How to Find, Hire, and Build Your Customer Support Team

How to Find, Hire, and Build Your Customer Support Team

When you call the customer service team of a cable company to cancel your contract, you might expect small hiccups, but overall you expect it to be relatively easy.

Perhaps the customer support agent might plead with you to not cancel your contract, but ultimately they should respect your request.

But this is not what happened to former Engadget editor-in-chief Ryan Block.

Block called customer retentions to cancel his contract with Comcast. After repeatedly asking the retentions specialist if he could cancel his service over the phone, he couldn’t get a straight answer.

Had the support agent been trained in a process to follow, they would have been able to walk Block through the cancellation process step-by-step. Instead, the audio recording was published online, and picked up by publications like Time, Bloomberg and TechCrunch. It was sabotaging the businesses reputation.

You might argue, “well that was 2014, it doesn’t matter.” But you’d be wrong.

Making the wrong customer service decisions today can affect businesses months and even years into the future:

Dell continue to battle their haunted reputation of poor tech support, just because they chose to outsource their support team cheaply.

That was more than 10 years ago.

But that negative perception of their customer service is affecting potential customers buying a Dell computer. They’re questioning whether to buy a Dell laptop because they’re worried about having to get in touch with the customer service team.

When companies give bad customer service, it can quickly become a competitive disadvantage. It causes customers to leave and take their business elsewhere and 57% won’t return even on a trusted friend’s recommendation.

bad customer service team

And what’s more, 95% of customers who have had a negative experience said they told someone about it – quickly spreading negative word-of-mouth.

Build a customer support team your competitors would dream of having

Recruiting the right people to join your customer service team can be one of the most tactful ways of getting your business ahead. When your customers have positive interactions with your support team:

It’s crucial to hire the best talent possible.

Hiring a great customer support team isn’t easy

You need a new staff member immediately. Working with even one less customer service team member, puts a strain on your support department’s resources and energies.

But the way your company finds and hires talent needs to change dramatically:

  • One corporate job opening attracts an average of 250 resumes, of which only 4 to 6 people are interviewed,  Glassdoor reports.
  • A poor hiring decision costs a business 15 times the bad hire’s base salary in expenses and shortfalls, according to Geoff Smart, author of the bestselling book Who: The A Method for Hiring.

Customer support managers can’t wait months for their Human Resources departments to sift through applicants’ resumes, call references, and report their findings.

We’re here to help you hire for excellence in every single member of your customer service team. Before you send call-outs for applicants or go to HR for help, try these alternate recruitment tools to find and hire customer service representatives.

We’ve put together The Essential Guide to Hiring Customer Support Excellence, designed to help you hire the best customer service agents in your industry.

How to find and hire your customer support team

Finding and hiring customer support reps for your team is daunting. Many customer support managers and directors are busy supervising or providing customer support themselves, making it hard to find the time (and it does take a lot of time) to recruit.

This needs to change.

But there two ways that can help you cut down recruitment time so you can hire a customer support pro as soon as you need them:

  1. Know the right characteristics to look for in a customer service hire
  2. Find candidates who are passionate about the industry

1. Know the right characteristics to look for in a customer service hire

Customer support is an art, and the people you employ need to enjoy and be passionate about it.

But, identifying these types of people from a CV or resume can be hard.

Forbes revealed Danny Meyer’s secrets in hiring for excellent customer service. Danny Meyer is a restaurant owner renowned for blockbuster NYC food and customer service. There’s one that particularly stands out on the list:

“Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning).”

Your customer service rep candidate must have career goals.

You don’t want people who see customer support as an entry level job into your company before they can make their transition into their desired department.

But bear in mind Danny Meyer’s employees are restaurant servers. For something more business oriented, there’s more to look for on the list.

Emotional intelligence is a customer service requirement

Hiring support managers are often told to look for Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and that could make you think “Yes, of course!” the problem is it’s become a bit of a buzzword in the business world.

Google the phrase “Emotionally Intelligent”, and you’ll find the description only outlines what a smart person with empathy is.

Unless you’re original theorist Daniel Goleman, or an Occupational Psychologist, there’s slim chance that you’ll know the inner workings of EQ that was intended. Something to bear in mind, there’s never been an implemented hiring framework for EQ either.

This post will give you a better idea of how emotional intelligence should be considered a customer service quality.

2. Find candidates who are passionate about the industry

The additional effort and thought you put into your job description, competency models, screening process, and interview questions will dramatically improve your chances of recruiting the right candidate.

But outside of the traditional recruitment methods, there’s a few ways you can fast-track the hiring process:

  • Tap into your professional network
  • Do your own research online
  • Search in specialist customer support job boards
  • Use conferences to your advantage
  • Nurture interns into support pros

Tap into your professional network

According to Smart, the best job candidates are the ones who come through personal referrals. Before you start soliciting applications far and wide, consider these five ways to use your connections to your advantage.

