I believe that hiring the most productive customer service employees really comes down to hiring for attitude over skill.
I once heard a quote at a business conference I attended in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that is very applicable here: “Hire slowly, fire fast”. Taking your time with this decision is crucial, regardless of how badly you need the extra help. Think of the Japanese word “Kaizen” – it means taking a little time to get better every day.
Your mindset should be set on long term growth and success. You want your business to be a kaizen. Think for 10 years from now. Sure, hiring the first person to crop up might solve a need short-term, but it will destroy you in the long run.
Here are a few tips to help you wield out the good recruits from the bad:
1. Are they making good eye contact?
If a person does not maintain great eye contact during an interview, you would never want to hire them for a customer service position. Customer service is all about being social and finding ways to connect with colleagues, management, and most of all, customers.
2. Can you hear empathy in their voice?
Another key trait of a great customer service rep is having an empathetic vocal quality that will have them practically drooling to make customers feel good and to feel comfortable. As well, their empathy should also be used to diffuse a bad situation before it escalates, i.e., a key customer terminates contract.
3. What kind of personality do they have?
The 4 most important things to learn during a phone screen are: 1. Is this person socially adept? and 2. Will this person get along with my company and my team? 3. Does this person speak with confidence and pride? 4. Is the person positively responsive to the information you provide? Things like when to talk and when to listen, how to respond appropriately, and correct tone of voice are difficult to teach. You want someone who has those things down. And the phone screen will reveal this.
4. Create a profile of your ideal employee
Have a plan. Try to avoid simply hiring anyone that looks good or comes in with an application. Create a profile of what makes a good employee, and what makes a bad employee, and look for those that stick to that plan. Speak to friends and colleagues to see if they can refer someone to you.
5. Check References
You really need to check references carefully and do background checks. In the litigious society in which we live you need to pursue every avenue to assure that the people you hire can do the job, contribute to your growth and development, and have no past transgressions which might endanger your current workforce.
Have your team engage with the interviewees as if they were customers. You can learn a lot and get to see if they were friendly or standoffish. If we were unable to get them to engage in conversation on the sales floor, it could be a sign that they may not bode well in your work environment.