5 essential competencies to assess when hiring customer service reps

Written by Greg Kedenburg, former Consultant
Previously published by PSI Talent Management or Cubiks, prior to becoming Talogy.

Customer service is one of the most frequently espoused values in today’s corporate landscape, and for good reason. There are very few organisations that do not interact with the people who consume their products or services in one way or another. Considering today’s ‘the customer is always right’ culture, combined with the ability for anyone to announce instances of poor customer treatment to the world immediately, it makes sense that companies are pushing customer service so hard.

But, if every company values the proper treatment of their customers so highly, why are some organisations so much better at it than others? The answer is that companies with top-tier customer service understand what it takes to be a good customer service professional and bring people with the requisite qualities on board. Take a look at what the companies ‘in the know’ are looking for when they hire new customer service professionals.

1. Customer focus

I know, it’s a real shocker that customer focus is a helpful competency to have when working with customers. Even though this may seem like an obvious answer, it doesn’t make it any less critical. An employee who has an apathetic – or potentially even negative – view towards customers would clearly be a poor fit for a customer service role. But someone who excels in this competency and who genuinely cares whether or not their customers are satisfied and truly wants to create the best possible experience for them is going to perform at a much higher level.

2. Quality focus

In addition to customer focus, it’s important to have a strong quality focus as well. This means having a high level of commitment to not only doing your job, but doing it well. Knowing all of the ins and outs of your products or services down to the last detail means you’ll be able to provide your customers with the most comprehensive and efficient solutions possible. Someone who is ok with doing the bare minimum or isn’t concerned with being thorough will only be able to give their customers a mediocre experience at best.

3. Problem-solving

The unfortunate truth about customer service positions is that most of the time, you’re dealing with people who have an issue or problem of some sort. While it does happen from time to time, most customers don’t reach out just to say how happy or satisfied they are. Because people are inherently unpredictable, there will be many times when you have to help a customer with an uncommon, or perhaps even unique, issue. Being able to think on your feet and problem-solve on the fly is a skill critical to success. Someone who is unable to think outside the box, develop alternative solutions, or handle those uncommon problems is unlikely to be very successful.

4. Accountability

Accountability is another crucial aspect of being a successful customer service professional. While the quality focus and problem-solving competencies will help you be as prepared as possible for the role, there may come a time when you’re unable to help a customer in the moment. What separates top customer service professionals from the rest of the pack is that they stay accountable in these situations and will seek out an answer and follow up with the customer. In addition, they will maintain ownership of their responsibilities, admit mistakes, and may even go so far above and beyond as to accept blame for issues or problems out of their control, just to provide that higher level of customer service.

5. Positive attitude

Finally, the competency that can make or break a customer service professional, and isn’t always taken into consideration, is a positive attitude. Customer service professionals often see the worst side of people, as they’re working with individuals who are experiencing some sort of problem causing them to vary in emotion from mildly inconvenienced to beyond irate. Being able to take that verbal abuse, let it roll off of them, and move on to the next person is what makes a customer service superstar. Knowing not to take anything they hear personally, to maintain an upbeat and enthusiastic (but not patronising or insincere) demeanour, and continuing to exude positivity are essential to being successful in any customer-facing role.

Being a customer service professional is a job that many people can do, but not many people can truly excel at it. It takes a special type of person, one who exhibits high levels of (at least) the above competencies to rise to that upper echelon level of customer service. Companies that genuinely value creating a positive experience for their customers know to look for people that fit this bill, and any organisation looking to improve their customer experience would do well to mimic them.

Finding the right fit: nine assessment types

Assessments are among the most powerful tools available to HR professionals to make better hires, identify development needs, and quantify leadership potential.

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