Posts Tagged ‘Hiring Tips’

Great Customer Service Reps are Born, not Made

11-25 Hiring Employees smallAll new hires need some formal or informal training to learn the ins and outs of their jobs, including customer service reps, who need to master basic company policies and procedures connected with customer interactions. While most employees who master training become great workers, perfect policy and procedure proficiency does not automatically make customer-facing employees good at their jobs.

Great customer service requires a special breed of people. Whether they sell to customers, help them navigate the aisles or resolve their issues on the phone, they display a genuine caring and helpful spirit, while being authentic. You can't teach that spirit, so your job is to seek it out from the time you write the want ad and throughout the interview process.

Advertise and Assess for Character Traits Before Technical Skills

Exceptional technical skills are meaningless in a customer service rep who doesn't deal well with people, so ask for people skills in the heading of your employment ad. A heading like, "Customer Service Rep with Computer Experience" attracts people who can log calls. A heading like, "Do People Come to You for Help?" draws in people who really like to help others. By all means, list minimum qualifications within the ad, but focus on attitude and people skills.

Of course, the interview requires the same type of focus. Be prepared to pose customer-related scenarios to find out how the applicant will handle them. And, even if some applicants fall slightly short of the skills requirements, listen for signs of trainability. Friendly, helpful people with basic computer skills can learn how to log calls, even if they have never before worked in a customer service environment.

Identify the Right Character Traits

You probably have no training in psychology, but that doesn't mean you have no capacity to recognize applicants who have a natural affinity for customer service. Here are some of the character traits to look for — and how to identify them:

  • Strong communication skills: Face it; angry or frustrated customers often do not communicate clearly. The reps you hire must be able to listen and understand long before they deliver a clear, unambiguous message. During the interview, applicants with the knack for two-way communication rise to the surface when you ask unclear questions. If they tactfully ask for clarification, they are better communicators than applicants who answer the wrong question.
  • Patience and compassion: Customers seldom seek out support when they are happy. In the worst cases, they are so livid that no solution seems to satisfy them. Your reps need a thick skin to avoid striking back at unearned verbal attacks. Then, they need the stamina to find resolutions that meet the customer's needs, while displaying a genuine degree of compassion for the customer's circumstances (no pity, please). A good way to test for these traits is to present an unsolvable issue and monitor the applicant's patience levels every time that you reject another solution.
  • Proactive problem-solving: Your company may have a rule book for resolving typical complaints. But even when reps memorize every rule, undocumented issues frequently arise. If you empower your employees to make decisions on the fly, raise some hypothetical situations to make sure that applicants have enough common sense to respond appropriately — and when they recognize the need to seek management intervention.

Mirror the Work Environment During the Interview

Traditionally, short phone interviews are a first step before bringing applicants in for one or more face-to-face meetings. But, does this really tell the whole story for a phone support applicant? Sure, these people may need to interact with other employees, so meeting in person makes sense. Still, the phone interview may be the best way to assess what their on-the-job performance will really be like.

If the position involves phone support, maybe the phone interview is most important because it lets you listen for a smile and get an idea of how well applicants read emotions over the phone without of the benefit of facial queues. Similarly, consider meeting in a coffee shop or restaurant to see how traveling sales reps handle business conversations in noisy environments — and to check their table manners.

Put Yourself in the Customer's Shoes During Each Interview:

You may be interviewing as the boss, but you need to listen to each answer as if you were the customer. Customers quickly recognize the difference between genuine support and scripted problem-solving. You can certainly teach new reps about the support process. You can even teach them to avoid certain stock phrases — like responding to a thank you with "no problem."

But helpfulness and winning personalities come from the heart. Bruce Nordstrom, of the third generation of customer service-oriented Nordstrom management, said it best: "We can hire nice people and teach them to sell, but we can't hire salespeople and teach them to be nice."

Websites to Find New Employees for Your Small Business

11-25 Hiring Employees smallOnce you have determined that it will be beneficial to your business to begin hiring employees, where do you to start?  While its great to start delegating responsibility to other people, your next challenge is to find them. The days of putting classifieds in a newspaper are gone and word-of-mouth recommendations can only get you so far. Here are some of the web’s best resources to find new employees.


