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.
- Thick 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.