Alexandra Shiryaeva
Chief Customer Officer at UseDesk
Not long ago, we helped an excellent small business with the theory and practice of customer service. After a while, we realized that the idea and training could help almost every second manager. Here we are — gathered it all together, unified it, and is ready to share the simple yet powerful advice on finding a customer support team member that loves your customers, meets the expectations, and becomes reliable support of the team.
Job Posting
Job posting (and the website where you place the job vacancy) determines who will respond to it in many ways. Suppose you are conservative, diligent, demanding, and expect the same from the applicant. In that case, any emoji and jokes should be removed from the job description so that the posting does not give false impressions (of course, you would not have any of them, but in case a colleague drafts a job description). If it is the opposite with you, you are part of the "young, ambitious team" with an "active lifestyle" and a fresh look, you prefer to be within a short distance with the customers, maintain close and family-like relations, and then make sure that your business's approach is clear from the job description right away. Overall, write the job posting in the same manner as you communicate with the customers and colleagues.

If you are looking for a fun and straightforward person, do not start the job posting with "We have been on the market since 1899". The person with the characteristics you are looking for will likely skip the posting, as he will not recognize that the vacancy corresponds to his interests. Once, I wrote the job description with all my heart and made it clear that I was looking for the fiery and bright stars, unique snowflakes in customer support. In response to the job posting, I received a pile of resumes from specialists with 10+ years of experience working with 1C and Excel.

Therefore, it is essential to choose the right website to place a job posting.
Before the Interview

To put aside lazy and non-compliant people, ask applicants to write a cover letter. First, if you do not receive it, it means that the applicant is inattentive and does not suit the position, and, secondly, if you receive the cover letter, you can understand a lot about the person by the style and content of the letter (without any exaggeration).

What to look for in a cover letter:

  • Literacy and style. The applicant writes with no spelling mistakes, expresses the thoughts hastily, and does not use template phrases.
  • The applicant writes about the benefits he may bring to the company, and explains why his application deserves your attention.
  • The applicant describes the previous experience in terms of its utility in his role in your company.

For example, when I was looking for an employee for a position in which a warm and informal communication with the clients is required, I put aside the applicants who had in the cover letter just a plain "Please consider my resume for ...". If the first acquaintance starts with a cliché, blurring it out of future work relationships is very difficult. I myself, by the way, always make a big bet on the cover letter, and if I apply for a job, I try to write a cover letter that will get me a job offer right away.

It is worth to summarize it: if you like the resume, the cover letter and everything else, then call the applicant. Ask simple yet not expected questions: how is he doing, what are his interests, where he went on vacation, and whether he got the magnets from there. If he is confused and have troubles in having the conversation, then he is likely not a good fit for a customer support role, where it is required to communicate with the customers via a phone, however, he still may be very good at chatting or writing emails.
Good afternoon! When I came across the vacancy, my heart has begun to beat faster. It seems that this is an ideal fit for me.

For 5 years now, I've been working in support, and I've used to take care of a wide range of customers: from bank clients to dissatisfied forum users. During this time, I learned to find an approach to anyone, even to the most vulnerable client, and mastered the art of resolving the conflicts even before they appear.

Spoken English, quick to learn new things, familiar with IT-things (I know how to fix a server, edit a web page layout, or locate a bug quickly).

I am looking to find the role where my skills can be utilized at best, and the project you have looks like something where my skills can be helpful. Please, let me know if it seemed the same to you, and I'd be glad to discuss in person, or complete a test assignment.
— A good applicant
During the Interview

In order to find the right fit for the position, sometimes, you have to go over the most complex challenges. However, no matter where the diamond is hidden, the main step in finding it is an interview.

How to conduct

  • In 2 stages: by phone or Skype, and, then, in-person at the office.
  • At the first stage of interview, ask whether the vacancy is still relevant and why the applicant has responded to the job posting, briefly remind the job description and tell a few words about yourself. At this stage, the range of the applicants will be narrowed because some of them have found the job.
  • Face-to-face interview: conduct a full interview and give the second (see below) test assignment.
If the team is working remotely or there are too many applicants, then, of course, you can substitute the in-person meetings with the interviews via Skype. This will not affect the results that much but will save time and effort. Make sure the shirt collar looks fine and the video is switched on: without it, you will not be able to get an impression from the person, and, thus, will not be able to make a weighted decision.

What to ask

  • Do not ask general questions like "describe your work experience" rather focus on the situations that demonstrate the skills. For example, "tell me about the most challenging work situations that you managed to handle", or "describe your biggest failure or mistake", and so on. What else can give you a picture of the candidate's abilities?
  • Ask what is the business of the company where the applicant was employed before. Let him talk about the product.
  • This will give you an understanding of how much the applicant is willing to be involved not only within his job duties, but is willing to learn the basic features of your business and specifics of other departments in the company.
  • Find out which work tasks the applicant likes the most and which ones — the least; what are his strong and weak sides; what is the direction he would like to follow in his career
  • By learning more about the applicant, you can hire a person that will be there not for a couple of months, but someone who you may build a long-term relationship, while providing the employee everything needed for self-development and well-being. It is good to give the tasks that he likes, and change up the work routine. The tasks that he does not handle that well should be given along with the support from your side so that he can enhance the relevant skills. The tasks that he does not like should be presented from a different and more exciting perspective.
Test Assignments
Try to give two assignments, thus, you will get a better understanding whether a person fits your company or not. It's no secret that it's good to realize it as soon as possible.

