Customer Support Hiring Guide
how to find the support heroes that your customers need
BY MARTA BOGACZ
Talking to customer support is an experience that people often rank below being kicked in the shin, rubbing hot pepper sauce into a paper cut and arm-wrestling dragons, on the list of things they enjoy.
While your support department is no doubt much more pleasant than dragons, you are still likely to lose a customer when they receive bad experience.
89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.source: Oracle
And while making sure your customers are not in those 89% is a noble goal, there are more reasons to invest in great support. Like the fact that
70% of Americans are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide good customer service.source: American Express
Or even just the fact that providing exceptional customer experience gives you a rare chance to really connect with a customer and earn their trust.
Many factors make up good customer experience, but they can be boiled down to three causes:
- Hiring the right people
- Customer-centric business culture
- Management that takes care of the support staff and empowers them to delight customers
This guide was written to help you hire people who have both the talent and motivation for creative and high-performing technical support. The examples are based on our own experience and what we’ve learned from some great support-driven companies. Most of the advice below applies to IT support, but if you look away when technical skills are mentioned, it can be used in any kind of customer service that requires problem-solving.
Let’s start with setting up goals for your support, so we can know what kind of people would be best for the role. And then we can get to the most important part – how to find them.
Great support doesn’t just fix the problems reported by your customers. Great support is the glue that keeps you in touch with your customers’ needs and helps them thrive by:
- asking the right questions about the customer’s needs and looking for ways to meet those needs (not always involving your services),
- helping customers improve their business with your product,
- giving customers advice beyond installing and setting up your product (For example, at LiveChat we have to answer questions like “how can I increase my sales conversion using your app?” or “what is the best way to engage my customers so they don’t abandon their transaction?”),
- learning from successful customers so they can teach other customers how to succeed,
- making your customers feel welcome and empowered.
Aside from helping your customers, great support people also help improve your product, because they:
- collect customers’ feedback on what they need, then they discuss with your development team how to deliver that,
- work on improving your self-help resources,
- find and test bugs, do usability tests and analyze frequently reported problems,
- work together on further improving your customer service,
- constantly learn new things about your area of business.
Some of those responsibilities listed above might need to be delegated to just one person, a team leader, if you will. Someone has to organize schedules and training for support people. You might also want to have only one person represent the customer perspective when discussing product development with other departments. Otherwise the developers would have no time left to do their code magic between talking to everyone from support.
Basecamp used to have their support people rotate on the team lead position regularly. They did it for a long time while their team was still relatively small. It’s a really interesting idea which keeps everyone in the support team engaged and helps deal with a lot of risks, like office politics, or losing a big chunk of knowledge when the current team lead leaves his job.
What to look for
Listing the daily tasks of your support and determining what skills they require, will give you your core requirements.
Your core requirements are the skills that you can’t compromise on, unless they can be learned in under two months.
For most support departments the list of those daily tasks will go along the lines of:
- Answering emails, phone calls and chats
- Staying up to date with your product
- Understanding customers’ problems, finding and communicating solutions
- Resolving conflicts with customers
- Escalating bugs to the engineers
- Collecting feedback and feature requests
To do those correctly, a support person needs to have decent communication, comprehension and writing skills. They should be able to learn quickly and have the basic technical aptitude.
If a candidate is lacking those qualities in their twenties or thirties, or forties, the only cases when you can take a chance on them and train them is if
- You think they have the best personality and can learn at a miraculous pace, and
- They have spent their life underwater, rescuing passengers of drowning ships and learning the language of dolphins (make sure you quiz them on that language if that is their excuse).
Otherwise, this is not a job for them.
Many SaaS companies might need more technical skills as their core tasks are more advanced. To determine that minimal skill set, list the most common support requests your customers send. Do they need help with HTML or implementing a script? Do they need to configure a server? Do those things need to be done by first tier of support or can your engineers handle them quickly enough?
Hire for soft skills — train for hard skills.Chase Clemons (Basecamp)
The hard skills that support requires can be taught. The majority of them (save for those engineering skills that require experience) can be taught in under two months after you hire someone.
