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How can you identify good customer service traits in staff before you hire them?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011 | By Tom O'Toole

How can you identify good customer service traits in staff before you hire them? What ‘foundations’ should you be looking out for?

 

I often get asked what I look for when hiring staff. If we’re looking for customer service people, we start by talking to them about casual things like the weather, sports, and current events.

 

Get them relaxed. Make them feel comfortable. Only then will you find out what they’re really like.

 

The first things to look for: Do they make good eye contact? Do they smile easily? Are they confident? Do they speak clearly? How do they present? Do they look smart and clean?

 

Some people have naturally got the energy and the passion. It’s no good hiring someone with low self-esteem and poor motivation.

 

I always get people who are looking for a job to talk to my staff. Just stand back and watch the body language as they talk.

 

Does the person get in there and ask questions, or do they just stand around? Do they have good listening skills? Do they stay focused? Do they like dealing with people in the first place?

 

You might think: “Why would they be looking for a job in customer service if they don’t like dealing with people?” But there are thousands of people in customer service who don’t like dealing with people.

 

Find out their hobbies. What movies do they like? If it’s murder and mayhem, you may be looking for trouble. How do they cope with change? Are they flexible?

 

We always check references thoroughly, but often it’s not what’s written on the reference that you need to know. You also need to get info from more than one source.

 

One thing I’ve often done is ask applicants to write their own reference. Most of them are not happy about that. They don’t know what to write.

 

What would you say if you had to write your own reference? “Honest”? “Hard-working”? “Focused”? “Love helping people”? “Willing to learn”? “Enthusiastic”? “Positive attitude”? “Determination and discipline”?

 

Wow, I think those would be great traits to have. Over the years I’ve never seen anyone write anything like that, but I live in hope.

 

We all know when we get good customer service, because it stands out. We need people with passion, energy and ambition.

 

First and foremost, people who love interacting with other people, because that’s what customer service is all about.