The Fine Art of the Customer Service Conversation

In her August “Rants and Raves” feature, Kathleen Peterson, the Founder and Chief Vision Officer of acclaimed Call Center Management consultancyPowerHouse Consulting, muses about the importance of communication and conversation in providing a quality customer experience.  While her post was focused on call center customer service, her tips are relevant for any customer service interaction.  Read her Rant here:http://www.powerhouse1.com/rants/aug2013.html.

I found her first directive to be spot on: use the telephone to evaluate customer service job candidates.  The telephone interview usually one of the first steps in the call center recruiting process and is often conducted by the HR or recruiting team acting on behalf of the call center hiring manager.  As Kathleen alludes, this frequently results in HR advancing otherwise unqualified candidates because they are not as keenly in tune with the desired communication skills as call center management.  In many organizations, it’s impractical and inefficient for call center managers to conduct initial phone screening.  Here are a couple of additional tips to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of this critical step in the hiring process:

  • Recruiting and the hiring managers must collaborate on the essential requirments of the job.  Too often this is communicated in poorly understood, overly broad job requisitions that result in the wrong kinds of candidates being hired.
  • Put the phone screen online and move it into the application process.  Virtual interviewing technologies can record candidate phone screens so they can be shared with the hiring manager, ensuring a common understanding of what is – and isn’t – a quality candidate.  This also eliminates much of the inefficiency of the phone screening process by enabling candidates to complete interviews at a time of their choosing.
  • Provide regular, structured feedback to the recruiting team.  Call center management should provide quality-of-hire feedback at key post-hire milestones in the agent lifecycle.  The most effective feedback is often the simplest – is the agent still employed and what is their level of overall performance?  This also serves to strengthen the relationship between the recruiting team and its stakeholders.

Emphasizing the fine art of conversation, as Kathleen puts it, as an essential part of your customer service hiring practices means that you will have higher quality agents managing more satisfying interactions with your customers.

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