How to identify good customer service traits in people before you hire them

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How to identify good customer service traits in people before you hire them

One question I often get asked is what to look for when hiring staff. What are the tell-tale signs of good customer service skills?

When we’re looking for customer service people at Beechworth Bakery, we start by talking to them about casual things like the weather, sports, and current events.

Get them relaxed. Make them feel comfortable. Only then will you find out what they’re really like.

The first things to look for: Do they make good eye contact? Do they smile easily? Are they confident? Do they speak clearly? How do they present? Do they look smart and clean?

Some people naturally have the energy and the passion. Some never will. It’s no good hiring someone with poor self-esteem and/or lacking motivation.

Another good way to see whether that person is a good fit with your team is to get them to talk to your staff. Just stand back and watch the body language as they talk.

Does the person get in there and ask questions, or do they just stand around? Do they have good listening skills? Do they stay focused? Do they like dealing with people in the first place?

You might think: “Why would they be looking for a job in customer service if they don’t like dealing with people?” But lets be honest here; there are thousands of people in customer service who don’t like dealing with people.

Find out their hobbies. What movies do they like? If it’s murder and mayhem, you may be looking for trouble. How do they cope with change? Are they flexible?

We always check references thoroughly, but often it’s not what’s written there that you need to know. You also need to get info from more than one source.

One thing we often do is ask applicants to write their own reference. Most of them are not happy about that. They don’t know what to write. What would you say if you had to write your own reference? “Honest”? “Hard-working”? “Focused”? “Love helping people”? “Willing to learn”? “Enthusiastic”? “Positive attitude”? “Determination and discipline”?

Wow, I think those would be great traits to have. Over the years I’ve never seen anyone write anything like that, but I live in hope.

We all know when we get good customer service, because it stands out. We need people with passion, energy and ambition.

To hire people who are good at customer service, they need to love interacting with other people. Because that’s what good customer service is all about.

  • Paul O’Toole

    Hi Tom, I support your skill and use very similar observation and questions to our prospective candidate in our Produce Business in the Brisbane Market. I also look for the Diplomat skill of endeavouring not to hurt people’s feelings and so I ask how do they get on with their family and relatives in a humourous way! Regards Paul O’Toole

    • BeechworthBaker

      Excellent point, Paul. Thanks for adding that. I have to admit diplomatic skills aren’t exactly my strong suit but they’re definitely worth checking out beforehand too. Cheers, Tom