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How to hire your first customer service representative

This is part of our ongoing series on scaling customer service, based on our Customer Service Scaling Timeline. This month we're covering Stage Four.

If you're at Stage Four of our timeline, you're past the ramen days of your startup and it's time to hire someone to do customer service full-time. But figuring out who should fill that seat can be tough. The skills required aren’t nearly as tangible as those of a designer or developer. How do you determine if someone is going to be a good customer service representative?

man with free hugs sign

They must actually want the job.

Seriously. Many people say they’ll do customer service but actually want to become community manager, CEO, etc…or just are looking for some cash until they move on to the next thing. Find that rare person who actually likes being helpful.

They must have huge levels of empathy.

For anyone, responding to support ticket after support ticket can wear you down. You can learn skills, but if you don’t come in with a high level of empathy, you’ll break quickly. And that's when the cursing at customers starts.

They must know how to troubleshoot.

They don’t have to be technical, but if they don’t know how to work through an issue they’ll be in trouble (or even better, someone who enjoys solving puzzles) They should lean towards scientific method and root cause analysis. I test this by giving them a fictional company with a generic customer issue (“your company sells tape deck-to-iPod converters, and a customer writes in and says theirs doesn’t work”) and finding out what questions they’d ask to get more insight on this issue.

They must have a fire for defending customers.

It can be hard to get customer issues and feedback into the development queue (check out some of our tips for a better dev/support relationship), and often requires some serious determination. If your customer service representative is a pushover, this won’t ever happen, and your customers will be miserable.

They must be able to handle the worst in people.

Frustrated customers can be incredibly harsh. If your support hire can’t handle being called a Nazi, they should go home.

They must know how to have fun and laugh at the world.

Customer service is intense and unless you can find the little bits of fun in it, you’re going to burn out. I often ask people what they’d do if they get a ticket from someone claiming to be Scruffy McGee, a sentient talking dog. If they say that they’d hang up the phone, they’re out. If they say they’d offer them a dog treat, like UserVoice Head of Customer Support Ted Choper did, they’re in.

ticket humor

If you have multiple candidates matching all these requirements, congratulations…you’re very lucky! At the end of the day, it’s really about whom you want talking to your customers. Put yourself in their shoes, and choose the candidate who feels right.




Hugs photo courtesy of specksinsd.