I would like to make it clear right away that I do not suggest you to give a grammar test as you may assess the level of literacy through the other assignments. However, huge call-centers can be exempt from this advice because you would not be physically able to review so many completed assignments, thus, tests with multiple-choice answers would be more effective here.

Before the interview:

Add to the applicant's assignment three real cases on different topics that can be the real situations that happened in your practice (consulting, complaint, or return, a happy customer with positive feedback). Ask the applicant to pretend he knows the product very well and answer each question. Pay attention to the grammar, determine how close his viewpoint to yours, and if it is quite far, then ask yourself how much are you willing to invest in training and if there are any grounds for this.

What to look for in the test results:

  • The employee completes the assignment within your KPI standards (for assessment, you should add 50% to your criteria. Remember, it is a new area for a person, and you'd better let him know in advance that time is of the essence).
  • Grammar.

  • Adequate reactions, both to negative and positive feedbacks. These reactions should comply with your policy and be aligned with your views.

  • The applicant is not confused and does not claim he cannot imagine the details, which are part of the assignment.

During the interview:

  • Ask the candidate to imagine he got the position and has a usual workday in your support department: pretend you are the client, come up with a situation and ask the applicant for help. However, do not run stress tests with the candidates applying for the first-level position.

  • Give the logic-based problem and assess attention. For example: ask to describe an approximate life cycle of the order in your company, or suggest creating an ideal schedule for the support team, taking into account some details, and so on. There will be no right answers, but it will demonstrate how the applicant's thinking and whether it is the way of thinking you are interested in.

What to look for during the interview:

  • The candidate is confident and does not refuse to complete the assignment.

  • If you decide to play a role of unhappy customer, make sure to pay attention to the candidate's arguments and the way of behavior. As he has no time to prepare himself for the situation, his reactions will be sincere and natural for him. Any signs of aggression in response should disqualify the candidate from further competition.

  • The applicant successfully resolved the customer's problem, demonstrated creative thinking and accepted the challenge with enthusiasm.
You have found the diamond; however, the work is not over yet. I hope these quick tips come in handy for you during the process of building the support department.

A new employee onboarding should be smooth and natural. First of all, it is important for the customers as a new employee can accidentally ruin the relations with the potential buyers. It is import to provide a back-up for a new employee:
First 1-2 days
Read FAQ and conversations with customers
2-10 days
Work in pairs with other customer service specialists: a colleague with more experience chooses easy cases for new employees to review and give comments. Employees who have more experience confirm whether the responses can be sent to a customer.
10-20 days
New employee assigns the tickets and saves the answers in the internal comments section. He searches for any information needed on his own and reaches out for help to the more senior colleagues.
Once a week, you can provide a new employee with the tests based on the cases handled over the last periods; thus, he will be able to consolidate the skills, memorize the situations, and will be able to train himself in a safe environment. The testing results are to be reviewed by the senior employees, and you also should discuss every mistake. If the new employee keeps making the same mistake, do not skip this, it can be the caution that the bridge of mutual understanding between you and the employee has fallen off at some point.

The numbers given are, of course, approximate, so do not make laughs at them. Feel free to adjust the processes so that they are convenient and appropriate for you and the company.
Probation Period
Not everyone will survive the probation period, and you know that. In case of doubts, or when you are not sure whether the employee is working the way you expect, I would recommend you to pay attention to the situations described below. Any of these can be a sign that it is better to let the employee go:
The employee is terrible in using the previous experience: he resolved a ticket a few minutes ago, and within a couple of hours, he was assigned to a similar ticket. However, he does not see a correlation between these two tickets and does not extrapolate the solution from one ticket to another. Make a note for yourself and pay attention to it moving forward. If this happens systematically, it may become a big problem in the future.
"Does not feel" the real customer: when the employee works on a test ticket, he has time to think about it thoroughly, and change the answer if needed. However, when he is on "the battlefield", there is no second chance and time is limited. Therefore, the employee communicates without enthusiasm, does not distinguish slight concern from aggression, does not try to predict the direction of the conversation.
Gets lost and confused with taking decisions: "I do not know what to write/say", "I do not know how to solve it" and so on. He loses control and gets slower under a stress influence, instead of looking for a solution and trying out the various options.
Break promises, does not meet the deadlines, and overestimates his abilities: usually, there is one of two factors behind of this: the employee does not have enough experience to evaluate the speed of his work, or he is not responsible in general. The first factor can be fixed by working together with the employee, while the outcome of the second factor depends on your patience.
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