Customer service is your lifeline to the people who purchase your products and services.
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So then why would you entrust your customer service functions to people who are unqualified and uninterested in treating your customers right? Good customer service begins with hiring. Here's the information you need to recruit the best candidates for the job.
According to some estimates, up to 60% of small businesses have the wrong people working in their customer service departments. Although the reasons for this are complex, much of the blame rests on the business owners themselves. While other positions may require specialized knowledge and experience, it's generally assumed that almost anyone is capable of fielding calls from customers. In reality, effective customer service requires a unique blend of personality and a skill set designed to meet the specific needs of that business' customers.
Right out of the gate, you need to look for individuals who are outgoing, but not "chatty"; assertive, but not abrasive; and responsive, but not a pushover. This definition alone eliminates a significant percentage of the people who are already working in the customer service field. Don't assume that prior customer service experience translates into a personality compatible with the field. Get to know them and make your own judgment.
One of the ironies of customer service is that employers often spend tons of cash on sophisticated call center technology and then hire the least qualified, minimum wage workers they can find to operate it. Hiring individuals who aren't qualified to man your call center technology is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, customer service candidates need to be familiar with modern office technology and demonstrate a willingness to be trained in the specific call center technology your business relies on.
A business uses vocabulary and processes that are specific to its industry. Front line customer service personnel have to be conversant in the industry in order to successfully respond to customer concerns. They don't have to be experts, but it definitely helps if candidates have either prior experience or some other connection to your industry. In some cases, a qualified candidate may be given a crash course in industry jargon and receive ongoing exposure to the industry through additional training venues.
The best thing you can do to make sure the right personnel are staffing your customer service department is to retain the people who are doing the job effectively right now. The combined value of a quality customer service rep's knowledge and experience are not easily replaceable. Aside from the learning curve associated with bringing a new worker up to speed, the financial costs of successfully hiring a replacement can be substantial. It's much easier to invest in current customer service personnel with respectable salaries and career development resources.