What makes a great customer service employee?

Over the past 20 years, I have spent countless hours reading resumes, interviewing candidates, and selecting, then hiring customer service professionals. Along the way, I have made some excellent hiring decisions, and as a result, I have had the privilege to work with some exceptional individuals.

But there have also been times when my hiring decisions were not so great. Now it is not necessarily that these individuals were bad employees. They may have been technically brilliant and even very hard workers, but ultimately, service was just not in their nature. When placed in a customer service position these individuals did not thrive, they did not enjoy their job and ultimately they did not last long in the position.

Over time I’ve concluded the best and most dedicated customer service employees are the ones that genuinely enjoy serving and helping others intrinsically to who they are. These individuals are “service oriented” people and here are a few of my observations from watching the different service oriented, customer service professionals I have worked with:

  • Service oriented employees get personal satisfaction from helping customers resolve issues and are uncomfortable closing customer requests without a resolution.
  • Service oriented employees are patient and more willing to wait on the phone to ensure a customer understands the instructions they provided.
  • Service oriented employees do not speak poorly about customers.
  • Service oriented employees willingly help their co-workers even without being asked.
  • Service oriented employees ultimately deliver higher customer satisfaction.

The customer service traits of service oriented people are inherent, and these individuals carry these attributes not only throughout their workday but also throughout their life. As I came to this conclusion, I naturally started to adjust my style to try and uncover if I was interviewing service oriented individuals. I was still looking for high work ethic and an aptitude to learn the technical aspects of the job, but in my opinion, the technical skills are easier to acquire through training. You can not teach customer service skills to a person that is not service oriented by nature.

I am still a strong advocate for companies to invest in high-quality customer service, soft-skill training programs. These programs provide additional tools to hone and harmonize the customer service skills of a team. However, if you focus on hiring service oriented individuals for your customer service organization, then these employees will embrace and leverage the soft skill training to become even more effective at their job. Non-service oriented employees reluctantly attend soft-skill training and will not apply what they learned to improve their customer service skills.

I plan to write another blog to explore the most effective questions to ask during an interview to identify service oriented candidates. Until then, consider opportunities to more quickly identify service oriented individuals every time you receive service from another company. This could be at a restaurant, at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, or at work when receiving service from your internal and external vendors. Look at the traits and attributes of the individual and see if you can quickly read if the person is service oriented or not. Service oriented individuals are genuine when it comes to serving others, and it is not something that is easily faked.