StartUpHire is a website dedicated to finding career professionals, and employee candidates. Many professionals aren’t familiar with the challenges that new small businesses face which can lead to conflicts early into their employment with you. One of StartUpHire’s standout features is the option for employees to search for employment based on a company’s stage of development (ie. seed, development, profitable) and funding. This does away with any misconceptions regarding a job description or the salary and benefit expectations. StartUpHire does charge a fee for its service. The most basic package is $79.


Think of Indeed as Google for jobs as it as a search will feature jobs from all over the Internet. Indeed is a highly visited site for jobseekers. Business owners can search for qualified candidates as many of Indeed’s users keep their resumes live on the site to be found by potential employers. Besides giving your available position loads of exposure, the price is right. Indeed’s pricing is based on pay-per-click, meaning you only pay when a candidate takes a look at your job description. Much like other pay-per-click websites, you set your own budget for how many clicks you can afford and watch the resumes roll in.


You might think of Craigslist as a place sell your old couch or buy a new car, but today the website is being used for so much more. Craigslist is as close to a newspaper classified as you can get in our digital age and, with ads that are as simple and straight forward, it can be a valuable place to find new talent. Job descriptions don’t require an application and all information you provide to jobseekers is voluntary (including location, hours required and salary/benefits). Using Craigslist also guarantees that you will hit candidates within your immediate area as the site operates as separate job boards based on major city or geographical location. It costs $35 for one job posting on Craigslist that remains active for 30 days regardless of how many responses the ad receives.

Monster is the grandfather of job posting websites. Monster is free for jobseekers to use and puts its primary focus on the candidate. Monster offers resources such as industry insights like average salaries and job growth trends. Of all these websites, Monster is the most expensive but also has the biggest reach. With Monster’s job posting packages, your job offerings are targeted and seen across newspaper sites, mobile apps and any other sites linked to the Monster network. It also offers “Power Resume Search,” which allows you to find the best-qualified candidates in the shortest amount of time.

Internet job sites are huge assets to small business owners with limited resources to conduct a job search. If you’re ready to bring fresh faces with immense talent into your business, you have to look for them where they’ll be looking for you: online.

The Top 5 Ways to Keep Remote Employees Connected & Engaged

10-19 remote workers smallIf you want to bring remote workers together and make them feel connected to your company, it is essential that you take advantage of the communications tools available today. Technology has changed the way the world works, and this is especially true for remote workers.

While all of our operations is located at our headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, we do have a growing number of sales representatives and software developers that work remotely. These individuals are essential to our company’s success, and we want them to feel just as connected to the company as our team members who work at our headquarters.

We have found that the five tools below significantly improve communication with remote team members, keep them informed of office activities, and keep them connected to their coworkers.

Regular team calls

This may seem like a no-brainer, but scheduling a call that works for everyone’s schedule is no small feat. However, constant and consistent communication is extremely important to moving projects along and discussing initiatives and goals. Try to touch base with your entire team at least once a week. If blocking off an hour may not be feasible, try for shorter, more frequent check-ins. This will hold team members accountable, will keep everyone up-to-date on what each team member is working on, and can help identify team members or projects that may need extra support.

Cloud Phone System

Moving communications systems to the cloud is a essential to keep employees connected, such as moving to a cloud phone system. You can route calls to these employees from your main office, take advantage of extension dialing, and utilize a mobile app to stay connected on the go.

Additionally, the mobile apps for these systems, such as the Nextiva App, come with additional features including IM and presence for easy communication from anywhere.

An Instant Message System

Remember the days of AIM? Instant message systems have matured from a social chat tool for teens and are now essential communications tools many of us, myself included, couldn’t imagine getting through a workday without. As the name indicates, an instant message system allows you to send messages to your coworkers in different locations and receive an immediate response. This tool is great for quick questions were sending an email is unnecessary, and the best part is it won’t clog your inbox! At Nextiva we rely on Jabber or the Nextiva App, but there are a variety of tools out there your business can use, and many are free.  