  • Network referrals: Ask other talented customer support managers and directors in your circle for recommendations.
  • Staff referrals: Consider an incentive program that allows current employees to recommend strong candidates from their networks. Try some services such as RoiKoi and Teamable to identify your employee’s top talent and connections.
  • Friends of the firm: Ask business partners and consultants who they like to work with that matches the skill set you’re looking for.
  • External recruiters: Seek professionals to do the work for you—but only if they have a clear understanding of who you’re looking for and what your business needs in a new hire.
  • Recruiting researchers and headhunters: Unlike recruiters, these firms don’t interview anyone. Instead, they research the market and get you names of top people. Again, make sure you’ve clearly outlined the competencies you’re looking for in a new hire and the outcomes you’re seeking.

Do your own research online

If network referrals and recruiters aren’t getting you the candidates you’re looking for, it may be time to extend your reach.

How to search LinkedIn for your next customer service rep

LinkedIn, with its 128 million registered users in the U.S. and 400-plus million users worldwide, is one of the best starting points.

Begin your search by using LinkedIn’s Filtered Search tool:

  • Click on the search bar at the top of the page then click “search for people with filters”.
  • Enter “Customer Support Representative” or “Customer Support Agent”

hire-customer-service-team-linkedin

You can filter candidates by current and past companies, job titles, location, and industry. Use specific keywords to yield the best results, such as adding “remote” or “customer support manager” in the job title category to get candidates with that level of experience.

To hone in further on candidates, LinkedIn offers more advanced search tools—years of experience, seniority, specific interests—and for Premium members, the ability to send InMail messages to anyone to whom you’re not connected.

And if you’re recruiting regularly, you can save your searches (for free) and LinkedIn will run this search on a weekly or monthly basis then email you the new results.

Look for customer support advocates in LinkedIn groups

Another area to explore is in some of LinkedIn’s groups, where people in similar fields share content and post questions and jobs. Think of it like an online networking event. For customer support, join and start searching within these top groups:

Search in specialist customer support job boards

Specialized job boards can also be powerful tools for finding customer support professionals who are looking for new opportunities.

If you want to join the ranks of companies that hire customer service reps to work from home, bookmark these sites before you go to Craigslist and Indeed:

Craft an excellent job posting and you will find some excellent candidates in these specialized areas.

Use conferences to your advantage

If you’re headed to Elevate Summit or SupConf, or any other industry events, take time to meet potential candidates face-to-face. Even if you’re not hiring right now, you can make connections for when you are. Consider these tips for making the most of a conference for networking and recruiting:

  • Look over the lists of attendees in advance and make note of anyone you want to connect with.
  • Don’t just collect as many business cards as you can. In the long run, establishing a personal connection is better than speed networking to meet as many people as possible.
  • Ask engaging questions at presentations. Don’t use the opportunity to brag or reiterate that you’ve already done what the presenter has done at your company.
  • When you get a business card, make a few quick notes about what you and that person talked about to remember for follow-up emails later on.
  • Don’t stick to one table or area. Move around to meet new people.

Don’t forget about your interns

While most companies have internship programs for college students and recent grads, not all companies nurture their interns for prospective employment in the company.

Try giving them the chance to act as a support rep to see how the intern handles added responsibility. Interns at Kayako, for example, are not getting coffees or running errands. They have worked on critical development projects, such as building a tool to automate localization (local languages) in Kayako software. Interns on the marketing team create SlideShare slides and e-books, and organize webinars.

Supervisors overseeing interns at Kayako check in to ensure that their goals are being met and interns are learning new things. They have flexibility in where they work and when, so interns say they feel trusted, and thereby more productive.

Those who have gone above and beyond and demonstrated their value during their internship have been offered jobs.

Now start your search

Your customer service team is often the only human-to-human contact your customers will have with your brand. A great customer support team doesn’t only answer tickets. A great support team goes further. They’ll help you to:

  • Grow customer loyalty
  • Build a competitive edge in the market with their communication skills
  • Develop real brand ambassadors for your organization

To get better job candidates when you’re filling an opening, try forgoing the traditional methods— HR or posting on huge job boards—to seeking out top employees.

Ask for referrals from employees and friends of the company. Search on LinkedIn groups and by specific qualifications, titles, and organizations. Post on customer support-specific job boards before you submit a job advert on Indeed. Test your interns by giving them more responsibility to see if they might be a good fit for an opening.

Most importantly, by networking and always keeping an eye out for potential employees, you can always have recruits at the ready when you need to make a new hire.

Do you have a bullet-proof hiring process? Download The Essential Guide to Hiring Customer Support Excellence and we’ll help you get the best candidate you’ll need.

customer support hiring




Editors note: This post was originally published in July, 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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About the author
Adam Rogers

Adam Rogers is the Content Marketing Manager at Kayako, the effortless customer service software that helps teams be more productive and build customer loyalty. Adam loves guitars, music, books, and his wife Lacey.

  • Shawn Tieben

    Hi, I just noticed a sentence that is hard to read: “Your customer service team is the often the only human-to-human contact your customers will have with your brand.” maybe taking out “the” after is, may make it smoother! Otherwise great article!

    • Adam Rogers

      Hi Shawn, thanks for spotting that and making the suggestion! I’ve just made those edits to make it easier for other readers. Thanks for your kind words :).

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