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Are you hiring the right customer service people?


I often am asked and see the question, “How do we begin offering great customer service“. You can have the greatest plan, all of the right materials, structure, and systems in place, but you can’t get great customer service if you don’t have the right people. 

How do you hire the right customer service people?

What are the qualities, skills, background, and abilities should you look for? What type of resume are you looking for? Well, honestly, resumes will matter little when it comes to hiring great customer service people.

People are not your most important asset, the RIGHT people are.

-Jim Collins, From Good to Great

The great service stars, are found in all areas of business and doing all sorts of things. You can’t narrow your search to a specific college degree or a specific number of years of experience, you’ll miss out on too many great people. A resume won’t show or prove some key qualities of the customer service stars.

Kate Nasser has beautifully described the perfect qualities of the natural customer service stars. Some of the qualities include:

  • Accept the absurdity of life without using sarcasm toward the customer.
  • Easily adapt; need for control is low.
  • Brilliantly balance objectivity and caring.
  • Exhibit a high sense of ownership and teamwork.
  • Love to serve because of the giving — not to be liked or loved in return.

When interviewing for customer service, forget the resume.

When hiring for customer service, resumes will let you know what type of day-to-day work the individual has done, but it doesn’t say anything about who they are. Resumes tell you if they’ve answered phones, worked on computers, worked face-to-face with customers in customer service, are comfortable answering high volume of emails, if they like to work in an office environment, if they are confortable with a desk job, etc. That’s important, but just until interview time.

Your customer service job interview should be an audition. It’s the individual’s time to show you who they are and let their personality shine. Customer service is people-focused. Great customer service is about creating personal, positive connections with customers that contribute to an exceptional customer experience. I don’t bring resumes to interviews. I bring a sheet of paper with questions for the individual. I tell them that I already know their work experience, schooling, etc. from their resume. Now I want to get to know them as a person. I give them most of the rest of the time to just talk. Then I sit back and listen.

The customer service naturals shine, they want to make a difference. They want to connect with people, do the right thing, and feel like customer service actually helps someone’s day be better. For the rest, customer service is just a paycheck. Great customer service requires effort, skill, training, and a love for people. People-focused people are the best candidates for customer service professions.

Are you consistently seeking for the best customer service people?

If you had to take one of your customer service team members and place them on a national ad campaign profiling your service brand, who would you pick? The one who wants to make a difference, change the world, connect with people, and who feels that service is their mission in life? Or one to whom work is just a paycheck?

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  • Mojo Helpdesk

    I like your suggestion of putting the resume aside for the interview. I think you are right on with this. You are interviewing the person because their resume, so you know they are qualified for the job. Interviews are almost always more about personality and how a person would fit in with the rest of the team. And that should be the focus. Especially for customer service where personality is key to handling problems with a smile.

    • themanagr

      Right on! Often times hiring interviews have become a game of what phrases and keywords to say, how to move, where to look, etc. It’s a back and forth between the interviewer and the interviewee that gives little insight into what you’ll actually get on a day-to-day basis.

      Based on the type of people you hire, it’s better to create an atmosphere where you coax the personality out of individuals, place them in a situation where they feel comfortable, then let them be themselves and see if that’s who you really want.

  • Jeff Toister

    Hi Flavio - I think you are on target with your post, especially the part about looking for candidates who are naturally people-oriented.

    I’d like suggest one addition that can make it easier for hiring managers to find the type of people you describe. Before interviewing candidates for a customer service job, create a profile of an ideal candidate. Next, gear your interview questions around determining how well the person fits this profile. This makes it much easier to make a decision based upon the few factors most critical to success. There are many ways to do this, but here’s a tool I often use successfully with my clients:

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