Hiring Great Customer Support Reps

Why should you rank hiring stellar people for your customer support roles as a top priority? Well, your reps deal directly with your customers, and their helpful and empathetic service can create positive impressions of your company. (And yes, the opposite is definitely true!)

Industry leaders recommend learning these essential personality characteristics and best practices before you start sifting through applications. We’ve gathered some of their thoughts below.

Best and the brightest

Whether you’re hiring ten or one hundred new reps, chintzing on talent can cost you.

In many cases, customer service reps are the face of the brand. They are the people your customers will have the most contact with, so you need to hire superstars. But ask any hiring manager, and they will tell you that is easier said than done.


Top five traits

Which characteristics should you look for when hiring that superstar for your team? Talkdesk ranks what it calls the Big Five Personality Factors for people hired in the customer support sector. They recommend looking for these personality traits in order:

  1. Conscientiousness: achievement-oriented, responsible, self-disciplined, organized, persistent, competent, methodical, deliberate, and dependable
  2. Agreeableness: good-natured, compassionate, cooperative, compliant, modest, sympathetic, and trusting
  3. Openness: receptive to new experiences and thoughts, imaginative, artistically sensitive, intellectually curious and creative
  4. Emotional stability: calm, secure, non-anxious, good impulse control, and accommodating of aversive events
  5. Extraversion: gregarious, assertive, energetic, social, talkative, and ambitious


Anger management

Anyone who knows customer support recognizes that representatives often deal with customers who are discouraged, angry, and sometimes vengeful. Good reps must come prepared to handle the people at their worst. Sure, they’re upset at the situation and may take it out on the rep, but make sure that the person you hire won’t take it personally.

Frustrated customers can be incredibly harsh. If your support hire can’t handle being called a Nazi, they should go home.


One-page résumé or two?

How about neither? One VP of marketing told us recently, “When I’m hiring, I’d love to never see another résumé again.” Increasingly, this trend continues when hiring support reps.

[Résumés are] useless and just add to the overhead of processing applications. They’re overhyped and don’t get to the core of what the person is capable of and can strongly skew your perception of someone. Seriously, don’t ask for them.


Note: Baremetrics details an interesting process of hiring a remote customer support rep. It’s worth the read!

True time-management skills

When helping customers, good reps know their limits, and they especially know when to tap out.

If you don’t know the solution to a problem, the best kind of support member will get a customer over to someone who does. Don’t waste time trying to go above and beyond for a customer in an area where you will just end up wasting both of your time!


Treating your candidates like your customers

How do you handle the flood of applications following an open job announcement? Just like you handle your customers. If your company truly values customer service, make sure you accommodate potential employees well. Even if you don’t hire them, a good experience can endear them to your company—and maybe even future business.

How can you demonstrate great customer service? Here’s some ideas…

  • If someone takes the time to fill out your application, always take the time to respond personally and thank them for their time (even if they don’t make the cut).
  • Be prompt! Take the time to follow-up with all candidates in a timely manner. Go above and beyond by responding to applications as they come – you’ll blow their minds!
  • Actually read the candidate’s application and reference the material in your interviews. Show them you took the time to read it and that you care!
  • Give the candidates feedback on their application, assignment, and interviews. Even if they don’t get the job, you’ll be helping them improve their skills. Plus it gives you an opportunity to see how well they respond to feedback.

Knowledge Owl

Mirror the work environment

Most support reps work the phones, so why not conduct your first interview that way? Here’s why you should use this tried-and-true first step.

If the position involves phone support, maybe the phone interview is most important because it lets you listen for a smile and get an idea of how well applicants read emotions over the phone without of the benefit of facial queues.


What could go wrong?

So what’s at stake for hiring the right person for a support role? Here’s how the wrong fit can cost you.

Consider the hard costs:

  • Severance pay and outplacement assistance
  • Advertising the position on job boards and newspapers
  • Recruiting fees
  • Paying a contractor to fill in while the search goes on
  • Training the permanent replacement

Soft costs include:

  • Extra work for the remaining team members
  • Lower team morale
  • Negative impact on the customer
  • Loss of institutional memory and intellectual property
  • Management and Human Resources time spent searching for a replacement
  • Opportunity cost of not doing something else

Customer Centricity

Want to hear what other thought leaders are saying about customer support? Check out our customer service quote library.

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