How to Hire the Right Person to do Customer Service

This report looks into the issue of employee hiring, with an ultimate focus on what factors go into hiring in the area of customer service.

The problem with hiring a customer service specialist or any other employee, is the sticky wicket of the bad hire. No hiring manager, employer, or HR head ever wants to admit to making a bad hiring decision. Yet, bad hiring is a titanic, worldwide syndrome. This report focuses on the U.S.A., which may provide a sufficiently representative sample of the pandemic undulating throughout the global market place.

As an introduction to the topic, consider the analogy that companies spend a lot of money trying to figure out the incremental cost of every new customer and the life-time value of that customer. They do this through analytics, by rolling out targeting ads, etc., and it takes time to accrue this data. While a startup company may be reckoning what it costs to acquire a new customer, perhaps its first customer, what about the cost of hiring one new employee?

Consider the following statistics:

In 2013, American companies spent $130 billion on hiring employees.

  • 75 percent of those new employees were hired to replace people who had left the company.
  • 69 percent of companies were affected by a bad hire.
  • 43 percent made a bad hiring decision because they needed to fill a position quickly.
  • Bad hires cost some companies as much as $50,000.
  • 31 percent reported that they would increase their HR technology spending for 2014.


These statistics leave open the question how much of the $91.5 billion invested in hiring employees was spent to fill vacancies caused by bad hires. Sixty-nine percent of it, or more than $63 billion, is probably too high an estimate. But 69 percent of companies making bad hiring decisions, with some of them paying $50,000 for their mistakes, demonstrates that the problem is not going away any time soon, and will only be solved by urgent and rigorous intervention.

Related: 5 Ways to Use Customer Service to Make Your Competitors Envy You 

Thirty-one percent decided to address the problem by upgrading their hiring technologies, while already, in 2013, 56% of organizations were using social media as a tool to recruit potential job candidates. Internet technology has not been around that long, though, and bad hiring practices have been systemic for decades.

Here the people who hire and fire are at least entering the tunnel and looking for the “good hiring” solution at the other end. Which is to say, some of the causes of bad hiring appear to be fixable.

Again, for American companies in 2013, 27.5 percent of hires were attributed to referrals, and referrals were the number “1” source of external hires. Generally, the thinking goes, if someone is recommended by word of mouth by somebody who is trusted, the vetting process is light.

But couple a lax vetting process with the fact that 53 percent of organizations do not conduct background checks on any of their job candidates—when the average price of a background check is only $35—and personally referred candidates become less trusted. Even for companies that conducted a background check, 80 percent of hiring managers reported that they hired job candidates whose credit reports contained information that reflected negatively on their financial situation. It can only be speculated how personal economic negativity might affect professional behavior.

One last fact, mentioned perhaps halfway through the tunnel, is that despite 71 percent of employers indicating that personality tests can predict job-related behavior or organizational fit, 82 percent of companies do not use personality tests in their hiring protocol.

Alas, conducting personality tests and background checks, and beefing up hiring technology may be steps in the “good hiring” direction.

Related: 6 Reasons Social Media Is Key to Your Customer Service Strategy 

While the above statistics were compiled and generously shared by SlideShare and Hirology, further solutions may be sought from heavy hitters such as Forbes, McKinsey, Wired, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, and others.

As for hiring a customer service specialist or technician, as of course for every position at any company, there is an equation of factors equalling what may form the profile that an employer is looking for.

There are two key words in that two-word descriptor of the position: customer and service. While a company might not advertise for a “Customer Server,” serving customers is the concept, and the attendant qualities of a servant may be caring, compassionate, intuitive, cheerful, unflappable, reasonable, and interested—in what the customer needs.

Other than the above intangibles, the customer server job candidate should be knowledgeable and experienced in the field or area of expertise. Hiring outside the industry can work if the position is sufficiently general and a candidate is intelligent and readily trainable. Yet, a prerequisite for an ISP technical support staff person, for example, should be an expert in this field.

Related: How to Choose the Best Help Desk Software for Your Small Business 

For the employer, boss, hiring manager, etc., the challenge is to ascertain whether an applicant for a position possesses the personal qualities and skills required. When narrowing a field of, say, 80 applicants down to five more or less equally qualified and providently successful individuals, personal “chemistry,” compatibility, affinity, common interests, etc., doubtless enter into the hiring decision. In the art and science of business negotiations, for instance, it is a statistical fact that glamour in women negotiators is a positive factor in outcomes.

Last, the trending energy of talent acquisition and competitive advantage should be contemplated. With labor being increasing outsourced, companies may have fewer employees but they can strengthen their brand by developing top-flight talent internally—which only magnifies the intensity of “good hiring.” With fewer team members, each one must be an all star.

All of the above indicates that a holistic approach must be taken to hire the best individual. The higher-power the talent, the more competitive the team is in the game. All in all, there should be no short-shrifting the endeavour of talent recruitment for any position, however perceptibly down the chain the link may seem.


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