How to Find and Hire Stellar Customer
Support Representatives, Part 1
Harry Heermans, Ph.D.
How often have you heard, "A company's most important resource is its
people"? A recent survey by Accenture backs this claim, revealing that a
majority of high-ranking executives say a key focus is in finding and
keeping talented workers. Peter Cheese, global managing partner of the
firm's human performance practice, says, "The most powerful theme emerging
this year is a strong and consistent focus on people."
This is especially true when it comes to Customer Service Representatives
(CSRs). Consider the impact they have. Your customers are the ones paying
the bills so how they are treated translates directly to the bottom line.
Who has more direct contact with your customers on a regular basis than
CSRs? They are vital to the strength of your company, so how do you find
and hire top performers? In this series, we will show you how.
Cost of the wrong hire
By one study, as many as one in three employees is in the wrong job.
Imagine if you had to replace one-third of your CSRs. While it is unlikely
your turnover is that high, it is probably greater than you would like and
the cost of replacing employees is high.
Consider the "hard" costs:
Severance pay and outplacement assistance
Advertising the position on job boards and newspapers
Paying a contractor to fill in while the search goes
Training the permanent replacement
"Soft" costs include:
Extra work for the remaining team members
Lower team morale
Negative impact on the customer
Loss of institutional memory and intellectual property
Management and Human Resources time spent searching
for a replacement
Opportunity cost of
not doing something else
These reasons alone argue for hiring the right person initially.
The hiring process
You can insure you have the right people working as CSRs by developing
solid hiring practices. These include:
Defining the job correctly. Too often, the position
description is inadequate. We will discuss a seldom-used but powerful
technique for capturing a precise job description.
Winnowing resumes. At least 80% of firms today use the
Internet to advertise jobs. While this is a cost effective way of
publishing openings, it can result in a blizzard of resumes, many of
which are from unsuitable candidates. We will present a simple technique
for quickly determining the most qualified and motivated candidates.
Interviewing effectively. When was the last time you,
as a hiring manager, received formal training in interviewing? Probably
never, unless you work for an enlightened company. Most managers learn
by doing, which may work for some managers but often fails to equip them
with the skills required to elicit the answers they need to make an
informed decision. We will offer techniques to identify the best fit
candidates, using both telephone screening and in-person interviews.
Checking references. Checking references is often a
perfunctory exercise, performed after a decision to hire has been made
but before a job offer is extended. We will discuss why moving the
reference check earlier in the hiring process can be useful as an
adjunct to interviewing to gather information about candidates.
Deciding on the right candidate. Of all the skills and
traits you have identified in the job description, how do you decide
which ones are absolutely crucial that a CSR possess on day one of the
job, and which you can train? Of the constellation of skills, attitudes,
and aptitudes candidates present, how can you identify which ones are
most closely associated with exemplary employees? We will show you how
to make these choices.
the end of this series, you will have the tools necessary to move beyond
hiring merely adequate CSRs to identifying truly stellar Customer Support
Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down
This column is devoted to memorable customer experiences, the good, the
bad, and the ugly. This issue provides an example exemplary customer
I just returned from my yearly 4-day Thanksgiving vacation at a
family-run Dude Ranch in
New York State. In contrast to my daily life, which can be a trial trying
to get decent Customer Service as I go about life, I just experienced four
glorious days of "Customer Centric" service. Every moment of everyone's
time was geared to making sure that I had exactly what I wanted and
And, guess what this causes! I return every year -- yes, I pay for next
year before I leave! And on a smaller level, you should see how generous
we are in our three tip envelopes: maid, waitstaff, and cowboys. That
exorbitant tip money is freely given and stuffed in those envelopes by all
in our party. There is no sense of "duty" as is usually the case with
tips. We don't let the maid come into our chalet to clean each day as we
like to sleep late, so she does no work. But, because our feeling about
the entire place is so positive, we generously tip her also.
The business organization gets paid back by my returning each year. But
each individual also gets a significant monetary reward immediately.
CUSTOMER SERVICE does it every time!
Editor's note: Yet another
satisfied customer of a family-operated business, where everyone, from the
owner to the waitstaff to the cowboys, knows their livelihood depends on
the customer, and that treating the customer well will reap great rewards.
As we go about our daily, harried lives, remember we are all customers and
all people, and treat each other as you would like to be treated.
Have your own customer service experience to share?
Email us. Names will be changed to protect the guilty....
View previous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down articles.
+ How to Find and Hire Stellar Customer Support
Representatives, Part 1
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading
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joyous holiday season and a happy, prosperous new year!
CRMToday Article by
Empowering Customer Service in the latest issue of
CRMToday magazine. The two-part article, about the importance of
enabling customer service reps to provide exceptional customer service,
was written by Customer Centricity President Craig Bailey, who is on the
Editorial Board of the magazine.
While you're at the
CRMToday website checking out
article, take a look at Aspect Software's white paper
Five Reasons Why… Proactive Customer Care Means Customer Loyalty. The
paper looks at an alternative to call-center cost-cutting: making customer
care more proactive, thereby transforming a call center into a customer
Partners with Buyerzone.com
Customer Centricity, in
Buyerzone.com, is offering a free ROI calculator to assist customers
in obtaining approval for investing in contact center improvement
initiatives. And, for those who would like to take the ROI analysis to the
next level, Customer Centricity is offering a no-cost / no-obligation 30
Check it out for yourself!
Centricity Founder and President Craig Bailey for a seminar in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia, 10-11 April 2006. Rescheduled from October 2005, the
seminar covers both strategic and tactical approaches for a company to
become customer centric. At a strategic level, we will clearly outline a
road-map for creating a customer centric organization. At a tactical
level, we will cover practical approaches to enable customer service
representatives to deliver top-notch service. Please
contact us for more information.
About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through
better service delivery and management.
We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support
teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other
key operations functions.
In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your
customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner
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