind, be sure to do the following.
- Be flexible on must-have skills. When candidates are looking at job postings and lack ‘must have skills’, it may make them lose confidence. Be sure to only list the skills that are essential to the role in this section.
- Use inclusive language. Be as inclusive as possible in the terms you use. For example, you can use ‘they’ instead of ‘he/she’. The key to getting this right is to try to avoid presuming anything about the candidates that may be applying for the role at hand.
- Include your diversity protocol. You likely already have a strong diversity protocol or plan in your company. You can link to this document within the job posting. Alternatively, you may want to include it as a short section at the end of the job advertisement explaining the ways in which you encourage and support diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Now that you’ve got the job description and application process down, it’s time to get moving. Spreading the word about your customer service vacancies is more straightforward than you might think.
While you’ll probably want to post your job advertisement on your company website, there are some other, more targeted ways you can get your job ad in front of ideal candidates.
Use customer service specific job boards
If you want to hire customer support representatives who truly know their stuff, you may wish to avoid posting on mass market boards. Mainstream sites will indeed bring you a large response rate, but you’ll also need to sift through a lot of unqualified candidates. Instead, it’s a good idea to opt for boards that are focused on hiring customer service staff. For example, Customer Service Crossing and Support Driven.
Leverage social media strategies
Of course, you may also want to use social media channels, such as LinkedIn, to recruit new team members. If you already have a strong online following, this option will gain a wealth of traction. To set yourself up for success, post the job on LinkedIn and then share it with your audience. You can ask your existing team to share the posting across their social media too.
The golden rule here is to take a human approach. After all, nobody wants to work for a faceless organization. An easy way to humanize your job postings is to ask your staff to include details of why they love working for your business when they share your job posting.
Their testimonials could go a long way in recruiting eligible candidates that align with your company culture. Plus, if you have an employee referral program, your staff will be able to directly benefit from any new hires they bring to your attention.
How to evaluate customer service applications
When you’re looking to hire customer support staff, you need to be a pro at evaluating the applications. You can test candidates during the application process using Vervoe’s Create, Invite, Select, Hire flow.
You should also evaluate each resume you receive. Business Queensland recommends getting started by comparing any applications you receive to the given job description. “Check that applicants have the skills and experience you need, and eliminate those who don’t,” suggests the guide.
They also advise creating a standard evaluation form to make the process consistent, and also asking someone else to evaluate any applications to avoid bias.
Needless to say, all of this can be quite time-consuming to administer, let alone inherently biased. That’s why an increasing number of companies are turning to specialized customer service recruitment software to quickly and easily track down the best candidates.
Interview the best candidates
Once you’ve determined which candidates fit the bill, you’ll want to interview the best ones. That way, you can hire customer support staff who suit your company.
Define qualities and skills you’re looking for
When considering how to hire for customer support staff, you need to define the qualities you require. These team members should have great people skills, be approachable, knowledgeable, and willing to learn more about your brand and company.
Questions you need to ask to extract these things
Asking the right interview questions will go a long way when hiring customer service reps. If you’re hoping to hire top candidates, be sure to ask questions such as:
- How do you prioritize a heavy task list?
- How would you handle a customer complaint?
- Describe a time when you solved a customer’s problem effectively.
Of course, there are plenty of additional questions you may choose to ask. Steve Anevski, CEO of and Co-Founder of Upshift, recommends asking candidates for their definition of customer service.
“Although this is a very generic question, it’s pretty powerful as there are many right and wrong answers to it,” according to Steve.
They explain that candidates’ responses don’t necessarily need to match what you’re looking for. “Chances are that you might hear an interesting new perspective that you’ve never thought of before. A unique answer may lead you to hire the person for the job.”
So take the time to consider what you need to know about the candidates when writing questions. The more information you can gain here, the better grasp you’ll have of which ones will be a good fit for your team.
How to onboard team members successfully
Introducing your new customer support team hire to the business doesn’t have to be difficult. Try to make this process as smooth as possible by doing the following.
Coordinating documentation and knowledge base
New workers won’t be familiar with your in-house practices. That’s why it pays to spell everything out for them. Create a document folder or portal that contains all the information that they will need from your business guidelines to contracts.
Communicating company culture
Your company culture should lead every aspect of your business. The best way to communicate this to new staff members is by demonstrating it to them. However, you may also want to create a document that advises on your company culture and what key values and behavior you expect staff to follow.
Pairing new workers with a buddy
New customer service staff will usually benefit from a buddy system. That’s why you should ask new staff to shadow experienced workers and learn how to excel in their role. Needless to say, you’ll need to select the highest achieving customer service team members to become inspirational mentors for your new hires.
How to know when onboarding is complete
Ahead of bringing new staff on board, you need to understand what completion looks like. This will vary depending on your company. For example, you may determine that a staff member is onboarded when they make their first sale or get good customer feedback.
Alternatively, you could set a probationary period and identify some KPIs new hires will need to attain by that point. Whatever you do, make sure you have an action plan ready.
Refining the customer service hiring process
Keep in mind that refining your hiring approach is an ongoing process. If you’re not getting the results that you require, you should look at tweaking things where possible.
Some ideas you may wish to consider include adding further tests for applicants, asking for references from former employers, or hosting an open day to meet all of the candidates face-to-face.
To keep hiring amazing candidates, you’ll need to continually reflect on what works best for your business and look for ways to improve this process
Hiring for customer service can certainly feel like a daunting task, especially when you consider how important doing so is. Hiring the best customer service professionals will not only help your existing team thrive but also allow your company to reap the rewards of providing world-class customer service.
If you’re ready to begin, simply follow each of the steps and expert tips in this guide. Once you get started, you’ll see that it’s not nearly as difficult as you think. And you’ll no doubt find the process gets easier with each new customer service hire you make.