By Richard Conn
A company’s customer service employees are some of its most important team members. They’re the face of your company and the first point of contact for your customers. That means hiring the right customer service employee is essential, but hiring remotely doesn’t always make this easy.
Without the ease of traditional face-to-face interviews with local candidates, many companies are having to become more proactive and efficient when it comes to hiring employees remotely.
If you’re hiring customer service employees remotely, these six steps will ensure you find the right candidate.
1. Create an ideal candidate profile
A key part of hiring any employee, whether they’re a customer service agent or an executive, is identifying what you want in a candidate. The simplest way to do this is to create an “ideal candidate profile”.
You should start by clearly setting out the role and its duties, as well as how the skills needed to go above and beyond in this role could be measured. You’ll then want to create an ideal candidate profile with the following categories:
- Essential skills: Skills your candidate must have. For a remote customer service role, these will include communication, multi-tasking, conflict management, and tech savviness.
- Desirable skills: These are skills that you would like the candidate to have, but which are not essential. This might include subject matter expertise that is relevant to your company, such as already understanding your products or service, knowing what is PRM in marketing, or having an understanding of how your customer relationship management (CRM) software works.
- Experience: This makes clear what experience you expect your ideal candidate to have, such as two or more years in a customer service role.
- Corporate culture fit: What qualities do those who fit in well with your company culture have?
- Other qualities: Anything else you would like your ideal candidates to have.
If your business has specific goals for its growth and development, such as grabbing a spot in the Gartner Magic Quadrant Cloud rankings, you can also use elements and specifications from these goals to help you determine qualities and skills that are essential in your ideal candidates.
2. Write a detailed job description
If you want to find talented employees for your customer service role, the job description is vital. It also gives you a chance to be clear about what you’re looking for so you don’t have to sift through non-starter applicants.
The job description should cover the following points:
- Job summary: Candidates want to know what they’re applying for, and quickly. Your job description should start with a brief summary of the role.
- List of duties and responsibilities: Not only does this help you specify the expectations you have for this role, it also tells candidates what they’ll be doing—giving them a clear indication of how well-suited they will be.
- Essential and desirable skills: The skills you listed in your ideal candidate profile can go here. These will also be the skills you use to evaluate candidates throughout the recruitment process.
- Benefits: Tell potential employees all about the perks and benefits you offer in the job description, rather than saving it for the interview or even their first day at work.
- About us: Potential candidates also need to know about your company and the service or products it provides. The “about us” section should also showcase your company culture and your mission and values. This is your chance to sell yourself to candidates.
Throughout your job description, try to avoid using jargon so great candidates aren’t wondering what is non fixed VoIP or what is benchmarking, and getting put off the role as a result. Plain, easy to understand descriptions will let you cast a wide net for candidates.
3. Be proactive when searching for candidates
Rather than waiting around for the perfect candidate to apply, companies that get the best employees are proactive when searching for job candidates. That means in addition to posting adverts on job boards, you should actively encourage internal candidates and referrals to apply.
Referrals and internal candidates are often great hires because they will fit in easily with the company culture. Research by Lever suggests that internal candidates have a 22% hire rate, compared to a 6% hire rate for referrals. If your job opening is an opportunity for current employees to move up the ladder, you should make the most of this.
4. Test potential candidates
Once you have a pool of candidates, it’s time to sort them and decide who to interview. This process can be difficult when using resumes alone, so many companies use pre- and post-interview tests to make their decisions.
When it comes to testing job candidates, you have the following options:
- Intelligence tests: These tests might be cognitive ability tests, tests to ensure that candidates have essential written or numerical skills, or even knowledge tests to ensure they have any knowledge you think is essential to the role. Whether that’s having the right answer to the question what is trunking?, or understanding customer service acronyms like CRM, AHT, FCR, and so on.
- Personality tests: Personality tests and psychometric tests are an increasingly popular recruitment and onboarding tool. These tests can reveal information about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, their communication and teamwork skills, and their motivations and goals. Employers find them useful for weeding out unsuitable candidates and also for getting a sense of the candidates’ corporate culture fit.
- Assignment tests: One of the most effective ways to test customer service candidates is providing an assignment or task based on the role they’ll have. This might include writing sample responses to customer queries or even doing mock phone calls with a member of staff to reenact customer interactions.
Whatever tests you decide to use, make sure they are created with your ideal candidate profile in mind. That way you can easily spot who will suit the role and who won’t.
5. Create an interview process
Creating a clear, standardized interview process will ensure you get the information you need from remote interviews and help you make an informed decision.
To create an interview process, you should do the following:
- Define your goals: Identify what you want to get out of candidate interviews and outline what a successful interview looks like for this role.
- Set the tone: How formal or informal do you want your interviews to be? This will have a lot to do with the level of the role and your company culture, so consider these when making a decision about the tone of your interviews.
- Create an outline: The next step is to create a general outline for each interview. That includes what questions you’ll ask, how long you’ll dedicate to each section of questions, and any additional skills tests you want to include. You may also want to include sample answers to interview questions asked by remote candidates so that you and your panel are fully prepared.
- Prepare all involved: If it’s just you conducting remote interviews, the only people you need to keep in the loop about the interview process are the candidates. If you have a hiring panel, however, make sure they are clued up about the process.
- Define how you’ll make decisions: The final step of the interview process is decision making. This should also be defined and standardized across your company so that all involved are using the same set of criteria for choosing who to hire.
When creating an interview process, you may want to perform A/B testing and look at some A/B test examples to figure out what the best process and system is for your interviews. That means testing out two versions of something to see what performs better.
6. Find the right virtual tools for remote interviews
When hiring customer service employees remotely, it’s essential that you have the right virtual tools for the process. For remote interviews, video calls are often better than voice calls as both you and the candidate can speak almost as if you’re face-to-face, making the most of facial expressions and body language.
Video conferencing platforms aren’t the only virtual tool that remote interviewers may use. Remote interviews might include letting you or the candidate share their screen to give a presentation or may even make use of collaborative whiteboards for interactive tests. If you’re looking for more virtual tools for your business, check out these 8×8 tech reviews.
Hiring the right customer service employee
Once you’ve followed these six steps, the final step is down to you—it’s time to hire the best candidate or candidates for the role.
The advantage of following all of these steps is that by this point, you’ve closely assessed your own needs and the skills and qualities of your candidates. You have a tight, streamlined recruitment process that sifts through applicants with ease.
The hiring process isn’t the end. It’s then time to onboard, train, and retain your employees. All of this is easier when you hire the right employees for your business, so don’t neglect the hiring process even if it’s done remotely.
About the Author
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8×8, a leading communication platform with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments.