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6 Top Skills to Look For in a Customer Service Professional

No matter what sector your business is in, or the size of your company, your customer service employees are your front line. They are there to serve and inform — hopefully even delight your customers. Their words and actions reflect your brand’s core values on a daily basis. Not only that, since they are usually the first point of contact, they need to be equipped to handle any customer needs and concerns as they arise. So, when considering a candidate for a customer service role, you need a very special set of skills. If you’re wondering what skills to look for, read on!

Skills to Look for in a Customer Service Candidate

While someone may seem competent on paper when it comes to education and experience, how do we know if they really have what it takes to ensure customer service success?  Let’s go over the most important skills to keep in mind during the interview process. These points should help you shortlist your candidates and find your next rockstar!

Service Mindset

Seeking candidates who have a customer service mindset may seem obvious, but this can’t be emphasized enough. By customer service mindset, we mean the desire to help and serve. For some, this mindset comes naturally while for others, maybe not so much. If you look carefully, a service mindset can be observed early on in the interview process:

  • Was their cover letter carefully written and customized in response to the job ad? Does it address the experience and qualifications that you require? 
  • Were they attentive? Did they respond to your communications in a timely and informative manner?
  • Did they arrive for their interview on time, in attire that was appropriate for your workplace?
  • Were they prepared for the interview?
  • Was their communication clear and cordial?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, you have a great start! They will more than likely also possess the next important skill on your checklist. . . 

customer service employee
Customer Service Employee
Human Touch

Although self-serve bots and apps are something most customers have gotten used to, nothing can replace service with a personal touch. Examples of human touch include:

  • Empathic communication – we let a customer know that we understand their perspective and experience
  • Active listening – we really listen and note the customer’s needs
  • Personalized service – we serve customers on a case-by-case, individual basis

These and other qualities that fall under “human touch” should be on your radar when considering a candidate. If they exhibit above-average empathy and listening skills, that’s another point in their favor. We love this quote from Christopher McCormick, CEO of L.L. Bean

“A lot of people have fancy things to say about customer service, but it’s just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never-ending, persevering, compassionate kind of activity.” 

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness may often be overlooked as a skill in the hiring process because it’s not as easy to pinpoint. However it is an important quality to look for, since it provides an important foundation for training and coachability. In the words of Patrick Pittman, President of E-Business Coach, Inc.: 

“With evident self-awareness, an employee is more coachable. If they can listen to feedback, evaluate themselves in hindsight, and separate themselves from their performance in one customer interaction or another, there’s an opportunity for growth into excellent customer service delivery.”

One way to gauge self-awareness is to ask a candidate to describe a challenge they overcame in a previous role. Note the level of reflection and self-evaluation, as they describe how they managed the situation and what they learned from it.

Creativity

The ability to think outside the box and autonomously solve for a customer is another important skill. If our end-goal is customer happiness, then we don’t let any obstacles come in the way of ensuring it. We do whatever it takes to come up with creative solutions.

As customer service expert Chip Bell so aptly puts it: 

“Customers long to interact with — even relate to — employees who act like there is still a light on inside”. 

So take this into consideration during the interview and ask yourself: Is there a “light on” inside this candidate? 

Brand Awareness

Your applicant would have done some research on your brand and its goals prior to their job interview. This proves their wish to become an integral part of your brand’s growth and success. 

And while they aren’t expected to have in-depth knowledge of sales or marketing, they should ideally have a general overview. They should also know the role customer service plays in helping a business reach its sales and marketing goals. Their ability to take on a proactive customer advocate role will put them in a position to not only reinforce — but also enhance — the reputation of your brand

Training and Certification

Last but not least, a candidate who has taken the time to complete a customer service certification course has automatically demonstrated a higher level of commitment to their professional growth. This will go far in setting the candidate apart from other applicants.

We hope these tips will help you scout out the next outstanding customer service professional to add to your team! 

Additional resources:

Why Soft Skills are an Important Part of Employee Training

8 Examples of Effective Listening

Emotional Intelligence in the Age of Automation

6 Ways to Include Customer Service in Your Training Plans for New Employees

What’s Not to Love About Customer Service? – 8 Reasons Why We Love Our Job 

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