A Company-focused Blog

Our Culture team began an internal blog at Nextiva about a year ago and it has been a great platform to keep everyone connected. Everyone’s inboxes are overflowing these days and it’s easy to miss internal emails about office activities. Creating a central place to house all of your company communication will help keep everyone informed of office activities, product updates, HR resources, without having to check multiple places for the information. Also, blogs, especially ones powered by WordPress, are easy to customize and update to suite your unique needs and culture.

Employee Engagement Activities that are not Location-Based

Focus on creating employee engagement activities that all team members can participate in, regardless of their physical location. Voting activities or a weekly internal news show that highlights everything going on in the company that week is a great way to share information and make employees feel connected. Highlighting remote employees via “department discoveries” or internal interviews will help employees in different locations to get to know each other.

These five tools can be implemented in every business, and will help improve the satisfaction of your remote workers. Are there any tools you rely on to improve communication with remote team members and make them feel more connected to your company?

The Top 3 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture

Attracting top talent to your business is now more competitive than ever. Gone are the days of focusing only on compensation as your company’s main differentiating factor. Today’s workforce wants more than just a nice paycheck, especially when it comes to Millennials. Now people want to work for a company that shows appreciation for its employees in more ways then just money, provides advancement opportunities, has an inviting and fun work environment, and who’s mission and culture aligns with their values.

At Nextiva, we’ve found there are three ways you can improve your company culture to increase the overall happiness of your employees. And as any business owner or team leader knows, if you’re employees are happy, they’re more efficient, productive, and innovative.

1. Open communication between employees and management

To have truly open communication, your team must feel like their thoughts, opinions, and concerns are heard. This starts with creating a company culture that is void of egos and focused on two-way communication—talking and listening. Also, trust is a large part of the equation that takes time to establish, but if you stay consistent, it can be done. Trust is built from listening, following through on the things you said you would take action on, and creating an environment where employees feel supported. Fostering a culture that values everyone’s unique ideas can lead to amazing business advancement and growth. You never know who may have a great idea to improve a process, product or service, so stay open minded and listen to your employees.

OCEO Appreciation Day

2. Show your appreciation

This cannot be reiterated enough. Positive reinforcement will do wonders for individual and company-wide moral. If you show your employees appreciation on an individual and group basis, they’ll be more productive, happier and more likely to grow their career with your company.

Showing appreciation and recognition makes people feel valued, and they’re more willing to go the extra mile for you and your business. You don’t need to offer extravagant prizes to show appreciation. We’ve found that things such as a coveted parking spot, an extra vacation day, free lunch, etc. all make a big impact.

Additionally, we focus on initiatives and events that highlight individuals, teams, and departments. For example, our dedicated Culture team plans appreciation days throughout the year for each department, and once a year we highlight five individuals at our company event that made a positive impact on our culture and company. These awards are a huge honor and voted on by the management team. Also, team members are encouraged to give shout-outs to employees who go above and beyond for others in the company on an ongoing basis.

10-8 Nextiva Company Culture

3. Create career paths and advancement opportunities

No matter the size of your business, you can create career paths and advancement opportunities for your team. If you don’t give your team something to strive for, whether it is a raise, promotion, continuing education opportunities, or other means of advancing their career and improving skill-set, they’re going to look for a company that does offer these benefits.

Just as an athletic team works hard so they can win a game, your employees are also working hard towards their own individual goals. This aspect of your company culture is a direct result of creating an environment that promotes open communication and shows appreciation for its employees. Check in with your employees on an ongoing basis and ask what they’re interested in and the direction they’d like their career to go in your organization. From there, work on creating a development plan and projects that will help them acquire the skills and experience they need to get to the next level. This will not only benefit them, but the company overall.

Top Salesperson

Building a good company culture doesn’t happen overnight….

Building a strong company culture takes a lot of time, effort and consistency from all levels of the organization. Also, focus on fostering an environment that is in line with your companies mission and values. What works for one company may be not be feasible for another, but the three areas listed above—open communication, appreciation, and advancement opportunities—are universal to all organizations. How you execute this is up to you, but we guarantee it will improve the work environment, increase your team’s productivity, and ultimately help your business grow.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 3 Ways to Attract Millennials to Your Customer Service Jobs

Young Man Making a Video CallCan you get Millennial employees to work in customer service roles? If you’ve swallowed the conventional wisdom about this generation—that they’re entitled, spoiled and hard to work with—you may think there’s no way you could convince them to take a “lowly” entry-level customer service role. But the conventional wisdom about Millennials workers is far from true. Here are three things you really need to know about Millennials to attract more of them to customer service jobs.

