Say you’re going to start a company, and the first thing you want to do is provide amazing customer service. Are you going to hire the brilliant person who alienates customers? Or are you going to hire the friendly person who can’t solve a problem?
You probably want both qualities:
- The knowledge and skill required to identify and resolve a problem quickly to the customer’s satisfaction.
- The empathy and attitude to help the customer feel great about the whole process, even when the situation isn’t ideal.
So how should you go about hiring great customer service reps who are going to thrill customers?
You know them when you see them, because to get through your door they need to do a few things: They need to be punctual, friendly, and affable. They need to offer what’s next for the customer (like a great salesperson) and do more than just ask, “How can I help you?” Great customer service reps will do an excellent job placing themselves in the customer’s shoes and actively making a difference for the customer, whether that customer is a brand new trial customer or one of your most valued and valuable customers.
The first thing you should do when finding a great customer advocate is to ask them to tell you a story about something they know well.
This could be anything from making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the process of learning how to surf — the key indicator is to understand whether they follow a standard and understandable way to explain a situation. A great mantra for your team should be “tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, tell ’em, and then tell ’em what you told ’em.” A great advocate will be able to share the technical steps of the thing they know well and also sound passionate or excited.
The second thing you should do is call them on a mobile phone (preferably from another room) and ask them about something you know well and that they might not know at all.
Experiencing the sound of how someone deals with the pressure of needing to answer a customer when they don’t know the answer is an excellent indicator of the agent’s ability to respond to new things under pressure. Successful customer advocates will keep their cool, understand the details of the problem at hand, detail to the customer what they’re going to do, and set a date and time for follow-up (even if they don’t know anything about how to solve the problem yet).
And finally, you can hire customer advocates who will thrill the customer by finding and hiring lifelong learners.
The kind of people who ask “why” and “what’s next” and can also explain these ideas to the customer (who is either a complete newbie or a demanding person on a deadline) will prove to be excellent agents.
You should hire for attitude — it’s something that’s very difficult to teach — and find the kind of person who will teach themself the process or the technology as they go. If you can’t find both of those qualities, you should wait until you find that person wherever they are. Because the kind of attributes shared by the customer service agent who can thrill customers also overlap with someone who can deliver stellar results with less supervision overall.
If you’re wondering why this is important, consider that as Shep Hyken points out, 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of poor customer service.