When hiring customer service reps, you need to do more than assess the job candidate’s experience and dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a job application. Here are five factors that are just as important as experience, and how to assess them during the interview process.
- Friendliness. Natural curiosity about others, openness and willingness to engage and ask questions are key characteristics of a good customer service employee. Small talk during the interview is a good way to explore how friendly a job candidate is. (Just be sure you talk steer the conversation to topics interviewers are forbidden to ask about, such as whether a candidate is married, has children or how old they are.)
- Ability to handle negativity. Good customer service representatives deal with negative emotions (their own and other people’s) in a mature way and, ideally, turn negative situations around. In addition to asking employees about a negative person at their prior job and how they dealt with him or her, try putting them to the test by incorporating stressful situations into the interview, such as telling them the interview is delayed and having the receptionist observe how they behave while waiting, having other employees continually interrupt the interview, or having your receptionist purposely be rude to them so you can see how they react.
- Multitasking ability. Customer service requires being able to multitask. A representative might be on the phone with one customer while dealing with a queue of other customers on hold. He might be assisting an indecisive customer at the point-of-sale in a store while the line of impatient customers is growing by the minute. Try setting tasks that incorporate multitasking or distractions, such as taking a written test in a room where the candidate has also been told to answer the phone, or interrupting the test to have the candidate complete a form or sign a document.
- Pleasant demeanor. A calming presence and soothing speaking voice can go a long way toward making ruffled customers feel better. If the employee will be dealing with customers on the phone, try conducting a pre-interview by phone to see how he or she comes across. You might be able to eliminate candidates who don’t present themselves well by phone and save yourself some interview time.
- Emotional awareness. Often called “emotional intelligence” or EQ (like IQ), emotional intelligence incorporates many facets, but basically it’s the ability to sense and respond appropriately to others’ emotions. A customer service rep with high EQ will know when a complaining customer just wants to be heard more than he or she wants an actual solution, when customers are in a rush and need to get off the phone quickly, or when customers need to be escalated to the next level of service before the situation deteriorates.
When interviewing customer service candidates, be sure to trust your gut. If a job candidate doesn’t put you at ease and you don’t enjoy interacting with the person, your customers probably won’t, either.