  1. Millennials want their work to be meaningful and make a difference. Focus on how customer service jobs fit into the larger goals of your company, such as improving the customer experience, making your business best-in-class, helping the company grow and helping people feel good about your products and services.
  2. Financial security is a big concern for Millennial employees. Perhaps because so many have seen friends and family struggle to find jobs in a rough economy, 70 percent of recent college grads in the latest Way to Work survey from Adecco Staffing USA say stability and security is what they want most from a job. In fact, stability is more important than high pay in selecting a first job, survey respondents say. Benefits, such as a 401(k) or other retirement savings plan, matter to this age group, too.
  3. More than anything else, Millennials are looking for career advancement. You’ll have an advantage in hiring them if you can show that you promote from within and how entry-level customer service roles can lead to more responsibility, either in customer service or other roles. Since customer service is often seen as a short-term job, it’s important to explain that it actually has a career path and what it can lead to.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll have an edge in attracting these vital and energetic employees to your customer service positions.

Doing Away With Customer Service Scripts

4-3 no script smallCustomers today are looking for genuine customer service, for the authentic customer experience of one human being assisting another. So it’s time, in most business contexts, to do away with word-for-word scripts while retaining a “punch list” of points that need to be covered in the course of a customer conversation. (Life-and-death settings such as healthcare and pharmaceutical delivery are important exceptions to this rule, as are interactions with privacy or security implications.)

For example, let's look at Drybar, the blow-dry-and-style salon phenomenon that has transformed the hair care landscape in just a couple of years. The Drybar customer experience is extraordinarily well thought out, made up of hundreds of carefully created touchpoints that make the experience memorable for its customers.

And it all happens without a script. At no point in its operation, explains cofounder Michael Landau, does Drybar “train to a script, though in our contact center we give [agents] a lot of prompts they should hit on the phone—to ask about [the customer’s] hair length and other such details,” because checking in about these details directly improves the experience once the customer arrives at Drybar. “Because our growth has been so fast”—when I first became aware of Drybar in 2010, it had four shops, all in Southern California; as of this writing it’s up to nearly 40 salons across the U.S., with London coming soon—“we think a lot about how, as we grow, we will manage to convey ­to customers and to employees that they are part of a business with the spirit of a smaller, more flexible company.” The refusal to script allows Drybar to maintain this flexible, genuine feeling in two ways: It provides a less stilted experience, and it builds more empowered and flexible employees to serve customers, thanks to the leeway that Drybar is providing these employees.

Drybar isn’t providing or enforcing a script, but its leaders have laid out guidelines that its contact center employees need to heed to ensure a successful booking and blowout session, in other words a carefully plotted framework for ensuring their customers are properly cared for. While training and monitoring are needed to ensure these intakes are executed properly, this isn’t scripting.

And it couldn’t be successfully scripted because high-quality service requires employees to tailor their approach to the quirks of a particular customer in a given context. Scripting, on the other hand, is “dependent on your customer following a script himself!” as contact-center expert Colin Taylor puts it; it only works if customers behave in an expected pattern to which you can respond with a predetermined line. But customer concerns come in infinite varieties, with infinite moods, paces and nuances. So instead of training to a script, the best thing an organization can do is teach its people to deal with situations, both good and difficult. Give them the tools to recognize behaviors and respond appropriately and effectively.

Or as Doug Carr of FRHI Hotels & Resorts (Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel are their brands) puts it, “The things that matter can’t be scripted. You can build scenarios for your staff, but you need to couple this with encouragement and training for your staff on how to read the customer, and then doing what’s right and what’s appropriate.”

Sara Kearney of Hyatt puts it like this: “It takes an awful lot of practice to come across as completely unscripted.” Kearney continues: “We don’t script [at Hyatt’s innovative new luxury brand, Andaz], but we do an awful lot of role plays and dress rehearsals to help people understand their role in bringing the brand experience to life.”


