When your customers need excellent customer service, who are they gonna call? Hopefully, your business’s customer service team, if you’ve hired the right people. Because even if you have a great product or service, or the most advanced customer support tech, hiring customer service reps who can do the job at a high level will be your ultimate measure of success.
So, how do you hire customer service agents who can elevate your company? Here’s our comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you get the right hires on board:
You can’t hire the right candidates if you don’t know who they are. Ask yourself:
Note that these questions are questions candidates may ask of you during the hiring process, so it’s important you have answers. To find these answers, draw from your own experience or vision for your customer service team, ask people in your company who have done the job, or use your company’s old job descriptions. That will help you construct the Ideal Candidate Profile to hire customer service agents.
Usually, customer service team members need the following skills:
Add unique skills or requirements specific to your company. Consider which skills are essential and which are just desirable.
Also, it’s important to know upfront the types of new hires who will make a difference at the particular stage your business is in. Melissa McMillan, Acquire’s Director of Customer Success, says:
"When you’re a startup, you should aim to hire people who have different strengths than you, people who complement you. That’s because, at this stage, you need employees to ‘own’ things and processes, and you need that diversity of thoughts and ideas more than ever."
The customer service rep job description is a vital part of attracting the right candidates. You need to be clear about what you’re looking for right off the bat, so people who are over- or under-qualified will avoid applying.
Base your job description on the Ideal Candidate Profile. Here’s a rubric you can follow:
Make sure you use clear and direct language when talking about duties and requirements while using enthusiastic and intriguing language when presenting your company culture and profile.
If writing the job description seems like a chore, check out our step-by-step guide (including a template you can work on).
Now that you have an effective job description, you need to get it in front of candidates’ eyes. Mainstream job boards like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn work well for customer service job posting because they’re visited by millions of job seekers every month. This increases the chances that your job ad will be seen by as many candidates as possible (especially if you choose sponsored posts).
But, if you want to target your job ad to candidates specifically interested in a customer service career as well, you can try niche job boards. Here are a few job sites that focus on customer service roles:
And, there are other sites available for remote or flexible hours customer service roles, or for hiring customer service reps on a project basis. Companies like Amazon and Apple often hire work-from-home customer agents. If you’d like to try it, have a look at sites such as:
A good way to get highly qualified candidates is to proactively search for them, instead of waiting for them to apply to your job ad. This involves various methods like:
These methods may be more useful if you’re looking to hire customer service agents with experience in the field. For example, senior or mid-level customer service reps may already be employed and not actively looking for a job, so you might need to approach them first.
When candidate applications and profiles begin to flood in, it’s time to start assessing them on a deeper level. Sure, many of them will have experience or claim to have your requirements in their resume, but they’re not necessarily the best choice as hires. Here are a few tips for evaluating candidates in each hiring stage:
For example, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer,” or “Describe your approach to solving customer issues.” According to McMillan, you should ask about their experience handling issues or helping customers in various ways; what kind of problems they’ve solved or solutions they’ve implemented.
It’s also good to prepare situational questions (questions that ask candidates to describe their reactions to a hypothetical scenario). Here are a few you can use when hiring customer service reps:
You can craft those questions based on your knowledge of frequent customer support situations that happen at your company. Candidate answers should show that they’re patient, smart, and can think on their feet. If possible, you can also create a mock interaction, where you’ll be the customer, and see the candidate in action.
These are important questions to make sure the candidate will fit in well in your CS team. According to an article by Google, Sofia Quintero, CEO of EnjoyHQ, proposes several culture fit questions like:
Additional culture fit questions you could ask to hire customer service agents include:
These questions will complement your overall impression of the candidate and help you choose the ones who are a better fit for your team.
To hire customer service agents who are excellent at their job, you'll need to convince the best candidate to come work with you. That’s why you also need to be prepared for the interview – not only to ask but to answer questions as well. Candidates may ask lots of details about the role, your company, the team, the benefits you offer. You need to be prepared to answer.
Also, it’s important to read each candidate’s resume carefully. It might create a bad impression on the candidate if you ask questions they have already answered in their resume or application. Have a notepad with you as well, to jot down important answers, but practice doing this while maintaining sufficient eye contact. It also pays to practice small talk that won’t affect your judgment; for example, it’s ok to break the ice by asking the candidate whether they found your offices easily, but it’s risky to ask them whether they watched the game last night (it’s possible you’ll like the same team and that might subconsciously make you favor that candidate.)
On that note, be sure to check any biases you may have. For example, you may have hired great people in the past who went to a specific school. That doesn’t mean you should favor new candidates who went to the same school, others might prove just as good, or even better. Needless to say, all interviewers should combat any unconscious biases against protected characteristics, like gender, sex, race/nationality, disability, etc. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a legal matter.
It’s time for the big decision! At this stage, you’ll have already formed an impression of each candidate. But, make sure to be as objective as possible to hire customer service agents effectively: collect your notes, and the job description, then compare and contrast. Consider the gaps between what you want and what candidates have – is it that important someone has less experience than you wanted if they seem to have all the soft and hard skills required? Conversely, someone who doesn’t have good communication skills will probably be unsuited to the role.
Your team’s feedback will be useful here, too. Who impressed them the most? What skill is the most important to them? Take their thoughts into account before you make the final decision.
You have a brand new hire! Each time you repeat this process, you’ll be one step closer to the customer service team of your dreams.
But, hiring customer service agents isn’t just about the hiring process – it’s also about training and onboarding them. Show them the tricks, give them attention and knowledge, and make them more confident. That’s how you’ll build a stellar team from scratch, and offer your customers the best possible customer experience.
Nikoletta is a Content Specialist at Acquire. She's a writer and editor with an avid interest in data, tech, communication, and the customer journey.