As organizations strive to improve quality during these difficult times, customer service has taken on increasing significance. Hiring the most appropriate customer service representatives (CSRs) has become an extremely important decision.
One of the first things you should ask yourself when moving employees into customer service positions is, “Do they have the personality qualities needed to want to please clients and prospects?”
There is a general foundation for successful CSRs: They must have a high level of responsibility, the ability to relate to others, excellent verbal skills, an overall desire to please others and must be self-disciplined and detail-oriented.
Those are the starting points. Without those qualities, your customer service people could be sending your clients and prospects flying out the door faster than you can bring them in.
Customer service people are important because they represent your company when they make contact with your customers, whether it’s a distraught client or someone calling your organization for the first time. How the CSR performs in either of these situations reflects directly upon what people think of your company. So, before hiring your next CSR, ask yourself some important questions.
Paper-Pusher or Persuader?
First of all, determine if your customer service people are primarily responsible for information—checking and rechecking orders all day. If so, then you can get along with people whose primary ego needs are to do a good job and be of service to others. If, on the other hand, your CSRs are also responsible for a variety of other functions, such as trying to up-sell additional products or services, get customers to accept substitutes or get suppliers to change delivery schedules, then you need someone who is motivated to persuade.
A failure to recognize what the job really entails has led many employers and employees into situations which neither of them could retreat from gracefully. As a manager, you do not want to be on the phone with irate customers who expected one item and got another, or expected a delivery on a certain date and got nothing. These situations should be straightened out by effective CSRs. It is vital to your operation to clear this question up and keep it clear. If your CSR is responsible for dealing persuasively with customers and suppliers, everyone in the organization should know that from the very beginning. If not, state it clearly.
The other issue to consider is the detail and follow-up aspects of the CSR’s role. Some managers expect their sales force to maintain careful records and rely on the individual salesperson to follow-up as necessary to complete a transaction. Other companies expect the salespeople to sell and then turn those subsequent functions over to the CSR. Some companies expect their CSRs to generate additional sales.
So, look at your operation. Define the roles which various people actually play. If your salespeople turn their “headaches” over to the CSR for resolution, then you need a persuader. However, if your operation relies on the CSR to “clean up” after everyone else, then your primary need is for someone who will take care of the details and follow-up. The ideal candidate in this situation may be someone who is quite structured and calm, has good empathy and is resilient in dealing with others.
Some people present an array of qualities that allow them to function effectively and comfortably as both a persuader and a helper. If you have such employees, treasure them. If you find them, employ them. In most instances though, you will have to make a choice. Make it an informed choice by determining the strengths and weaknesses within your organization. Then, identify and hire individuals who possess the qualities that you need to boost your company’s overall effectiveness.
|Meet the Author
Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., is CEO of Caliper, located in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the Web at www.calipercorp.com.