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Monday, February 13, 2012

Find the Perfect Fit: How to Hire a First-Rate Customer Service Team

A business that tries all the tools and tricks available for improving customer service, will inevitably learn that the success of those tools depends on the quality of the staff implementing them. Finding the right customer service staff can be the hardest step in developing a business that customers rave about, but when it's done right the payoff will be huge. The customer service staff is the primary face and voice of the business to the group of people most important to its continued success: its customers. When staffing your customer service department don’t just look for the qualified, seek out the exceptional.

First, develop a clear idea of the job your representatives will perform. Get a sense of the kind of person, in terms of personality and experience, that can best fill the company’s needs in this position. While it’s useful to have a clear vision of the ideal rep, don’t limit your hiring process if all of several ideal criteria don't perfectly match your expectations. Allowing some flexibility can lead to even better results, with the right candidates. Think about the current business culture and the personality types already present, a staff that works well together without conflict saves untold amounts of time and effort and makes for a more positive work environment. Keep all of this in mind when crafting the job ad.

Once candidates are chosen for consideration, do the research. A resume and interview can be revealing, but only tell a partial story. Call the candidates’ references with a list of prepared questions to get a more thorough sense of the person’s reliability, strengths, weaknesses, general approach to life-- anything relevant to how they’ll perform the job and fit in with the company. During the interview, provide some customer service hypotheticals, ideally taken from actual experiences within the company. This is a great opportunity to test how well they think on their feet and their penchant for problem solving. Another possibility is to include current employees in the hiring process. Not only can they field potentials for a personality fit, but they can also use their experience to weed out any candidates that may not cut it from a performance perspective.

Found some promising candidates, but not quite ready to commit? Try them out on a temporary basis. Strike a deal to have them start the job with a 30-90 day evaluation period to see if they and the company are a good fit. Once the trial period’s up, if you’ve decided against a job offer, be sure to offer thorough feedback to them on why you feel it’s not a good fit and consider providing a reference to help them with future opportunities.

Be willing to make the position competitive. If the pay and benefits offered are sub par, the candidates attracted to the job will follow suit. If a high quality, highly motivated staff that’s excited to represent the company is the goal, it is imperative that the company earn the best candidates through high pay, quality benefits and a business atmosphere that’s exciting. Job performance has a tendency to reflect employee experience and the initial job offer will help to set the tone for the relationship to come.

It’s not easy to turn down hopeful and qualified candidates in the search to find the perfect employee, but building the customer service staff that’s just right for your business has to be priority number one. Trust your instincts, combined with the proper due diligence, they will lead the business to a first-rate customer service team. Once there, it’s time to move on to the far easier task of equipping them with the best customer service products available to perform to their full potential.