The real value of a candidate is in their soft skills and personality – those can’t be taught.
Here’s a list of some of the traits that make the difference between decent and outstanding support people:
Teaching skillsPeople who like to teach enjoy helping others succeed. A support person like that gets pleasure and motivation by simply doing their job well. And if you find someone who not only enjoys teaching, but is also good at it, who can explain complex things in simple terms, that’s perfect. People who are good at teaching are also usually good at learning.
Learning skillsSupport never runs out of things they have to learn. Absorbing knowledge quickly, fueled by curiosity and passion for learning, ensures that your support always stays on top of their game and keeps improving.
Emotional intelligenceThe basic ingredients of emotional intelligence are: self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skill. If a support person is lacking in any of those, they are either limited to communicating with customers on a dry, impersonal level, or they risk coming off as jerks. If you want to provide amazing customer experience, you have to avert crises, make people happy by understanding their needs, or just generally make their day by dazzling them with your charm and empathy. If you want to build a great support team, you have to hire people who understand and get along with other people.
Staying organizedThere is a lot to process in support and usually you have to juggle several categories of tasks at the same time. Everyone can add things to a to-do list, but not all people can stay on top of it without being overwhelmed and eventually scrapping it. Support needs to know how to prioritize tasks and group them into systems that make sense.
Critical thinkingAs I mentioned (and will keep mentioning), great support helps you build a better product by collecting and analyzing the customers’ feedback, and giving insight on customer behavior. They need to look at that feedback, then look at your product, then look at the goals of your company and the customer, and reconcile all three. They need the ability to look at a system (be it your team, or your product, or the way your customer uses it) and see where it can be improved. At the least, they need to know what questions to ask to get to the root of what is causing a problem.
Motivation and attitudeThis should be a deal-breaker. Unless you have a passion for helping people, self-improvement, learning and fixing things, you get burned out fast in support. Giving up in the face of difficulty, or brushing off more difficult requests, are no-noes. Where everyone sees a problem, great support people should see a challenge and start forming a plan.
Thinking outside the boxSupport people often need to find solutions for problems they’ve never encountered before, or ones that couldn’t be solved with standard approaches. Analyzing the problem, asking the right questions and looking for a solution beyond the obvious resources make the difference between a frustrated customer and a happy one.
If you’re going to empower support to make decisions on your behalf (which you should), they need to believe in your values to know which decisions are right for your company mission. And if they’re going to be the face of your company, they need to share your values so they can be authentic in advocating your brand.
Cultural fit is important for performance as well. When your company values align with your employees’, and your motivation for doing business is similar to theirs, they don’t have to motivate themselves with money, or social status, or a dental insurance. They do their best job because they are passionate about it and the people who work with them.
Patrick Collison, the co-founder of Stripe, told this story:
When they offered Stripe’s second engineer a job, the engineer’s friends took him out to convince him that he would be pretty much ruining his life by joining this unknown startup. He did it anyway (and ended up bringing one of those friends on board, as well).
So, if you couldn’t compete with other companies in terms of salary, stability, recognition or employee benefits – why would people decide to work with you?
What kind of people thrive in your company? What kind of people would best embody your mission?
If culture is something your company still hasn’t defined yet, some sources of inspiration for coming up with your manifesto could be Buffer, Zappos, or Netflix.
When you work in support, things can get pretty stressful. Peak hours, technical problems, mistakes, frustrated customers, communication barriers. Working with a group of people you can vent to and count on in the lurch, makes that stress much more bearable.
In Give and Take, Adam Grant talks about givers, takers and matchers. According to his research, the best-performing teams are lead by givers. They’re the people who use their time to share their knowledge and help others get better at their job, instead of single-mindedly pursuing their individual goals. They are the people who get genuine satisfaction out of helping others and improving things.
Support is the kind of work where givers thrive. Helping, teaching, rescuing, more helping – that is their job description.
How to search
How do you find out if your candidates have all those traits you’re looking for? By asking open-ended customer service interview questions and setting up tasks for them.
