Some organisations — healthcare suppliers, mortgage lenders, nonprofits, government agencies and more — are seeing significant demand for their services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the roles these employers are finding they must hire for are customer service representatives, including call center reps.

But, now that many companies are requiring team members to work from home, how do you hire these professionals? They likely won’t be coming into the office for in-person interviews and, indeed, many will start their first day of work remotely.

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Because expertly serving customers plays such a vital role today, companies need to hire customer service representatives who meet or exceed industry standards. Here’s an overview of several common customer service roles, interview questions to ask, and tips to streamline the process of hiring remote employees.

Customer service representative responsibilities

A critical first step you should take to hire customer service representatives is to create or update your job descriptions to ensure they contain the key details of the respective role. Make certain that they accurately reflect the kind of workers you want most. If you then base your job postings on them, you’ll increase your chances of attracting skilled candidates.

Every company is different, but here are four customer service positions and their typical job duties:

1. Customer service representative

  • Performs data entry
  • Receives and places telephone calls (or if online, receives or offers chat communications)
  • Handles questions, provides information, troubleshoots and resolves issues

2. Senior customer service representative

  • Handles the responsibilities mentioned above
  • Manages database records
  • Acts as resource for customer service escalations to a problem
  • Provides status reports of issues and resolutions
  • May train and/or supervise employees

3. Call center representative

  • For inbound call centers, responds to customer inquiries, processes orders and routes calls to appropriate departments
  • For outbound call centers, calls on businesses and consumers — with or without an existing account — to offer products and services, obtains customer information and produces leads
  • Manages a high volume of calls

4. Senior call center representative

  • Along with the duties of a call center representative, this position must also have a deeper knowledge of accounts, products and services, and more work experience
  • Proactively communicates with prospective customers and clients
  • Upsells to existing accounts
  • May provide training and/or management of a staff of call center representatives

Job skills required

Customer service representatives should have a solid understanding of all the company’s products and services they may receive questions about. They should also be savvy at data entry. People skills are crucial in this role as well, and more important than ever. Candidates should be great communicators so they can handle customer questions and concerns with a professional demeanor.

Questions to ask when hiring customer service representatives

Due to the pandemic, job interviews are now pre-dominately conducted remotely. Because many customer service and call center jobs are already remote by nature, interviewing candidates on the phone or video are ideal ways to assess their communication abilities and professionalism, key aspects of the job:

  • How is their demeanor during the interview?
  • Are they polite and do they listen closely to your questions and try to answer them fully?
  • Do they ask additional questions of their own if they need more clarity?

In addition to assessing their communication skills and professionalism, here are a few questions to ask customer service representative candidates, along with questions to ask yourself after they’ve responded:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you’ve experienced great customer service? Does the candidate emphasise a quick resolution to a problem or warmth and empathy? Because everyone has a different idea of what constitutes good service, asking this question will help you determine if he or she is a fit for your company’s approach to the job.
  • How have you dealt with frustrated callers? Dissatisfied callers are a major aspect of the job, so it’s important to find out how the candidate approaches them. How would they diffuse the situation? What’s the most important thing to do when you first get a call from someone who is upset?
  • What do you know about our product or service? Does their reply indicate they have researched your firm to prepare for the interview? While a candidate doesn’t have to be an expert on your products or services, they should have a solid understanding of them.

How Robert Half can help you

If you need additional help to serve customers during this challenging time, Robert Half has you covered. We make it easy to hire customer service representatives who can work remotely. Our highly skilled professionals can help keep your organisation moving forward and minimise impact to customer service.

Robert Half is the world’s leading specialised recruitment agency and we offer:

  • The largest database of candidates in the market – We have skilled administrative and customer service talent ready to start working ASAP.
  • Seamless setup for any remote assignment – We can set up remote workers with a secure virtual workspace quickly and easily. If your firm allows VPN access, candidates can connect to your system using a secure device provided by Robert Half.
  • Staffing flexibility – Whatever type of worker you need — temporary, full-time or project-based — we can help move the process along. And fast. Our staffing professionals are well-versed in placing skilled candidates in jobs that, for the time being at least, will be remote. And whether you need one customer service representative for one week or a team of 100 for an extended period, we can help you.

By hiring skilled customer service representatives, your company can continue to offer exceptional service and meet customer demands during these unprecedented times.