3 Secrets to Hiring Great Customer Support Representatives

Being in the Customer Support industry for years, transcosmos knows well the importance of hiring, putting together, and keeping together a great customer support team. They are at the frontline of any business, the face of the company, the ones who directly communicate and reach out to customers.
They also serve as potential marketing agents, by word of mouth or through social media. A bad customer service experience can hurt a brand for years—as a company, you don’t want to rank in a customer service hall of shame and be scarred for life. Whereas, a good customer service incident can be the shining glory of a brand for years to no end (Remember Zappos?), leaving a mark in the web and in the minds of people.
Hiring the Right PersonAnd so it is imperative that in hiring customer support representatives, a company has to find the right people for the job; “right” being the operative word, because hiring the wrong people can be costly. In fact, studies show that hiring the wrong guy costs 1.5 to 2 times the annual salary of that person—this includes recruitment costs, operational costs, training costs, and lost productivity costs, among others.
We couldn’t reiterate more how important it is to hire the right customer support representatives, whatever company or industry you’re in. Here are three things to keep in mind in finding the right people:

Passion over Talent

Although some technical support positions require specific technical knowledge, most of the skills required in customer support can be drawn out from trainings. Talent can be developed, but passion is more difficult to bring out in a person. Talented people are everywhere, but passionate people are a little harder to find.
Some of the best hires we’ve had for years are people who have no initial experience in customer support, but they come to work armed with loads of positivity and passion:
New graduates who are trainable and eager. They may not have years of experience yet, or they may have graduated from a course that’s totally different from the accounts we have, but their eagerness and passion allow them to go a long way in the contact center industry.
Ex-military people who have completed their duties on rank. These people have gone through so much in life already, and they come to work motivated to make a difference more than to make money. Their military experience has developed in them genuine compassion and concern for people, making them some of the best reps we’ve had on the floor.
Tip: You might have to weave through piles of application forms and resumes, or interview dozens of applicants before finding one passionate individual who can fill the role. This is something you can’t find through paper alone. You have to meet the applicant face-to-face to be able to look into his eyes and hear his stories. Only then can you detect passion.

Attitude over Aptitude

Educational background or previous employments are good ways to assess applicants, but often, what’s even more important is the attitude of the person. You may come from a prestigious university or a prominent company but when your work attitude is not stellar, your educational and professional background are not good enough.
Some applicants look good on paper, but attitude makes people shine, especially in this business.
Every day we deal with all types of customers with all sorts of issues that need immediate attention. That said, customer support requires a lot of humility, self-restraint, level-headedness, patience and composure. (Remember Abid of Dunkin Donuts?) To be successful in this business, you have to continuously develop a positive attitude, one that would make people trust you rather than be irritated by you.
Tip: You’ll know attitude by the way an applicant answers questions, or the way he presents himself. Trust your gut feel. When in doubt, don’t hire.

Adaptability over Personality

Company culture is an important factor in today’s work force. Over the years we’ve seen how team cultures play an important role in employee retention and performance. Professionals love working with a group of people whom they can relate with and adapt to.
One of the questions we ask ourselves in assessing an applicant is: Does he fit in our company culture? Does he seem like someone who would alienate himself? Is he a team player?
It’s not enough that an applicant has an outgoing personality, he should also be able to adapt well with the people he’s working with. In some instances, we’ve seen how an agent who’s unwilling to adapt can cause an entire team to fall apart. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch. You don’t want to sacrifice the camaraderie of an entire team by hiring an outsider who wouldn’t cooperate and could potential split the team in half.
Tip: Going over an applicant’s professional background may help in this aspect. Know if he likes working independently or with a team. How many companies has he been to? Does he stay in one company for years, or does he make a habit of jumping from one company to another? There’s a big chance that a job-hopper is not adaptable enough to want to stay longer.
This is the first in a series of blog posts tackling about The Challenges and Solutions in Hiring Great Customer Support Representatives. Read all the posts in this series here. Subscribe to our feed or by email to get updates from transcosmos blog.

Rhiza Oyos

Rhiza is passionate about customer experience, customer relations management, and social media. She likes scouring the web for interesting stories about customer service and blogs them here at transcosmos.