5 Tips for Hiring the Best Customer Service Reps

December 14, 2015

Hiring a good customer service employee isn’t rocket science, according to C. Britt Beemer. As CEO of America’s Research Group, Beemer appears on news outlets like NBC and the New York Times talking about consumer trends.

The author of “The Company Rules: The 14 Indispensible, Irrefutable, and Indisputable Qualities of the Greatest Service Companies in the World,” he’s also made a career out of understanding what makes up good customer service.

But, if you ask Beemer how to hire good customer service candidates, he’ll tell you that “a good customer service person is born, not taught.” So if you want to hire the best, it’s very important to learn how to spot the most talented customer service professionals right off the bat.

Here are a few traits he considers:

1. Are they making good eye contact?

“The number one greatest thing that a person can do in a customer service role is to maintain incredible eye contact with the person they’re talking to,” says Beemer. This is an essential trait for anyone who is working directly with customers. “There’s nothing worse than talking to somebody about a customer complaint or a customer service issue and they're not looking at me, because that tells me that I’m not important.”

If a person does not maintain great eye contact during an interview, you would never want to hire them for a customer service position, he says.

2. Does the person seem to enjoy life?

A positive attitude is critical to anyone working in this type of function, says Beemer. It may seem obvious, but there are many people today who work in a customer service capacity and will complain to customers about their problems, or relay that they’re having a bad day, he says. This is a critical mistake.

“You want employees who really love life and embrace a positive attitude,” he says. “It’s going to be their job to convince a customer that no matter how bad their problem is, they can fix this problem.”

3. Can you hear empathy in their voice?

Another key trait is having an empathetic vocal quality. Beemer learned this lesson from direct experience while working with a client in South Carolina years ago.

Beemer was hired by his client— a dentist—to create a big ad campaign to drive new customers to his dental business. But six weeks after the campaign started, the dentist complained that he hadn’t gotten any new business and that the campaign was getting too expensive.

“I said to my client, ‘Ray, do me a favor, can you record the calls that come into your office?’ Sure enough I listened to this lady that answered phones for the dentist for about 35 seconds and I wanted to throw up. That lady had no empathy in her voice. None!” But after the dentist brought in a new person to answer phones, he immediately saw a two hundred patient increase every month after that.

“That one person answering the phone with no empathy negatively impacted at least two hundred people,” Beemer explained. “So if we’re talking about customer service on the phone, I want that person to have incredible empathy in their voice to the point where they’re practically drooling to make you feel good, and to feel comfortable.”

4. Can you hear them smiling over the phone?

Beemer goes out of his way to hear how a candidate sounds on the phone personall and conducts a call back with a candidate to test their phone skills. He says he can instantly tell by their tone whether or not they’ve got those skills he’s looking for. “I never call somebody back to tell them I hired them. I call them back to say, ‘I have a couple of questions I wanted to ask you, and that’s how I find out about their telephone manner,” he adds.

“If they’re going to be working on the phone, I want to be able to see their smile over the phone. I want to know that they’re sitting there listening very intently, but they’re smiling all the time.”

5. Have they stuck with previous customer service jobs?

Finally, one critical factor to consider is whether the person considers customer service to be their career. People who think of customer service as a career tend to be much better at it, he’s found. “You can tell a lot by looking at people’s work history. If they’ve changed jobs a lot over the last five years, they probably don’t like customer service,” he explains. “The people that are good at it love working in that environment and stick with one position longer,” he says.

When Beemer is frequenting shops in his hometown, he will often go out of his way to find a customer service person that likes what they do and go back to the same person each time. “You can always tell who the best bank teller is, she always has the longest line in front of her window.”

It’s not that complicated, says Beemer, but many companies get it wrong when it comes to hiring customer service professionals. “If you hire the right people to fit these attributes,” he says, “there will be a remarkable difference in the quality of your service.”

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