Providing exceptional customer service isn’t easy, but it’s imperative in order to compete in business today. Customer service representatives need to have a wide range of tools in their belts to be successful. They’re often faced with solving technical problems and interacting with a variety of different personalities. As the face of the company, they must be able to react quickly and adapt to these situations with grace.
Here are 17 customer service traits you should look for when hiring a new customer service representative.
The Top Customer Service Qualities To Look For
1. Ability to listen carefully
Customer support representatives need to be great listeners. In order to solve a problem, you need to understand what the problem is first. This requires the ability to listen carefully. Listening also shows the customer you care, which helps build rapport with the customer. Being a good listener allows support representatives to learn and gather the information they need to solve problems.
Interview question to ask: “Talk me through your strategy for dealing with a complicated issue when a customer calls in for help.”
2. Sense of curiosity
The ability to ask the right questions at the right time is another essential customer service trait. This is particularly useful when troubleshooting technical problems and fielding feedback from customers. When customers have problems or provide feedback, support needs to be able to ask follow up questions in order to gain a deeper understanding of the situation. Being curious helps customer service representatives communicate more detailed information to the customer and also internally back to their teams.
Interview question to ask: “What was the last thing that you took time to learn about outside of work?”
3. Writing skills
Writing is perhaps the most important skill in business today and this holds true for customer support professionals. In a day where email and live chat are popular customer support channels, being a good writer is a critical customer support trait. Whether responding to a customer email, a live chat inquiry or communicating with colleagues over Slack, the ability to write well and write quickly helps make customer service teams productive and effective.
Interview tip: Review cover letter, take-home tests and email communication for accuracy and clarity.
Customer service workers deal with a tremendous amount of information every day. They must be thorough in the work they do so that important things don’t slip through the cracks. Thoroughness helps build trust with customers. This can be applied to their communication, how they complete tasks, and how they follow up with customers.
Interview tip: Include a complex customer question on a take-home test and see how thoroughly the candidate responds.
A good customer support representative should have a strong sense of empathy. That is, the ability to understand and react appropriately to the feelings of another person. Emotional intelligence helps customer support representatives maintain a human element in their interactions. Empathy can often help dissolve the toughest of situations and turn an initially bad experience into a delightful experience.
Interview question to ask: “Tell me about a time when you turned a customer’s experience around from a negative one to a delightful one. What did you do?”
Not all problems are the same. Many problems require thinking outside of the box. Customer service teams need to be able to think creatively and come up with clever solutions to difficult problems… and they often need to be able to do that quickly. Customer support is often faced with new problems that they may not have documented answers for, but the best customer support representatives can come up with a solution or workaround even when existing resources are lacking.
Interview question to ask: “Tell me about the most creative workaround you’ve taken to help a customer resolve an issue.”
Strong communication should be part of your customer service team’s DNA. When customers experience problems, support needs to be able to effectively respond but also communicate the problem to the product teams through bug reports and feedback. Some situations are more difficult than others, and knowing how to communicate in different ways is critical to the success of customer service teams today. Good communication involves setting the right expectations at the right time, being transparent with customers, and being clear in everything we tell the customer.
Interview tip: Review cover letter, take-home test and email communication for clarity and communication skills.
It goes without saying, but technical support teams need to have some technical chops. A customer service team that stays up to speed on the latest technology trends will be able to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of high-tech tools. Tech-savviness comes in handy while learning the product we’re supporting, and also while learning the tools we use to do our work (bug tracking tools, help desk tools, etc). The more tech-savvy someone is, the more tech-savvy solutions they’ll be able to come up with and execute which benefit the team and the customers.
Interview tip: Include a troubleshooting question on the take-home test that requires the agent to dive into technology you use on a daily basis.
Support teams are busy. Often times they’re a small team responsible for supporting hundreds or thousands of customers and it seems there’s an endless queue of tickets that need their attention. The ability to manage time and identify priorities helps customer support teams keep their customers happy.
Interview question to ask: “Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed. What did you do? How did you get everything done?”
10. Problem-solving ability
Good customer support representatives are eager to solve problems. This goes beyond closing out a customer support ticket and moving onto the next one. They need to be able to solve the root of the problem so that it doesn’t happen over and over again. Solving the root of the problems involves working with other teams to prioritize issues, and coming up with solutions to issues big and small.
Interview question to ask: “Tell me about the last time you had a problem you couldn’t solve. What did you try before giving up?”
11. Openness to negative feedback
It’s inevitable. Customer support representatives will receive negative feedback. Sometimes it’s really harsh. Being on the front lines means they’re the face of the company and sometimes the feedback they receive isn’t directly related to the way they do their jobs, it’s about the company or product as a whole. No matter the case, they take the brunt of it and it can be difficult to receive.
Customer support teams must be resilient and have the ability to not take things personally. On the other hand, when they do receive feedback about their wrong-doings, they need to be able to take that, learn from it, and improve without reacting poorly.
Interview question to ask: “Tell me about the most helpful piece of feedback you’ve received that changed the way you do things.”
12. Ability to adapt quickly
Curve balls are common in support; things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes support is faced with big surprises. They show up to work with a fresh cup of coffee in hand and BOOM – a flood of support tickets comes in. The ability to react quickly and stay calm during these high-stress situations is an essential customer service trait
Interview question to ask: “Tell me about a time when your previous company changed a policy or their way of doing things. How was that change managed? How would you have done it differently?”
It’s important to stay friendly, even in the toughest situations. How friendly a customer support representative is can make or break the perception a customer has of your brand. Customer support teams should use a positive tone and try to connect with the customer on a personal level whenever possible. This helps build trust and grows the relationship between the customer and the company.
Interview tip: Invite more team members into the second or third interviews to see how the candidate interacts with them.
14. Business acumen
As much as we want to do everything possible to please our customers, it’s important to keep the business in mind as you respond to customer support inquiries. While it’s easy to want to say “yes”, sometimes support teams must push back to customers and make decisions that protect the business. Having a good sense of business acumen makes support teams better internal collaborators and allows them to identify areas of opportunity to grow the business.
Interview question to ask: “Tell me about the last time you had to say no to a customer. Why and how did you do it?”
15. Time management
Customer service teams deal with tens or maybe even hundreds of requests every day. In order to keep their customers happy, they need to be intentional with the amount of time they spend on various tasks. Each day is different and they must be able to allocate the right amount of time to each problem in order to stay on task and pull their weight as a member of the customer service team.
Interview question to ask: “What skills or strategies do you use to manage a busy week at the office?”
Customer service representatives need to be trusted advisors to their customers. This means being able to show the customer they know the product and industry, and being able to communicate confidently about the business. Confidence will help show the customer they can trust you and that you’ll surely set them on the right path when they’re struggling with something.
Interview question to ask: “If you’re not confident in the answer you have, what steps do you take to confirm the answer?”
A lack of patience can be detrimental to a customer support professional. Patience helps support teams be better listeners, and helps them resolve customer issues while building trust. Customer service representatives need to maintain good attitudes while working through problems, no matter how frustrating or slow things may be progressing, and no matter how difficult a customer is to work with. There are many scenarios where our patience is tested and each of these examples is an opportunity to show the customer we have the ability to help them.
Interview question to ask: “What tactics do you use to teach someone (say a family member over the holidays) how to use a new piece of technology?”
Keep the customer service traits above in mind as you hire your customer service representatives and you’ll be well on your way to building a customer support team your customers love to work with. If we missed any skills you think are important, please leave a comment below!