Customer service should be the beating heart of every business. To maximize your customer service provision, you need the best customer service agents. And to find them, you need to conduct a thorough customer service assessment.
- Hard skills assessments
- Soft skills assessment
- Realistic job preview
- Situational judgement test
- Focused interview questions
- Peer interview
- Culture fit assessment
- Trial day
- Reference checks
Whether you’re a B2C or a B2B company, you need to provide your customers with a first class experience, not only by offering a great product, but also by being able to assist them with anything and everything, when they run into problems, or have concerns.
Because even if you run a SAAS company, there is still the potential to engage with users and provide them with excellent customer service.
According to a recent survey, 81% of customers are more likely to do repeat business with a company after receiving good customer service from them. And for that, you need to hire customer service representatives that are able to deliver it.
With over 2.8 million people in the US currently employed as customer service reps, this number is expected to grow by 5% until 2026. While this is great news in theory, the sad fact remains that employee turnover in customer service is one of the highest (30-40%), almost three times the national average (10-15%).
So how do you slow employee turnover? How do you select the right customer service representatives for your business?
There are several ways to improve employee retention and whilst an employee’s past track record is a good predictor of job performance, resumes and cover letters don’t tell you much about how a candidate is going to interact with your customers, or how they will fit your organization.
For that, you need to actually know the candidate, and see them in action. So, to get the right employees for your organization, you are going to have to conduct a thorough customer service assessment, and we have 9 customer service assessments to help you assess your customer service candidates.
1. Hard skills assessments
The first customer service assessment you should conduct is the assessment of hard skills. While you can train your customer service representatives to work with your computer systems, it is desirable for them to have certain ‘hard’ skills in place already, to save you time and money bringing them up to speed.
Hard skills are those tangible, teachable skills that can be measured and make up the key skills section on a resume – the ones that qualify a candidate for a job.
- • Knowledge of the customer service industry. Hiring inexperienced customer service representatives is risky, but everyone has to start somewhere. As long as they understand the customer service industry and the importance of having great people skills, a novice candidate for an entry-level role should be fine.
- • Language. Customer service is all about communications. Your customer service representatives need to speak the language of your customers (if you have customers all over the world, invest in local representatives, who speak the same tongue). Your customer service representatives are the face (or voice) of your company, probably the only time your customers will interact with a human in your company. Therefore the customer service representative has to be able to create instant connections and build rapport with customers, because more than likely, they will be dealing with an unhappy customer with a problem. Essentially, effective communication helps build trust.
- • Computer literacy. Customer service representatives need to be computer literate. It’s non-negotiable in this day and age.
- • Typing. Your customer service representatives will need to have considerable typing skills in order to copy down everything the customer is saying accurately, in order to convey the correct responses.
You can assess these hard skills online early in the process, through customer service assessment tests designed to weed out unqualified candidates. Consider making a language test or a typing assessment a part of your candidate pre-selection and also quiz your applicants on the basic industry knowledge and computer literacy at the beginning of the recruitment process.
2. Soft skills assessment
92% of recruiters believe that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. Determine which skills are the most important and find ways to assess them, for example, through a personality questionnaire or an interview, or ideally both.
There is the old adage ‘hire for attitude, train for skills’, but there are certain soft skills that cannot be taught easily.
Soft skills like:
- • Being a team player
- • Having the mindset to go the extra mile
- • Effective listening skills
- • Patience
- • Empathy
- • Conflict resolution
- • Sense of humor
These are all essential soft skills you should be looking for during your customer service assessment.
3. Realistic job preview
A realistic job preview will give your candidates a preview of what it’s actually like to work for your organization, both the good and the bad, before either of you sign on the dotted line.
A realistic job preview is an easy way to conduct a customer service assessment because candidates who don’t like what they’re seeing will screen themselves out from the selection process.
There are multiple ways to offer a realistic job preview:
- • Post employee testimonial videos online – on your website and social media
- • Shadow you for a day
- • Interactive simulation via VR
- • A hiring manager testimonial video
- • Situational judgement tests (pre-assessment tests)
VR can be helpful not only in assessing your candidates but also in attracting them. The German national rail carrier Deutsche Bahn began receiving 5 to 10x more applications after introducing VR into their recruitment strategy. Furthermore, the applicants were also more qualified.
4. Situational judgement test
A candidate’s resume and cover letter will tell you what you want to hear, not necessarily how good they will be at the job. You can test their abilities through situational judgement tests.
These tests will show how candidates would react in typical on-the-job scenarios. They are a great customer service assessment that will help you understand whether or not the candidate gets what the priorities of your organization are.