You can post those tasks in your job opening or send them later to the candidates who passed the resume and cover letter screening. If you make the assignments optional in the job ad, the most motivated candidates will know they’re not optional. But if you don’t want to risk scaring people off by adding extra steps to the application, send the assignments to those with the best cover letters.
Try to get your team involved in the whole process. They can help you judge cover letters and pick out interesting resumes that you might have missed. They might even give you some ideas for questions to find the people best suited to handle the challenges of everyday support work.
If your application screening didn’t turn up any interesting candidates with technical skills you need, you might decide to give them a chance to learn those later. Here are some ideas for testing if a candidate can handle that challenge:
- Ask them to set up a blog on Blogspot, install a custom template and modify the post format.
- Unbounce asks their candidates to set up a landing page instead of sending a resume
- If your product is an application and it has a relatively straight-forward API, ask the candidate to implement one of the simplest functions on a free platform of your choice.
- At LiveChat we ask the candidates to test and compare several of our competitors. It’s a triple-threat test for learning ability, writing and technical skill.
With testing for soft skills, setting up assignments is a bit less straightforward.
Groove, Wistia, Buffer and MailChimp are great examples to help you come up with questions and tasks.
Wistia asks: “This job involves a lot of education. What do you think makes someone a great teacher?” Aside from showing whether the candidate knows how to teach, you might find out if their approach is the same as yours.
Groove tests communication skills with this one, among others: “Tell us, step-by-step, about something that you shop for online, and how you go about searching, choosing and purchasing it.”
Buffer asks the candidates to reply to some example ticket, one of which sent by a customer who is clearly upset.
Groove asks candidates to do this: How do you handle that request? How aggressive or passive will you get in your persuasion?
Groove’s question serves two purposes: It shows the candidate’s communication culture and it shows if they can turn an uncomfortable situation around.
MailChimp, when hiring tech support, asks you to accomplish some tasks with their software. Obviously, everyone will need to learn their software before working for their support, but they are testing whether you are ready to learn right now, not later on, when you’ve already signed the contract.
Interviews are the best time to test if someone actually fits the team, when they have an opportunity to interact. But before that, you can ask some questions that the candidate will have to mull over before they answer. Preferably, ask about something that will tell you whether they share your company values.
Wistia asks their candidates, “Describe a time you were in over your head, how did you deal with it?” which is a simple question that can tell you a lot about a person. Do they willingly put themselves out of their comfort zone? Do they stay calm or back out in the face of challenge? Can they assess their chances at tackling a challenge? Wistia also asks a question that gauges the candidates’ interest in product improvement, a which is part of their support team’s mission.
Buffer asks for a screenshot of how the candidate behaves as a customer. Chase Clemons also suggests inviting them to a restaurant to see how they treat staff. Wise man once said that this is how you recognize a good person – see how they treat someone who’s in no position of power.
Always ask for a cover letter. It is your first good chance to learn what kind of person you’re dealing with. What is their take on the importance of support? Do they focus on what you can do for their career or how they can help you pursue your company’s mission? How clearly do they express their thoughts?
With cover letters, as in each situation where you want to get to know someone, it’s better to show than tell. Ask your candidates for their experiences, ambitions and opinions, not just sell themselves by talking about their marvelous personality. Asking, “Why should you get this job?” is a sure way to get a lot of buzzwords (like “motivated team-player and self-starter) and wishful thinking. Try, “How does working in support fit in your lifetime goals?” or “Tell us in a couple of sentences about your most satisfying experience with helping someone.”
Preparing The Job Posting
A lot of people think customer support is an easy-to-get temporary job. Those are not the people you want to hire, but those are the people who will apply if you don’t work on reaching the right audience with your ad.
Baremetrics was looking for a remote support agent and they found that posting on a work-from-home job board brought in 100% unsuitable leads – those people were only looking for an extra job on the side. Baremetrics wanted someone who would be really interested in their job and their company, someone for the long haul. Also, maybe surprisingly, they found that no one who applied from Indeed was of any use – none of those leads cared where they worked, as long as it was a job.