Departing from formula isn’t easy. ("Easy" is prescribing specific words for an unempowered employee to read.) But the results are worth it, and the impact will be clear in the flexible, nuanced, genuine brand of service you offer.

How to Organize Your Business to Hire Your First Employee

"Staff Wanted" SignFrom your very first hire, you want to make sure you are attracting the kind of employees who will be an asset to your company. You want that first employee to be a hard-working, conscientious individual that you won’t break the bank to hire. But it goes deeper than that. Hiring your first employee requires plenty of planning and reflection to understand your staffing needs and your management style. Your first staff could be the freelancers you need to the full-time admin you need to offload some of your backend tasks.

Start with the Tasks You Need Help With

Before you write the job description that will help you attract the right people, start by simply brainstorming about the tasks you need help with the most. Initially, the list may be helter-skelter, with some admin tasks, some marketing, some finance, and so on. But as you complete the list, start to sort them into categories so you can determine what type of role you need to hire for. Then prioritize those job tasks so you can tackle the most important ones with your first hire.

It’s helpful to divide this list into the following categories. Each job description you put together will likely include some of each:

  • Critical tasks
  • Routine tasks
  • Occasional tasks

Consider Your Hiring Options

Full-time isn’t your only option here, and if your budget is small, it might be further down the road. You can also consider the following:

Part-Time Employee

A part-time staff member typically works 15-30 hours a week, and you aren’t required to pay health benefits for them, typically.  The perk to part-time is that you can adjust worker schedules to reflect the needs of your business. The downside is fewer people are looking for part-time roles.

Temporary Workers

Usually you hire a temp worker through an agency. They’re ideal if you need help for a few weeks or months, as you can let them go when your busy season is over. Another advantage of this option is if you don't like the worker, you can call and get another one.


Working with freelancers or 1099 employees can help with short-term needs, such as getting your website designed or handling your virtual admin needs. You don’t pay social security or payroll taxes for contractors. One perk is that you can test out contractors to see how you like them, and then hire them full-time if they are an asset to your business.


A cost-friendly staffing option is the intern. Look to a local college to find a low or no-cost intern who’s studying a field that you need help in. Once the semester is over, however, you lose your cheap labor. Still, if you like their work, you can always hire them.

Next, Write Your Job Description

Now that you’ve defined the tasks you need your first employee to tackle, organize them into separate jobs.  This is important so that you’re not trying to recruit an amazing admin who not only can file but can also file your taxes, manage your social media, give you a manicure, and run your IT department!. Now, it’s time to organize your thoughts into a job description.

The more detailed your job description, the more likely you will be to find exactly the right fit for the role you need to fill. I like to write down everything that employee could possibly be asked to do so that there are no surprises down the road.

Start Your Search

With that job description, look in as many places as possible to maximize your search. You can (and should) open your job search up to:

  • job boards
  • recruiters
  • social media
  • your network

Let everyone know you’re hiring, since referrals are an excellent source for great employees.

If you’ve spent the time up front to clearly identifying the type of employee you need, you should be rewarded with one who will help you take your business to the next level.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: To Find Good Customer Service Staff, Get Social

3-10 hiring with social media smallLooking to hire customer service employees this year? You’re not alone. According to the most recent SurePayroll Scorecard, which tracks small business hiring trends nationwide, 38 percent of small business owners are planning to hire salespeople or customer care representatives in the coming months.

With competition for good customer service workers heating up, more and more small business owners are turning to social media to find job candidates. In particular, 25 percent of small business owners use LinkedIn for recruiting—a huge increase from the 4 percent who did so last year. In addition, 18 percent use Facebook and 4 percent use Twitter.

LinkedIn has long been known as a hiring spot for big corporations, but now the nation’s smallest businesses are embracing it, too (the average company in the SurePayroll Scorecard has just six employees). It only makes sense if you’re looking for customer service employees—who need to be energetic and people-oriented—you’d turn to social media. After all, social media is all about interacting and sharing with others, so you can get a good sense of an employee’s people skills by using it.

