Customer Service: Pay Close Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain


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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:

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.

First Impressions

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.”

Hire Power

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.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.


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