Where you post is just as important as what you post.
MailChimp used targeted Facebook ads to post their job ads when they were hiring. You can tailor those ads based on location, education, interests, etc.
Post to dedicated job boards. Support Ops is a community built by some of the best customer support experts in the SaaS industry. Try their jobs section. There are also customer support conferences.
Post on your blog, social media and website, call your network of influencers. Ask your colleagues, maybe they can refer someone. Look around – maybe you know someone who dazzles you with outstanding customer service and is looking for a new job? Do you know another business owner who was recently hiring? Maybe they had some candidates who would be a good fit for you but didn’t make their cut?
If you go into the customer service jobs section of any job board and start reading the ads, try not to fall asleep. Guess who finds it exciting to work with…
- Customer inquiries including sourcing and preparation of quotations.
- Processing of customer orders including issuing of purchase orders to suppliers, checking pricing is correct, order acknowledgments, follow up and expedite until the order is completed.
You guessed right: no one.
Compare to this ad by Help Scout:
So don’t make this look like a boring job that consists of filling out forms and reading from a script on the phone. This ad is supposed to sell your job to the best talent. Great people want to work in an inspiring environment, to enjoy doing something important and challenging. Focus on the goals they will be achieving, not the mechanics.
- Pay extra attention to describing your company, its mission and values, in an honest way. Describe the relationship of your company with its customers. Communicate what role support plays in your business.
- Highlight the learning opportunities. Doing tech support for a SaaS is a fantastic crash course in web technologies. Doing support for a business product is a great opportunity to work with business professionals and learning from what they do.
- Will you support your employees in learning new skills, taking on new responsibilities and working with other departments?
- Highlight responsibility and difficulty. Your support people need to be prepared for the most important challenges. This will only scare off the candidates you don’t want, anyway.
- Talk about influencing your product development.
- Talk about solving problems and participating in your customers’ success.
- Don’t forget being part of your team. What makes it special? Great people want to work with other great people.
- If you can offer a flexible schedule and variety of tasks, do it. Monotony and lack of control over your own workflow are some of the biggest downsides of customer support jobs
- Can you offer perks? Campaign Monitor has an in-house chef. Some companies let their employees buy endless supplies of books on the company’s tab. The best workplaces also have health benefits and some offer loose vacation policy.
We call our support team “Customer Champions” because that’s what they are – the champions of the customer. They provide input on marketing copy, new feature development, pricing, and even prioritization – bringing the perspective of the customer everywhere they go.
Jeff Vincent (Wistia)
Some people think the job title is irrelevant, some people disagree. But this is advertising and you want to use every tool in the box to make sure your posting stands out and communicates what the job means and what the candidate should expect. This is especially true if you decide to post your ad to general job boards. Worst thing that could happen – people will see your ad title and chuckle, but they’re probably more likely to read it than if you titled it “Customer service representative.”
Groove hires Customer Success Experts, Buffer has Happiness Heroes, Wistia – Customer Champions. Those titles all reflect what they focus on and what they expect from their people.
LiveChat has Support Heroes. When you call yourself a Support Hero and you’re about to say, “Sorry, I can’t go through your code and look for this, I’m not a developer,” you catch yourself and say instead, “One moment, let me look into that,” then you whip out your Google-fu. And when a customer asks you to challenge the developers to a duel over a feature request or fixing a low-priority bug, you feel silly if you just say, “Sorry, no can do, it’s not my department.”
To craft an effective job posting, focus on the support’s goals, challenges and culture. You want to appeal to candidates’ love for challenges and helping others. Communicate that you realize why customer support is important.
The information you want to include:
- Summarize your company culture – what you value in business, in support and each other, why you do business. How a day at the office looks. Or better yet – prepare a great “About us” page on your website.
- What the job looks like and how you want it to look in the near future
- What are the biggest challenges of the job?
