Customer service representatives are the first point of contact between the company and the public. In a world where first impressions can mean everything, those tasked with representing your brand should be trusted to handle the often unpredictable realm of dealing with patrons - from complaints to unexpected questions and everything in between.

Narrowing down the selection of candidates, or even simply beginning the process, can be daunting for any hiring manager. The looming threat of a bad hire as you desperately try to fill the gaps can cost you - significantly. According to a survey done by CareerBuilder, companies lost an average of $14,900 on every bad hire. However, being prepared from the start can definitely ease any jitters. Knowing the right questions to ask during your interviews and what kind of qualities to look for in potential hires can be valuable first steps to ensure you’re finding the perfect match for your company.

How can I prepare to interview someone for a customer service interview?

Before you meet with candidates, it’s important that you’re feeling both confident and ready to begin the hiring process. Here are a few quick tips to guarantee that you’re skillfully conducting interviews for your future customer service rep:

  1. Understand the position you’re trying to fill. You can teach skills, but does the candidate fit with the culture of your company and within the position? For example, a customer service representative should be someone who’s inherently very comfortable dealing with people at their core, and you can teach them how to use new technology if they’re unfamiliar.
  2. Try to ask the same questions with every applicant. This allows you to evaluate all of your candidates on the same criteria and easily compare responses.
  3. Don’t worry about filling “awkward silences.” No one likes a lull in conversation, but when interviewing, this can be a moment that allows candidates to shine. As they look to fill the silence, they’ll most likely have to go beyond their pre-planned responses, and you’ll get a better understanding of who they are. Especially as you look for someone who excels with the public and under pressure, your future customer service rep hire should be able to carry their own.
  4. Don’t lead with: “So, tell me about yourself.” Be specific. Ask candidates how they would be a good addition based on what they know about the role and the company.

What questions should be asked in a customer service interview?

Here we have some questions that should prompt thoughtful responses, as well as some aspects of their answers that should stand out.

1.   Describe what customer service means to you.

            This is a critical question that is used to determine a candidate’s commitment to the role, but more importantly, their own personal relationship with customer service and what drives them to perform well. To gain insights about your potential hire, look for the following in their response:

  • An approachable personality.
  • An understanding of the expectations of the customer service rep role.
  • A passion for customer service that shines through in their answer.

2.   Can you tell me about a time you dealt with an unhappy customer and resolved the situation?

An angry customer can quickly turn into a crisis situation. It requires a lot of thinking on your toes, a level-headed approach and some top-notch problem solving capabilities. Requesting an example does a couple thing: It proves that the candidate has experience in a similar role and it also encourages them to speak about something concrete, as opposed to hypotheticals. In their answer, look for:

  • Conflict-resolution skills.
  • Ability to handle stress.
  • A thorough example of managing a situation with an unhappy customer and how they turned it around.

3.   Can you describe the importance of working collaboratively as a customer service representative, with your team members and other departments?

To maintain a strong, positive image of your company and brand, there needs to be a lot of effective communication and teamwork amongst your customer service team. This question will show if a candidate is willing to jump in to help their team members, and if they’re able to relay customer feedback to other departments in the company. In their reply, look for:

  • Teamwork abilities.
  • Communication skills.
  • An example of past work experience where they worked in a cohesive team.

4.   What would you do if a customer asked you a question that you didn’t know how to answer?

No matter how much training and experience an employee has, a customer service representative will eventually encounter a situation where they’re unsure of how to help a customer. It may be a question they’ve never heard before, or a peculiar incident, but they’ll need to respond adequately. In their answer, look for:

  • Honesty - they would admit to the customer that they’re not sure, but will look into it.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • An example of a time where they reached out to others for help with a problem.

What qualities will help someone best succeed in customer service, and how do I look for them?

While searching for the perfect candidate, don’t get too stuck on the idea of a “people person,” says HelpScout. While that’s a lovely trait to have, it’ll be hard to observe in an interview setting. Instead, look for qualities that customer service reps can build to become more successful at their jobs, as well as things that can be more easily displayed during an interview.

1.   PatienceCustomer service representative smiling, using headset.

When customers reach out to representatives, they are often confused or frustrated. Handling these situations with patience can make all the difference. That means they’re attentive when listening, take their time determining the issue and don’t rush to get off the line. Instead, they understand the customer’s problems and needs to find the best solution.

2.   Clear communication

An experienced customer service representative will know that you need to be mindful with your words when dealing with customers. They know the ins-and-outs of company policy, but the customer does not. Because of this, it’s best to explain things clearly from the start and keep it simple.

3.   Willingness to learn

Someone who thinks they’re always right or is hesitant around new situations may not be the best candidate for a customer service representative. A desire to learn more and improve will prove that the candidate is up to the challenge of truly understanding the company and product, wants to learn to communicate more efficiently and will be open to advice from co-workers and management.

Even after preparing thoughtful questions and careful consideration of what to look for in candidates, selecting the perfect hire can be a daunting task. Using EmployTest as a tool in your hiring process can build confidence that applicants will succeed in your workplace.

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