How to Hire Customer Service Stars

by Jeff Mowatt

“What are some tips to ensure I’ll hire the best customer service people?” That was the question the golf course owner asked me when she was about to begin hiring for another season. I don’t profess to be an expert in running a golf course, but when I speak at conferences about customer service, I’ll occasionally also facilitate an exchange of best practices among industry leaders. Here’s a compilation of their top tips, which apply to any industry on how to hire customer service stars.

Hire attitude over aptitude

Technical tasks can be learned, but trying to change attitude is difficult. Look for these 3 key qualities found in strong customer service candidates:

    1. Outgoing personality. By definition, it’s easier for an outgoing person than a shy person to engage with your customers. Choose the path of least resistance and hire people who aren’t afraid to talk to strangers.
    2. Efficient worker. Customers are there to receive a product or service. That means hiring people who can get stuff done even when it isn’t fun.
    3. Attention to detail. Satisfying basic customer needs is a bare minimum. The place where customers begin to perceive you as being exceptional is in the dozens of details. You want your employees to pay attention those details before your customer have to.

The challenge next becomes how to find candidates with those qualities. A great place to start is with your existing customer service stars.

Ask employees to help

Encourage your star employees to help you to recruit their friends or relatives. Good performers know what’s expected of the job and are in a position to know who might do an equally good job. Tell your employees that if you do hire their friend or relative, they can participate in training them. Offer a small bonus or gift to both your star employee and to the new recruit if the new hire works out well. The goal is to start a new employee out from day-one with positive peer pressure.

Schedule interviews for Sat – 6am

Yes, you read it right. That interview time will screen out a huge number of non-starters. Those who do show-up prove they have the ability to be efficient – even when it’s uncomfortable.

See if they’re dressed for work

Are they groomed and dressed appropriately? Appropriate refers to whether their attire seem suitable for a) a job interview and b) for your clientele. Trying to deal with dress code issues after someone is hired is an uphill battle. What they’re wearing tells you something about their judgment. After the interview walk them out to their car. The cleanliness of the vehicle will give you more clues about their attitude and attention to detail.

Ask, “How are you?”

The response to that common question will tell you a lot about how they will interact with your customers. Do they complain about being tired? Do they tell long stories about themselves? Or do they simply say something positive and in turn ask how you are? All those answers will tell you if they are upbeat and focused on others.

Interview over lunch

Conduct a follow-up interview over lunch and observe how they interact with the server. Are they as nice and outgoing to a server as they are to you as a potential employer? How long does it take them to pick out something from the menu? If they’re going to take a long time to decide about what they’ll have for lunch, how efficient will they be with accomplishing unfamiliar tasks at work? Do they have any questions for you? The questions aren’t that important, but they need to have the confidence to ask. Asking about wages is perfectly legitimate. But wait for them to ask you.

Customer service stars aren’t necessarily the people with all the answers; they’re people with positive attitudes, who are curious and confident enough to ask questions to surpass your customers’ expectations.