- Description of a perfect candidate / Requirements and nice-to-have’s
- Employee benefits
- Written assignments to demonstrate skills (they can be marked as optional)
MailChimp, Wistia, Groove and Buffer (among others), include open questions and written assignments to be answered in the application. They test the candidates’ skills and writing culture right away. This way, they minimize the amount of applications from people who don’t really care about the job enough to put in extra effort, or who expect it to be easy.
How do you sort through hundreds of resumes? It’s tricky. Not even weathered HR masters have an effective method.
The problem with resumes is that they are generally not very reliable, even when hiring for positions with very specific requirements for education or experience. According to one study, resume screening is about as reliable in picking qualified candidates as a coin flip. Resumes also don’t tell you much about a candidate’s personality.
Experience in customer service might seem like an obvious choice for screening criteria, but that’s deceptive. On one hand, it tells you that someone can handle everyday support tasks like answering emails and retrieving passwords. On the other – those are skills you can teach really quickly and they tell you nothing about someone’s problem-solving skills or empathy, which cannot be taught.
That said, we would definitely interview someone who has worked for a company known for outstanding support, if only to find out why they left that job.
There are some things LiveChat appreciates in resumes, but those are not make or break rules:
- Having higher education suggests that they can learn, stay motivated and organized.
- If they have interesting previous experience (like working in Hong Kong or Japan) that catches our attention, we will want to at least talk to them.
- Their resume is easy to read and presents their skills and experience clearly, without listing dozens of irrelevant courses.
But instead of resumes, you can start the screening from cover letters and written assignments. It might seem like starting with the most time-consuming part (or, as they call it, eating the biggest frog first). But, using the written assignment as the first step is the most reliable way to spot and filter out low value applications.
Many candidates will not complete your written assignment. E.g. instead of solving a problem they will choose to brag about their talents. Or they will write a thousand-word epic instead of being concise. Or they will simply give the wrong or alarming answers.
If you really don’t feel like spending days upon days on sifting through hundreds of applications and you want to take another risk on the applicants’ determination and “street smarts,” you can try what LessAccounting did:
Make it a game, but don’t reveal the rules. Your future employee will pretty much hire themselves.
This isn’t a test. It’s a conversation run by the interviewer. There is a difference. If the interviewer makes it a test, then the interviewer failed.Jon Marcus, Venture Beat
So you’ve sorted the applications into yes/no piles and it’s time to set up interviews.
Doing interviews over the phone or Skype might be a good way to save you and the candidates some time. They don’t have to change out of their pajama pants or commute, and you don’t have to clear out a room to talk to them. You can do several rounds of phone interviews as you narrow down your final list of candidates.
The first thing you need to remember about interviews is: they are not tests.
You’re not looking for someone who’s good at job interviews and knows how to answer a trick question.
A job interview is a conversation. Sure, you can use it as an occasion to verify the skills and experience the candidate declared in their application. But it’s still a conversation.
Don’t count on yes/no questions to find the right fit. Don’t rely on one-sentence replies either. For a thoughtful person, there are no simple questions. Even seemingly simple questions have multiple facets and can be answered in many equally valid ways.
What you’re looking for with those questions is attitude, aspirations and character. Try some of these:
- Why did you decide to work for us?
- How did you work on self-improvement in your previous job?
- How did you spend your last week off? How do you spend weekends? (what was the last skill they learned and when?)
- Why do you want to work in support and what do you get out of working with customers?
- How would you handle a partial refund request from our customer whose company went out of business, if we officially had a no-refund policy?
- A long-time customer needs you to do some extra coding work on their side, which you generally don’t do. How would you handle that?
- Where do you see yourself in 2 or 3 years?
- Teach me how to use your favorite app.
If you decide to test how they would behave in customer support situations, don’t judge whether they do it according to your policy. Ask them to explain why they decided to act a certain way. Judge how coherently they can explain and what motivated them.
Make the atmosphere of the interview comfortable. There is literally no need to make the candidate more stressed than they already are. The more they relax, the better you can get to know them. Leave room for them to ask questions too, either between yours or at the end.
Forget about judging character by handshake or testing them by dropping a pen. Instead, see how easy it is to carry on a chat with them and how clearly they communicate. Ask them to explain something to you – how their favorite app works, an idea they have read in a book recently, even the plot of a novel.
