How to Find and Hire Stellar
Customer Support Representatives, Part 2
Harry Heermans, Ph.D.
last issue, we discussed the importance of finding and hiring stellar
Customer Support Representatives (CSRs). In this issue, we start to
discuss the hiring process.
The first step in hiring stellar CSRs is knowing what to look for. This
sounds obvious, but how do you know what makes up a superior performer?
Most managers start with the job description, but where does that come
from? Rather than creating one from scratch, managers often take the easy
way out, obtaining one from the Human Resources department or using one
left in the pile from the previous manager. Sometimes, it comes off the
Internet, where a manager does a search of similar jobs and copies one
that looks appropriate or puts out a request to a listserv for examples to
use. All of these approaches can help you get ideas, but it is no
substitute for the careful thought necessary to define what is needed for
your job at this moment in your department's circumstances.
What skills do CSRs need? Not all skills are equal. Some are absolutely
required while others are merely desirable. For example, CSRs communicate
with customers most often via telephone, email, and chat. Strong verbal
and written skills are essential to making a good impression on the
customer and effectively capturing information, so make them a
requirement. On the other hand, if 90% of the questions deal with how to
use a software product written in VB script and only 10% deal with defects
where the knowledge of software programming is helpful, don't require VB
script; list it as desirable. This sounds commonsensical but how often
have you seen an advertised position with a long list of requirements, all
of which you know cannot be absolutely necessary. Excellent candidates may
self-select themselves out of applying if they feel they do not meet all
the requirements. Explicitly differentiate between required and desired
A list of skills needed to perform the job is only the least common
denominator, the minimum necessary to do an adequate job. You do not want
merely adequate performers; you want exceptional talent. After all, how
can you provide exceptional service with average talent? To identify
characteristics of stellar performers, use a "success profile". An easy
and effective way to create a success profile is to have your CSRs think
of one or two of their colleagues who perform exceptionally well, then
without naming them have them write down the attributes and
characteristics that make them stand out. As a manager, you can do this
too, in a slightly different way. Think of the average performers in your
group and consider what they need to do to move into the exceptional
category. In fact you may have already done this during performance
reviews. Take your list and the lists from your staff and analyze it for
clusters of attributes common to the star performers. Now you have a
success profile for stellar CSRs. Incorporate it into your job description
and you have increased your chances of pulling in resumes from exceptional
Handling the blizzard of resumes: Finding the needle in a haystack
Once you have advertised the position, be prepared for an avalanche of
resumes, especially if you post to well-known national electronic job
boards. At first blush this can be encouraging because you think, "Wow,
look at all the qualified candidates I have to choose from!" This assumes
all who reply have read the ad carefully, considered the qualifications
you have so meticulously listed, and have found they match up well.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. The reality is that a large
percentage of replies will be sent by people who are not even close to
what you need, because the ease of replying electronically invites
potential candidates to fire off a resume even if they are only remotely
qualified. How can you quickly and easily separate the wheat from the
chaff? Try this technique.
Have candidates reply via a web site, where they not only include their
resume but reply to on-line questions. Each question represents one of the
major qualifications and asks them to describe in detail how their
background and experience matches the advertised requirement. If you do
not have the technology for this, accomplish the same thing by either
asking candidates to include a cover letter answering the same questions
or responding to their original resume submission with an email listing
the questions and asking them to reply with answers.
Doing this serves three purposes:
If you consider only those who follow these
instructions, you have cut down on the resumes to screen.
It insures only motivated candidates apply, because it
requires extra effort beyond blindly firing off a resume.
It provides a convenient way of zeroing in on
candidates' strengths relative to your job needs, without your having to
pick through each resume to divine how well each matches your
the next article, we will walk you through the telephone screening and
View previous articles in this series.
Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down
This column is devoted to memorable customer experiences, the good, the
bad, and the ugly. This issue provides an example where customer service
falls a little short.
Here's my customer service pet peeve: I have no problem with automated
telephone self-service, as long as I have a clear way to reach a live
person (usually pressing "0" does the trick). Sometimes to reach a
live-person, I still have to enter an account number and password using
the phone key-pad – still not so bad. And then the first question the
customer service representative asks me is "Could I have your account
number?" And I wonder, "Why did I just waste my time entering all of those
digits into the phone?"
Editor's note: Always think about
what you're asking your customer to do in order to do business with you.
When the requirements are not really requirements, the customer is jumping
through unnecessary hoops, and eventually will get tired of jumping. If
you ask for an account number to be entered via a telephone key-pad, make
sure the customer service representative has the account information
available as soon as he or she answers the phone. Use the information you
are given from the customer, and don't ask for any information that you
won't use…it just wastes everyone's time, and no one has time for that.
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 2
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading
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We wish you 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.
To complement Harry
Heerman's series on Finding and Hiring Stellar Customer Service
Representatives, we recommend CRM Magazine article
Match Customer Service Agents to Customers by Allanna Kelsall. In
addition to providing tips to help you find the best representatives to
hire, Ms. Kelsall discusses the concept of agent profiling, the
process of matching customer service agents directly with the needs and
personalities of customers.
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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