How should you start when looking for customer service staff on social media? LinkedIn is a great place to start, since people often begin there when looking for jobs. Make sure your company LinkedIn profile is up to date, and post updates about changes in your company, new projects or opportunities. Of course, you can also use LinkedIn’s job listings to actively seek customer service employees, but sometimes you can find good candidates by looking for them, instead of waiting for them to come to you. Try joining groups related to your industry or customer service related issues. Pay attention to who contributes to discussions in the groups and what they have to say. You can then reach out to people you might want to consider as candidates and see if they’re looking to make a switch.

Facebook and Twitter can also work well for alerting potential customer service employees to opportunities at your business. You can tweet or post with a hashtag related to your industry, the job title or customer service jobs in general. You can also share photos or videos of your staff at work, or testimonials from your employees, to convey a sense of what your company is like to work for and get job candidates interested.

No matter how you reach out to candidates on social media, make sure you always direct followers to a place they can get more information about the job, whether that’s your business website or an online job listing. 

Mondays with Mike: 10 Interview Questions That Find Great Employees

Job InterviewWe all know prospective employees spend hours prepping for important interviews.  They research the company they’re applying to, and they try to anticipate tricky questions they’ll be asked.  What surprises me is how little time many entrepreneurs spend preparing to interview their prospective hires.  If you take the time to think through what you want to learn from an interview, you’ll make the most of your time and effort.

The basic premise behind this list of questions is that you want to evoke genuine – rather than scripted – responses that reveal patterns of behavior in your applicants.  The way they’ve behaved in the past is the best indicator of how they’ll behave in the future, and as expensive and time consuming as it is to hire, train, and sometimes fire new staff, you want to get it right.

Here’s what to ask:

  1. What is your purpose in life?  The folks who have thought about the answer to this question are the ones less likely to be motivated solely by money, meaning they are less likely to jump ship for a higher wage.  Since staff turnover costs you money, you want to identify candidates with long term potential.
  2. How do you make decisions?  This question is a two-parter:  you want to assess your prospects’ decision making process, but you also want to ask for examples of decisions prospects have made in order to determine if their actions support their words.
  3. Show me how…  Ask applicants to demonstrate some of the skills they’ll be using in their new job.  They may feel like you’re putting them on the spot, and in truth, you are.  Whether you ask them to show you how they’d answer the phone, pitch your product, or resolve a customer complaint, you’ll get an idea of how they’ll handle the work they’ll be doing.
  4. How did you go about researching our company?  Serious candidates take the time to learn something about the places they apply.
  5. Tell me something about me you think is interesting.  Again, you’re putting an applicant on the spot, seeing how they think on their feet, and testing the extent of their research.  Do they understand your goals and values?
  6. Tell me about your past bosses.  This is a particularly powerful question, as it gives you insight into candidates’ relationship to authority, and it also tells you how they like to be managed.  Keep an eye out for applicants who complain about every single boss they’ve ever had;  they’re revealing more about their struggle with authority than they realize.
  7. What is your greatest fear about this position?  This question sifts out dishonest applicants, as every single one of them has fears, whether they own up to them or not.  It also lets you identify areas that will need extra attention when you hire.  You’ll be able to start off on the right foot by addressing concerns on the very first day.
  8. If money were no object, what would your ideal job be?  In a perfect world, you want to hire long term employees, and finding out what candidates really want to be doing lets you know if they’ll be around for the long haul.  If the position you’re hiring for isn’t at least a stepping stone, then you may be looking at a short-timer.
  9. Who are the biggest jerks you’ve ever dealt with?  What you’re looking for in this answer is a reveal of candidates’ conflict resolution skills.  How do they see people who cause them problems, and how do they deal with the conflict that will inevitably occur?
  10. What parts of work drive you nuts?  This question offers another way to catch a glimpse of applicants’ weaknesses and insecurities, letting you weed out inadequate candidates or address challenges early on.

Hiring new staff is too important for you to walk into an interview unprepared, but sometimes you’re still uncertain whether prospects are a good long term fit for your company’s goals and values.  When that’s the case, I advise you to hire on a temporary basis – say three months.  At the end of the trial period – assuming you’re pleased with the work – offer the employee a chance to stay on for a full time position or walk away with a $500 check.  The folks who jump at the check aren’t likely to be committed to your long-term success, and the ones who rip up your check are proving their dedication to you.

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