The interviews should be used to test if the candidate is a cultural fit. Ask why they made the decisions about their education and career. Ask them about their passions and see how passionate they get.
Recognizing someone’s personality may be difficult for you, but some of your colleagues could be better at reading people. Invite the candidate to a meal with the team and see what they think. They will potentially be working with this new person in the near future, make sure you don’t set them up for months of conflict. Aside from that, most people will show a different side in one-on-one conversation than in a relaxed group setting.
What if, after the last round of interviews, you haven’t found the perfect candidate – you have a 3-foot pile labeled “no” and a few “maybes?”
Your “maybe” candidates may be unpolished gems that couldn’t shine during the stressful interview. You might not even get to really know people until they’ve signed a contract and worked with you for several weeks.
Your “yes” candidates may also turn out to have been faking throughout the whole interview experience. Or they may cave under the pressure of the job after two weeks. Or their hard-working nature has been greatly exaggerated and they’re not as polite when provoked as they led you to believe.
Therefore, you should invest in “trying them out” for a few weeks.
Training the candidate and observing how they handle the actual work is the most reliable way to really know if you chose the right person. But, unless they’re fine with free labor, this might be an expensive investment in someone you’re not sure you will hire. There is not one answer for everyone here. If you’re desperate for staff, you should probably take the risk on “maybes” that seem like the right cultural fit. If you’re not sure and can put it off, wait. When you find the perfect candidate – as cheesy as it sounds – you’ll know.
The length of the trial depends on the complexity of your product and your judgment of potential in people. At LiveChat, it takes up to two full-time weeks of training to decide if we’re going to hire someone. If we do, there’s usually about two more weeks, during which they pretty much just do our regular work with supervision. Our whole onboarding process lasts about a month.
If your product is more complicated than LiveChat (e.g. Salesforce or ElasticSearch level of complicated) you might need more time for the technical training alone. Automattic (the creators of WordPress) have 4-8 week trials on a part-time or full-time basis. Media Temple has a two-week technical training program that they put each new recruit through before they get to talk to customers.
The new hire should spend the trial getting to know the whole team (including the engineers) and the company culture, on top of learning support skills.
Before the candidate begins work, they read our website, the knowledge base and canned responses. Of course, no one expects them to memorize the KB, but if we ask them whether we have a tutorial on a specific topic, they have to know the answer (or be able to talk their way out of answering).
We also give them recommended reading. Blogs that write about the kind of support we strive to do, some resources on basic sales and support concepts. We give them Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness as an inspiration and reminder of how we want to make customers feel.
Recruits get an Introduction to our support philosophy. We pride ourselves on not getting tied up with performance metrics. Our priority is doing right by the customers and we don’t discourage anyone from 4-hour chats, as long as they’re not holding up other customers. The only performance metric we stick to is response speed – the customer can take their time, but we should not keep them waiting unnecessarily.
We also treat satisfaction scores as guidelines for improvement, not a grading tool for the support’s performance. We empower agents to be personable and honest. Nobody gets punished for telling a potential customer that we’re not a good fit for them, as long as we put all the cards on the table and gave them all the information that they were after.
As mentioned before, our hires need to check out some of our competition. This consists of reading their websites, signing up for their product and writing a summary of strengths and weaknesses. Then they read the transcripts of chats where customers were asking us for comparison. This is a great way for our recruits to get a feel of what our product is good for and what our customers value most. That gives the agents the confidence they need in order to be authentic in sales conversations.
The new hire has to get up to speed with our team communication. We only use email and Slack, plus occasionally Basecamp, but the information flow is pretty fast and not always completely organized. Everyone also gets access to the team’s phone numbers in case of emergencies.
The new hire needs to come up with their own note-taking method to internalize all the new information. We don’t have a trademark system because all our agents have eidetic memory and don’t need to take notes. Maybe.
- They start with tickets. From crash-course tickets packed full of tricky questions that walk them through the product and frequent problems, to actual customer tickets. Every ticket reply is read by the team lead before sending.