For example, does the candidate demonstrate that they get that you prioritize efficiency in solving customer queries? Or delighting the customer?
5. Focused interview questions
Asking the same tired interview cliche questions such as ‘tell me your greatest strengths’ won’t reveal anything about a candidate’s ability to handle an irate customer, and talk them down.
If you want to do a thorough customer service assessment, you need to ask focused interview questions. How the candidate answers interview questions can tell you a lot about who they are.
Ask candidates questions that will reveal how they would treat customers and react to the different situations that they might encounter on a daily basis. Just remember to pay attention and beware of any unconscious bias.
- What do you do when you don’t know how to help a customer?
- Describe what customer service means to you.
- What’s the best customer service you’ve ever received? Why?
- Can you give me an example of a situation where there were major problems with your product/service, and you needed to respond without having all the answers yet?
A great candidate for a customer service role will understand the importance of customer service to a business, will appreciate and recognize good customer service when they receive it, and acknowledge bad customer service too.
Encourage candidates to tell you a story about a time when… and not give a hypothetical answer to your question. You don’t want to know what they might do, you want to know what they did do.
88% of companies find this interviewing method somewhat or very effective. You can also use a behavioral interview method in your customer service assessment.
6. Peer interview
Face to face interviews are one of the most effective ways to get to know someone when asking the right questions. Peer interviewing can be an even better way to see how the potential new hire would blend in with your team.
Peer interviewing is where the candidate sits down with a potential colleague (or colleagues) from your company, not just the hiring manager, but someone they would actually work alongside on a daily basis.
Peer interviews are incredibly effective because they typically allow the candidate to open up more than they would do if they were being interviewed by a potential boss.
Bonuses of having peer interview as a part of your customer service assessment include:
- • Help with deciding cultural fit
- • Peers can ask and answer specific questions about the job
- • Candidates feel more at ease
- • Candidates hear first hand what the job is actually like
7. Culture fit assessment
Another part of a thorough customer service assessment is assessing culture (or organizational) fit. You can always teach hard skills if a candidate is lacking them, what you can’t teach is how to be the type of person who will fit in with your company.
You can assess culture fit during the interview but also in an online assessment prior to interview. And how can you do that?
For instance, by comparing candidates’ company culture preferences to the actual culture at your organization. You can make these pre-interview customer service assessments optional for candidates because the candidates who are truly interested in working for you will answer them, those who aren’t will self-deselect.
Continue with open-ended interview questions to see what kind of working environment your candidates would thrive in.
- • Describe a situation where your colleagues disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
- • Something big has happened at work, what would you do to get to the bottom of it in order to rectify it?
- • Describe a challenging situation you have faced recently at work, and how you tackled it.
A combination of an online culture fit assessment and relevant interview questions should provide you with an accurate image of the candidate and how them and your company could match.
8. Trial day
As important as it is to find candidates who are a great culture fit, you also want candidates who are capable of doing the job.
Invite the shortlisted candidates to a trial and have them solve tickets. Don’t give them fake tickets with hypothetical problems from make-believe customers, conduct a thorough customer service assessment and give candidates copies of actual tickets and see how they would deal with them. Give them a time frame in which they need to complete the task and provide feedback afterward.
You could even go one step further and let them take calls to see how they react on the actual job.
For the trial day you could invite them in for the whole day, just make sure you agree on conditions (e.g. compensation) beforehand. That will also help you see how they interact with the rest of the team.
9. Reference checks
By checking your candidate’s references the right way i.e. asking open-ended relevant questions such as:
- • How long did the candidate work for you?
- • What were their roles and responsibilities?
- • What was their biggest strength?
- • What was the candidate’s reason for leaving the company?
- • Theoretically, would you rehire them?
You can learn a lot about a candidate and the way they work and treat customers by what their old colleagues say about them.
Doing reference checks is an essential part of a thorough customer service assessment. You’re looking to ensure that what the candidate says about themselves and their ability to be a great customer service representative checks out.
Reference checks will help you narrow down your applicant list and select the most suitable candidates for the job.
To hire star customer service representatives, you need to have a great recruitment process in place too. Conducting a thorough customer service assessment doesn’t have to be time-consuming if you plan it carefully.
For example, try grouping hard and soft skills assessments, realistic job previews and situational judgement tests into one application experience.
Or hold video interviews (which might be easier to schedule) or if you’re having multiple interviews, schedule them in a short time span. In essence, don’t neglect the customer service assessment because it will reward you with the best customer service employees ever.