How to hire customer support agents

How to hire customer support agents

Written by on May 8, 2019

Freshworks Academy has a community of pretty awesome people from multiple facets of work. This is evident in the varied points of view that our members bring to light during discussions. Once a fortnight, we bring together members of the community for discussions called Coffee Chat, to talk about anything and everything related to customer experience. This one deals with hiring customer support agents.

When you are hiring an employee, you need to keep track of many things. This includes their professional skills, and how they would fit in with the rest of the team and the company culture overall. We asked the members of our community how they went about hiring their customer support agents. Here’s what they had to say:

What are the skills you look for in candidates?

There are some particular qualities you would have to ideally see in candidates. The attributes below are good ones to check for in prospective hires.

  1. Resistance to stress
  2. Good communication skills
  3. Confidence in speech and action
  4. Willingness to help a customer
  5. Patience
  6. Empathy
  7. Ability to think outside the box
  8. Accountability
  9. Critical thinking and strong cognitive abilities
  10. A good attitude

What are the things to keep in mind while writing your job description? How can you attract the right talent with your job description?

The best way to attract the right people for the job is to ensure that you have the perfect job description. Ideally, a job description should talk about the role you are hiring for as well as the kind of candidate you are looking for. For instance, mention three things one has to send in with their application. Also state that the application would be considered void if any of these components are missing; this will ensure you get applications from people who pay attention to details. Having a strong job description which asks for a lot from your candidates can weed out those who are half-hearted about the job.

Here are the things your job description should contain:

  1. Explain what the role entails and the goals of the position.
  2. Provide an overview of the company and the work culture.
  3. Focus on the people aspect of the job and make sure your hires are interested in service.
  4. Mention the skills you are looking for and the timings of the job.

How do you form an interview panel?

To hire the right person for a customer support job, you need to have an experienced and neutral panel in place. The members of the panel need to know to ask the right questions to evaluate whether the candidate is the ideal fit for the job. Here are some tips you can keep in mind:

  1. Have a roadmap to guide the conversation.
  2. Hold multiple interviews – one to judge attitude and another to judge technical skills, for instance.
  3. Have a training program so your hires can familiarize themselves with all aspects of your product and the job.
  4. Ensure the role’s direct supervisors conduct the test.
  5. Take an unbiased opinion from another member who isn’t a direct supervisor for the role you are seeking to fill.

What are some of the scenarios/projects you give your candidates?

When you are hiring, or training your new hire, there are quite a few tasks you can assign to them to train them as well as test their competence. Here is a list of some such tasks:

  1. Use roleplaying to see how your candidate will react to particular situations. A great example would be pretending to be a customer who is polite until the end of a call but suddenly gets frustrated over something towards the end of the call. This tests how well a candidate can react and save a situation.
  2. Make them reply to emails which they would typically see in the course of their work. These will test the candidate’s resourcefulness in finding answers, the accuracy of their replies, and writing skills.
  3. Look at how they utilize resources provided to them, and how quickly they can complete a task. You can test for attention to detail, how they make use of resources, and how they navigate a knowledge base.
  4. Make the candidate use a tool which is an integral part of the job. You can compare the time taken for the task with a standardized average to make sure the candidate isn’t below par.

What are the differences you’ve observed and the things you’ve learned when you compare the way you hired your first rep and your tenth rep?

When we asked the members of our community how their hiring processes have evolved over time, they had quite a few things to say. One answer echoed by many was that initially, they focused a lot on cultural fit to ensure the team worked well together. After a few years though, they relaxed this criterion, as everyone would fit in somewhere in the company. Here are some other things that were observed:

  1. Focus on cultural fit as much as individual skill to ensure that your team works well together.
  2. Use each hiring experience to improve upon future interviews. Learn what sort of skills were needed after hiring the first few reps, and made sure to look for these in future hires.
  3. Remember, the standards for those you hire first are much higher and often set the tone for the rest of your future hires.
  4. Look for people who are committed to your customers, and who are always willing to learn.

How do you handle mistakes in hiring? Sample case: when you find out your new joinee is a bad fit for a customer support role?

Even after you put a lot of effort into hiring the best fit for a role, you could have made the wrong choice. How can you fix your mistake. Take a look below for some pointers which you can use:

  1. Maintain notes during interviews. You can refer to these later to see what you did right/wrong, so you can prepare better for future interviews.
  2. Figure out if the bad fit is your fault or theirs- did they oversell their skills, or was your job description or orientation inadequate?
  3. Try extending their training to see if there is some way to improve the situation.
  4. Have a performance improvement plan where you go over their faults, and assign a mentor to help them.
  5. See if they fit in better with another team.
  6. Have periodic reviews to see if they can be moluded into a good fit, and if not, cut your losses.

Hiring a new customer support agent can sometimes be a time-consuming and difficult process. Hopefully, after reading this though, your task will be easier and the employees you hire will be a great fit for your team and company.


Want to be a part of awesome discussions like this? Join the Freshworks Academy today – you’ll gain access to our community as well, plus quality courses and content- for free! So, join us today!



Kaavya Karthikeyan

Binge reader. Gaming addict. Coffee connoisseur. Feminist. Jedi Master in the Freshworks Academy team.