7 Customer Service Qualifications Everyone Must Have

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Who is the ideal candidate for a customer service position? What qualifications should that person have to succeed?

Since customer service in inherently broad in scope, stretching across industries, sectors, and environments, no definitive set of qualifications exists. The skills one needs to deliver great customer service will differ between a wholesale jet fuel company and a strip center ice cream shop.

Yet, despite this diversity of circumstance, all customer service has human interaction at its core. No matter the situation, customer service is always about people helping other people, and as such, certain attributes are universally helpful for customer facing professionals (CFP’s) to have.

Qualifications for Customer Service

Below are 7 key qualifications for customer service that are essential for every customer service representative:

  • Empathy — The ability to understand where others are coming from is fundamental for those who work with customers. CFP’s must be able to relate to how their customers are feeling in order to help replace those feelings with more positive ones.
  • Customer Service Qualifications | Businessman CryingThick Skin — Empathetic people are inherently people-friendly, and as such, can have a tendency to take situations personally. These people do not last long in customer service jobs. Customer service reps must be able to detach themselves from situations and to remember that it is usually not personal.
  • Communication Skills — Every form of customer service is dependent on clear and productive communication for successful execution. CFP’s need great communication skills, such as the ability to actively listen or the ability to pivot unhelpful conversations to more productive ground.
  • Self Control — The ability to govern one’s emotions and reactions is a key part of customer service. Upset people will push buttons; stressful situations will arise. The ability to maintain a level head, or more importantly, to show restraint and exhibit calm when one’s head is not so level is a key qualification.
  • People Person — As mentioned above, customer service is an inherently human-driven activity. It is about one person trying to help another person get what they want. Those who are not that fond of people will never be able to sustain the people-centric focus that is at the core of great customer service.
  • Flexibility — If customer service is anything it is dynamic. One day is never like the next, and no situation is the same. Those CFP’s who are unable to adapt or who recoil from decisions that need to be made in the “grey” will either burn out quickly or deliver very bad service.
  • Team Player — Great customer service is rarely achieved in a vacuum; it is almost always the result of a collaborative effort put forth to put the customer’s needs first. Those who can subsume their own interests to help the team deliver what the customer needs are great additions to any customer service organization.

The customer service qualifications above are by no means comprehensive, but they do serve as a great starting point. The challenge with these qualifications is that most of them are not hard skills but psychological dispositions that are notoriously difficult to suss out in the interview process.

Without getting into formal predictive employment testing, you can attempt to get an idea about a candidate’s fitness in these areas by crafting strategically-worded interview questions, including role play scenarios, that help the candidate drop their interview face and show a glimpse of the person behind the mask.

You can also find out a great deal by carefully crafting your reference call questions to determine what a previous boss might have noticed in these areas — assuming, of course, that you can actually get a substantive reference in the current environment.

No matter whether you are hiring a new employee or trying to evaluate a current employee, understanding the qualifications for customer service listed above will greatly assist you in determining who has the ability to excel at customer service in your organization.

About 

By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is a Customer Experience Strategist, franchise developer, and small business owner who runs the popular blog Customers That Stick. He is a customer experience speaker and the author of a forthcoming book on frontline customer service (AMACOM, Spring 2015). Adam’s ebook 7 Secret Customer Service Techniques Every Expert Knows has been downloaded in over 100 countries.

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15 Comments

  1. James Carter
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks Adam. They should always act professional at all times in order to communicate the company’s objectives.
    James Carter recently posted..Why are there so few positive customer service experiences?My Profile

  2. Bill Dorman
    Twitter:
    says:

    Who are all these people and what are they doing in my business?

    Some people take a job knowing they will have to deal with people but bitch and complain the whole time because guess what; they don’t like having to deal with people.

    Some of our best service people are ‘tucked’ away and have very little interaction with customers or the public and they perform at a very high level because they are in their comfort zone.

    If you could wave a magic wand and make the right hire from a deep talent pool that would be ideal. Short of that, you have to make some ‘gut’ decisions based on the info or talent pool that you have.

    I probably do well with all of those traits w/ thick skin probably being my weakest area. But I do a good job of being able to ‘compartmentalize’ that and just get on down the road. I have a short attention span so that helps…..:).
    Bill Dorman recently posted..Wag more, bark less…My Profile

    • Adam Toporek says:

      Hah! The short attention span definitely helps.

      As you say, finding the right people can be such a challenge — we all wish for that magic wand — but uncovering the right psychological traits is key. I’ve had mixed results with employment testing myself, but I do have some colleagues that swear by it. Either way, the only real test is time on the job, so hopefully you make the right call and your new hire has these qualifications.

  3. As I’m known to say…I don’t have thick skin but I do have broad shoulders, to shoulder the load of unjust/unfair comments, unreasonable “customers” and the “life ain’t fair” situations that get thrown at us.

    I really like your “glimpse behind the mask” advice. I’m constantly amazed by the interview questions that some employers ask. I have to wonder if they’re stuck in a time warp, asking questions from 1952. Open-ended questions that make people think are so important. You get a good sense of a person’s ability to demonstrate traits like empathy, flexibility, and the like when they are pressed to THINK…not just give a stock answer they’ve thought up prior, in anticipation of antiquated interview questions.

    You know my mantra for employees: “always exercise best judgment”. You will be wrong some times, but you’ll only make that particular mistake once. Cheers! Kaarina
    Kaarina Dillabough recently posted..You, Your Community and Your Yield – The Alphabet Series continues with Letter YMy Profile

    • Adam Toporek says:

      One of the things we do to peek behind the interview mask is have a multi-touchpoint interview process. It is amazing how differently people can behave on different days, and how differently they react to other people. I am still involved with the hiring in the later stages for a few positions, and once in awhile, I have to look at my managers and ask why I just sat through such an awful interview. The answer is always the same: “I don’t know who that was; that was not the person we talked to the other day.”

      To your point, if you can use open-ended questions well and strategically place them over multiple interviews, it can help (but not solve) the challenge.

  4. Josh
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am consistently amazed by how many companies hire people who are missing some of the most basic skills. Folks who can’t communicate, have trouble with problem solving and are incapable or unwilling to listen to their customer’s concerns.
    Josh recently posted..Twenty-Three Posts- Not Quite a MilestoneMy Profile

    • Adam Toporek says:

      Too true Josh. It’s hard enough to get these qualities when you are actively trying; it’s amazing who gets through when companies don’t even care.

  5. Jayme Soulati
    Twitter:
    says:

    There’s one fundamental, basic tip, solution and requirement that is typically missing (except at Chick Fil-A). That’s the look-me-in-the-eye-and-smile quality.

    M.I.A.

    #That.Is.All.
    Jayme Soulati recently posted..Tomorrow’s Tech Today For Bodies and HomesMy Profile

  6. Rafael Taisma
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Adam!

    Thank you by the book, is very useful for me. Are basics skills for growing.

    kind regards!
    Rafael

  7. George
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great post listing down the attributes for Good customer service. It comes only from people who are oriented towards people. Patiently listening to what an irritated customer has to say will solve half of the problem.
    George recently posted..Small Business Advantages From Cloud ComputingMy Profile

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