It’s always one of the most critical questions in any business. Do you hire based on specific skills or the candidate’s attitude and company culture fit?

When hiring for any customer service position, attitude is everything. Only an employee with the right attitude can come to work every day and truly help the customer service effort. In a survey, American Express revealed that the most successful customer service people have experience in the hospitality area (hotels, restaurant, and tourism). This type of industry experience encourages employees to build deeper relationships with customers. 

Most customers that call with a problem or question realize it may not be solved immediately. As a result, actual problem solving skills are not high on the hiring list. Instead, here are the skills that will enable employees to give the customers exactly what they really need for them to remain loyal to a company:

1. Courtesy. Throughout hundreds of individual calls and interactions with customers, can the employee remain courteous to each customer? The caller (emailer or social media poster) doesn’t care how many other customers the rep dealt with or if they are having a bad day. Can the employee set all this aside and treat this customer with the courtesy they deserve?

2. Focus. Does the employee have a proven ability to focus on a single task and follow it through to the end? Many customers complain that they constantly get passed around a company and have to explain an issue over and over again. When surveyed, this is always a very sore point for customers.

3. Empathy. Can the employee put themselves in the customer’s shoes even if they think they are wrong? Can they truly say, “I understand how you can see things that way”. When calling a company, empathy is what customers truly want in order to be satisfied.

4. Calm. Can the employee keep calm even when the customer gets angry and begins to shout? Many people have a tendency to mirror the other person’s reaction and ratchet up the emotion. This never leads to effective customer service. 

5. Improvise. Can they improvise and not just be robotic by following a script and standard practices? Can they recognize when an exception to the rules needs to be made? Can they see the bigger profit picture and offer what is best for the customer and the company?

At the interview, it is important to actually test for these skills through work simulations before an employee is hired for customer service. Are they able to remain courteous, focused and calm in the tested situation? Do they always show empathy in their responses?  Are they able to improvise?

Which skills does your company value in customer service?


Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at