How many of your consumers will get the opportunity to speak with your CEO, product designers, or engineers? It’ll most likely be a tiny number. Working with your customer care team will be the only time many clients speak directly with your company.
Those interactions have the power to transform a negative experience into a favourable one (or vice versa). They can also extract important customer insights, bridging the gap between your customers and the rest of your organisation.
For the long-term success of your brand and business, having the proper people in those customer-facing jobs — and setting them up to succeed — is vital.
So, who are the greatest candidates for those positions, and how do you go about finding, selecting, and onboarding them? We’ll address those questions and show you how to put together a strong, productive customer service team in this article.
When to hire for customer service
When is the best time to hire a new customer care representative? There is no perfect method short of using the services of a business-focused fortune teller, but there are some significant indicators to look for:
- When a member of your team expresses stress, you should: A customer support crew that is overworked will not give their best effort. It’s time to consider adding more people to your team if you’re having trouble keeping up.
- When your metrics start to deteriorate: Monitor critical metrics such as inbound support volume, time to first response, time to resolution, and customer satisfaction. If such figures start to deviate from their normal ranges, you may need to hire more people to keep your service quality up.
- When your forecasting model indicates a tipping point, take the following steps: A forecasting model can help determine when you need to start the hiring process for teams greater than a few employees, or small teams with a quickly developing customer base.
A basic spreadsheet model may look at the number of support inquiries per active client, the number of discussions per agent per day, and the cost per agent hour. It’s simple to see when you’ll need more staff by putting in the predicted company growth rate.
5 alternatives to hiring more support staff
Hiring is time-consuming and costly, both in terms of the increased income and the time spent training a new employee. Here are some options to consider before starting a new role:
- Change the way you cover things. Examine your inbound support reporting by the hour and by the day. When you have enough people, but their working hours don’t match the volume of work coming in, it’s a problem. Someone may need to be moved to cover weekends, or someone may need to start and finish later.
- Make self-service choices a reality. Helping consumers solve their own problems can cut down on your team’s workload while also improving customer satisfaction. To get started, look over our knowledge base suggestions.
- Consider enlisting the help of the entire firm. Having people outside of the customer care team assist clients directly can expand coverage while also making the organisation more customer-centric.
- Invest in bettering your products and processes. Even better than immediately and usefully resolving a customer’s issue is resolving the issue at its root. Is there anything you can do with your product or service to improve the customer experience and lessen the amount of help you receive? This is a win-win scenario.
- Use a company that specialises in outsourcing. A full-time hire isn’t always possible (for example, if your support is highly seasonal). If done correctly, outsourcing companies may provide you with flexibility and quality.
Step-by-step guide to hiring for customer service roles
So you’ve decided to add one or more additional members to your squad! The challenge now is who to hire and where to look for them. Start by thinking about your customer service goals and values; a team focused on high-touch, low-volume service will look for individuals differently than one focused on high-volume, self-service engagements.
1. Define what skills and experiences your ideal candidate has
Think about what type of role you are filling and what other roles suitable people might be working in.That will help you create your list of skills to hire for. Then answer these questions:
- Which skills do all customer service professionals need? In our customer service skills post, we cover the core attributes and skills that any effective customer service person should have.
- Which skills does your specific role require? Are there particular technical skills or domain or product knowledge that would be necessary to succeed in this role?
- Which skills or experiences are nice to have but not critical? Hiring is an opportunity to find someone who might bring in new knowledge and attributes to your team. Separating the skills you’d ideally like to see but aren’t required will help you avoid narrowing your applicant pool too soon.
Ask your existing team for their input here; they will know which skills the team could use the most help with.
2. Create a job description that attracts high-quality applicants
It takes a lot of effort to write a compelling job description and get it in front of the right individuals, especially if you don’t already have a strong brand to leverage.
A job description serves as a marketing tool for a company: You’re pitching your job to the folks who want to apply for it. Begin with a job title that is clear, direct, and consistent with similar responsibilities at your company.
