No matter how advanced and impressive customer service technology may become, when it comes down to it, an exceptional customer service experience still relies on the man behind the curtain personifying the brand, giving it its voice, flipping the switches and moving the process along behind the scenes – whether that’s through a friendly and helpful demeanor and fast response on social media or live chat, or an above and beyond effort toward issue resolution or customer delight via phone, email or help desk ticket. The image and voice of the big brand is always as strong or as weak as its newest hire.
Consider these statistics:
- In a 2013 LivePerson Connecting with Customers report which surveyed 5,700 global consumers, 45% said dealing with a friendly customer service representative was their top element of a great online experience.
- According to Accenture’s 2012 Global Consumer Pulse Research, 65% report that one of their top service frustrations is unfriendly or impolite agents, and
- 70% say they are likely to switch brands if they deal with agents who are unable to answer their questions.
- In addition, 26% of consumers cite being shuffled from representative to representative with no resolution of their issue as the top reason for switching brands (2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer).
Yet, many companies and organizations do not have, or due to consistent turnover, choose not to invest in key customer service training that teaches how to exceptionally represent a brand. For instance, a new KPMG 2013 Retail Outlook Survey of senior executives representing brands whose annual revenues exceed the billion dollar mark say that retaining customers and adding customers will be the top two drivers of the company’s revenue growth over the next three years (ranking above improving economic conditions, product innovations, new pricing structures, etc.) – yet only 11% said they expect to increase spending on employee compensation and training.
So what are some key tips in selecting a customer service agent to be a natural, great and powerful wizard behind the curtain? Customer service author and trainer Teresa Allen says it’s all about the first impression. “One of the most critical things when hiring a customer service representative is to pay close attention to what your first impression is in the first 15 to 30 seconds you meet the person and/or talk to them on the telephone,” says Allen. “That is about how long it will take a customer to form their first impression.
“With all the legalities and formalities of hiring today, that can be lost in the shuffle of the process. Do you instantly like the person? If so, your customers may as well,” notes Allen. “Service skills can be trained; likeability cannot.”
Sir Richard Branson echoed this point in a recent Entrepreneur magazine article. “To achieve consistently terrific customer service,” he said, “you must hire wonderful people who believe in your company’s goals, habitually do better than the norm and who will love their jobs.
“Make sure that their ideas and opinions are heard and respected; then give them the freedom to help and solve problems for your customers. Rather than providing rules or scripts, you should ask them to treat the customer as they themselves would like to be treated — which is surely the highest standard.”
Finding the right person to represent the brand doesn’t have to rely on complicated questions or tests. In fact, it can sometimes be the simplest questions that carry the most weight. David Hill, Manager of Technical Support at Chemstations, Inc., says, “I ask at least one ‘out of the blue’ question, such as ‘why do dogs bark?’ in the middle of the interview, and I ask it as though it’s a common question.
“I want to see how the interviewee responds to a crazy, unexpected question,” says Hill. “Some people will stumble and ask ‘What do you mean? Why does this matter?’ etc., and some will throw back an answer without blinking.
“I don’t have precise metrics, but my non-scientific observations suggest that the people who gracefully handled this question are rarely flustered by a customer, don’t blame the customer on the rare call when communication breaks down and goes south, and are better at active listening,” notes Hill. “There is often a big difference between the questions our customers ask and the question that we need to answer – it is up to us to determine the customer’s goals and help them find the best answer.”
The Best Person for the Job
What are your tips for hiring an exceptional customer service representative or individual to best represent your organization or brand. Leave a comment below or join the conversation in LinkedIn’s Customer Service Executives & Professionals Group.
Comments on this article are closed.