5 Things to Ask When Recruiting for Customer Support

What’s the No. 1 thing you look for in a new customer service hire? Is it personality? Communication skills? Ability to troubleshoot?

If you haven’t thought about it before, 2013 research from Zendesk suggests you may be missing out. The survey of 1,046 individuals across the U.S. found bad customer service experiences are driven by: the inability of the first representative to troubleshoot the problem (72 percent), unpleasant representatives (67 percent), and slow issue resolution times (65 percent).

What does this have to do with hiring?

These findings make a clear case for hiring managers to put more emphasis on hiring high-quality, engaged customer service professionals. When your hiring process doesn’t include things like job simulations, pre-hire assessments, or data-driven decision making, you’ll have to learn as much as you can during an interview about how a candidate will fit into your organization and whether or not they’ll be a good brand ambassador. But with all the job seeker advice available today, it can be difficult to ask a candidate a question candidates haven’t already used the Web to prepare for.

Ask your next customer service candidate these five enlightening questions during the interview process to identify the strongest fit:

1. Tell me about a bad customer service experience you’ve had.

This question gets right to the point. By asking the candidate to share a bad customer service experience with you, you’re getting insight into what makes them tick. Think about the candidate’s answer and try to figure out why the candidate thinks it was such a bad experience.

You can learn a lot about how a candidate will approach a situation by listening to the things he considers poor customer service.

For example, if a candidate talks about an experience where a retail employee spoke curtly and seemed annoyed by questions they were asking, you know they have the ability to recognize the mood of the person they’re speaking with and sense agitation – both great qualities for dealing with customers in-person or over the phone.

2. Did you learn anything about customer service from your bad interaction?

In the customer service world, all sorts of crazy things can happen with customers. One of the most important things you can learn about a candidate is how well they learn from their experiences.

It’s important a candidate be able to think about a customer interaction (or read customer satisfaction survey feedback), analyze her strengths and weaknesses, and apply that insight to other calls going forward. Candidates who can learn from bad customer service experiences are more likely to provide positive, engaging experiences of their own.

3. How would you handle a customer that is having a well-known issue with your product or service?

Customer service professionals have to deal with different customers having the exact same issue all of the time. As a customer service professional, it can be difficult to hear the same problem over and over, but it’s part of the job.

When the customer is angry or frustrated, often times they’re looking for someone to either understand their frustration or apologize for the inconvenience. This question will help you determine if the candidate has the ability to be empathetic and apologetic.

4. How much time should it take to solve an issue? How many interactions?

Remember, Zendesk found time-to-resolution was a key factor in bad customer service experiences. Asking this question helps you determine how confident your candidate is in his ability to resolve an issue quickly.

If your organization is using analytics to measure metrics like time-to-resolution and interactions-to-resolution, you’ll have a good idea of the answer you’re looking for here.

Obviously, it will be difficult for a candidate to judge the exact amount of time or the number of interactions, but you should be looking for candidates that talk about solving the issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.

5. How do you, personally, make customer service more engaging for a customer?

Critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills are all positives in customer support, but they mean nothing if the candidate can’t keep the customer engaged. Whether it’s small talk or keeping the focus on the client, high-quality candidates know how to keep the customer happy – even when they are frustrated with your product.

In many cases, your customer service experience will be the only hands-on experience your customers have with your brand. So, it’s important you use questions like these to learn everything you can about how a candidate’s personality, work ethic, and communication skills will impact your brand’s image before you make any hiring decisions.

What questions do you ask your company’s customer service candidates?

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Written by:
Jeff Furst is the founder, president and CEO of FurstPerson, a provider of job candidate assessment tests, web-based hiring systems and assessment for companies that hire frontline service, support and sales employees. Connect with Jeff and FurstPerson on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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