- Get on the chat with supervision. First days are up to two concurrent chats, then we go up. It takes some time to build up the multi-tasking muscle.
- The new hire goes through our chats and tickets archives to get their toes wet
- Before the recruit gets to do actual support chats, we give them an assignment that forces them to use our product the way our customers do.
- A lot of the support chats require team cooperation. Customers have rich imagination and they come up with new questions all the time. After all, most of them have questions that can’t be answered by reading the knowledge base. Our support team works in one room and we like to vote on the answer when we get tricky tech questions. The last person to vote has to run a test to find out the right answer.
- Once they become familiar with the application, they start to explore our customers. They read case studies and our blog, talk to our key account manager.
- The recruit learns which features are the most effective in sales and which parts work for support and management (by researching case studies and, for the most part, by talking to the rest of the support team).
- Security procedures. We teach them how to monitor server activity and how to proceed in case of emergency.
New hire trials, for some mysterious reason, usually coincide with our team meetings – bowling meets, barbecues or just a night out in town. Our support constantly cooperates with the development team, so it’s important that we know each other and get along. There’s few things worse than the awkward silence when you’re waiting for your coffee to brew while someone else is eating breakfast, pretending that oatmeal is absorbing every bit of their attention.
After the official training is complete, the new hire starts chatting with our customers on their own. Their first one or two months are scheduled during the busiest shifts so they always work with other support people and can ask questions.
We hold fairly regular support team meetings in which we exchange feedback and discuss the roadmap of the team development. Aside from that, we stay on top of the product development and do occasional assignments (usually related to LiveChat API) to raise the overall skill level. We also have an internal blog and email thread where we talk about weird support cases we handled. So, the learning doesn’t stop, ever.
Evaluation and feedback meetings should be done as often as possible. A few days, or a week, should be enough to see progress. You should ask the new hire about the parts they are having trouble with – can they identify the reason why they struggle? Perhaps they need a bit of technical training? If that’s the case – maybe one of your co-workers could offer a bit of tutoring?
Maybe they prefer to work towards general goals instead of micro-managed tasks? Maybe they think the assignment could be set up better? This would be a good thing to hear them explain – maybe you have an undercover leader on board?
There are some red flags that would usually make us give up on the candidate:
- Not getting along with the team
- They are not making any progress
- They’re not honest
- They hate the customers and their “obvious questions”
- They’re just going through motions without apparent enthusiasm
- They make promises and don’t follow through
- They can’t keep up with work and team communication (including other departments)
- They can’t troubleshoot non-standard problems
Things that make us happy:
- When the recruits have a good grasp on the unorganized information flow. They take extensive notes, analyze data and share it all with us in a compiled form.
- When they advocate customer-centric changes. They discuss certain feature requests or suggest changes that could make our interface more intuitive
- When they delight our customers
- When they volunteer for extra tasks
- When they’re genuinely interested in customer relations, UX and marketing
- When they take initiative in loading the dishwasher
Things that show us the recruit will contribute to teamwork:
- Can they teach us something?
- Do they want to teach us something? Are they offering help to teammates who seem to be struggling with something?
- What do they think we do inefficiently? How would they improve that?
- Is there anything they excel at? Everyone in our support specializes in something. Someone likes to code, someone else likes to dig into accounting issues, another person likes to cook. Doing more of one thing that someone is good at makes them more satisfied about work and it saves the rest of the team the struggle with things they don’t enjoy. Plus, when we discover new talents, we can offer more to our customers.
Providing great customer experience starts with hiring great people. It’s a big investment of time and effort, but the good news is: Once you hire people with talent for problem solving, passion for helping others, and love for learning – you can pretty much just get out of their way and let them do what they do best:
Arm-wrestle dragons, so your customers don’t have to.
Or, in case of lack of dragons: help you build the best product and help your customers be successful.
Marta spent the best year of her life supporting the customers of LiveChat. Because she ran out of people to tell what she learned practicing and researching support, she had to write it down and share it with the Internet.