Be deliberate about diversity and inclusion
Your job description can inadvertently signal to some qualified people that this role is not for them. Here are some ways to avoid losing excellent candidates:
- Use gender-neutral and inclusive language.
- Be cautious about listing your “must-haves.” Many people, particularly women, are less likely to apply for roles where they don’t meet every stated requirement.
- Include information about your company’s diversity plan — something beyond the boilerplate.
3. Get your job post in front of your ideal applicants
There is no such thing as a “perfect” hire. Rather, if you can locate them, there are plenty of people who could do a good job in the post. Although mass-market job advertising platforms will undoubtedly generate a large number of applicants, the ratio of applicants to suitable matches may be low.
First, look into some of the more specialised employment boards. They’ll reach a smaller audience, but they’ll appeal directly to the types of candidates you’ll want to consider. To begin, here are some customer service communities with job boards:
- Support Oriented
- CX should be improved.
- Accelerator for Customer Experience
If you’re looking to hire for a distributed workforce, remote-focused job boards like We Work Remotely can help you find competent candidates all around the world.
By purposefully reaching out beyond your existing network, direct outreach can be an excellent approach to improve the diversity of your applicant pool. It’s not always the case that the most qualified candidates are those you already know.
Spend some time on LinkedIn looking for people who would be a good fit, and then contact them personally to see if they’d like to apply. Because it’s crucial to recruit like a human, make sure your approach is individualised and honest.
4. Evaluate applications
People who can read and listen carefully to understand what their clients need are required to provide excellent customer service. When the applications start pouring in, check for folks who have read your job ad and are responding appropriately.
Consider employing a basic screening question to assess their communication abilities during the application process. You want to evaluate their ability to communicate the solution back to you, not their technical expertise or familiarity with your product, so make it a question with an easy-to-find answer.
Another option to have applicants exhibit their writing talents is to request a cover letter. They should have more time to edit and provide their finest work with less time pressure than live support.
When analysing resumes, look for applicants who can explain how their previous experience is relevant to the career you’re offering, as we’ve written about producing customer service resumes.
People who can read critically and develop an appropriate response are valuable assets in a customer service role, thus those who can do so in their application should be considered.
5. Conduct interviews
It’s time to schedule some interviews once you’ve narrowed down your field of candidates to a more manageable number. Your interview questions should be designed to assist you in identifying candidates who understand the function of customer service in a way that is consistent with your company’s philosophy. “How would you characterise good customer service?” for example.
You’re also looking for people who:
- Can demonstrate emotional intelligence, empathy, and reflectiveness.
- Demonstrate a track record of problem-solving abilities.
- Possess excellent communication skills.
Create questions that ask potential employees to tell you tales about the most essential aspects of their jobs. Some of our favourite customer service interview questions are listed here.
6. Have your best applicants complete a test project
Help Scout’s employment process includes a meaningful (and compensated) project that allows candidates to demonstrate their abilities. Our potential customer champion hires are required to conduct a live Zoom demo of the product and then spend time in a Help Scout queue answering actual customer questions.
Having your applicants complete work that is similar to the actual job is a great way to observe how they perform and can provide a more comprehensive picture than an interview.
7. Onboard your new team member
After you’ve hired your new team member, they’ll need your assistance in learning about your company, your customers, and the goods and services they’ll be supporting.
Here are three key topics to concentrate on:
- Keep as much documentation as possible. Try to figure out what useful information your present employees have locked up in their thoughts and get it written down.
- Prioritize the “why” over the “how.” Demonstrate how you want your customers to be treated and the values you wish to see reflected in your customer service. Then move on to the specifics of the product and its operations.
- Assign them to a partner. Assign them to someone you can trust to show them how to operate effectively in a group setting.
Finally, seek input from them early and often. Allow them to point out any holes in your onboarding, as well as any confusing processes or pain points, before things go back to normal.