In today’s competitive environment, customer service professionals are vital to the success of a company. Not only can they help boost customer satisfaction, they also can improve repeat business, which has a direct impact on company profitability. The Salary Guide From Robert Half finds that call center staff and customer service specialists are among the hottest jobs in administrative and customer support. To thrive in the current landscape, companies need to hire customer service specialists who meet or exceed industry standards.

But these days, skilled customer service professionals can be harder to find. And many potential candidates are working from home, which can limit opportunities for in-person interviews.

Here’s an overview of several common customer service roles, salaries, interview questions to ask, and tips to streamline the process of hiring remote employees.

Customer service specialist responsibilities

A critical first step you should take to hire customer service specialists is to create or update your job descriptions so they contain the key details, duties and responsibilities of the respective role. Make certain they accurately reflect the qualities you most want in workers. If you then include keywords from the job description in the job posting, you’ll increase your chances of attracting candidates with the desired skills and experience.

While every company is different, here are four examples of customer service positions and their typical job duties:

1. Customer service specialist

  • 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 specialist

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

3. Call center specialist

  • 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 specialist

  • Along with the duties of a call center specialist, 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 call center team

5. Job skills required

Customer service professionals should have a solid understanding of all the company’s products and services. They should also be savvy at data entry paired with interpersonal skills, which are crucial in this role.

These specialists should be great communicators so they can handle customer questions and concerns with a professional demeanor. If there’s a chance applicants will start the job remotely but move to an office in the future, you also need to assess their flexibility and resilience.

Questions to ask customer service candidates

Many job interviews are conducted remotely now, and because many customer service and call center jobs are already remote by nature, interviewing job seekers by phone or video is an ideal way to assess their communication abilities and professionalism, key competencies needed to achieve success in the role.

Here are some questions to ask yourself during the interview:

  • 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 specialist candidates, with added considerations.

  • Can you tell me about a time when you’ve experienced great customer service? Does the candidate emphasize 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 this candidate 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 job seeker doesn’t have to be an expert on your products or services, they should have a solid understanding of them.

Customer service specialist salary ranges

The right compensation package can help you attract talent for various customer service roles. You can get the latest salaries and trends shaping the hiring market from Robert Half’s Salary Guide.

With this resource, you can also localize your insights and get starting salaries for different job titles and experience levels.