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5 (Illustrated) Customer Service Skills to Look for When Hiring Your Reps [PART 1]

Posted by Lisa Perrin

customer service skills

There’s SO much unreliable information about résumés out there—making it impossible to completely trust what you are reading. In addition, using interviews and detailed tests to reduce a large applicant pool is time-consuming and inefficient.

So… what if you could:

1. Accurately screen for the most skilled candidates prior to in-depth interviewing
2. Increase the skills of your customer service staff while reducing turnover from poor hiring choices
3. Decrease the risk of discrimination litigation
4. Use objective, defensible data for hiring decisions.

If you did that, you’d make better hires in less time, while reducing legal risk.

To make these improvements, you need to enhance your candidate screening process.  By creating an effective system for your customer service recruiting, you will be more likely to hire the best employees for the job and much less likely to hire mediocre workers.In the following article, I’d like to share with you how we developed our Customer Service team, here at eSkill.



“The customer service was a very large part of why we switched to eSkill. From the time we first talked with Kevin Renner, we felt like we mattered. We are a small company (but do a lot of business!) and we very much appreciate eSkill’s specialized customer service. All of the people we have dealt with at eSkill make us feel like we are familiar to them. They recognize who we are and treat us as a valued customer.”  Janet Bryan, District Manager, Universal Staffing, Inc.

Identify the most valuable customer service skills

So here are the most important five skills I look for when hiring a customer service representative.

  1. The ability to handle pressure and surprises.

One of the key skills in a customer service representative is the ability to remain calm under pressure–to be patient and confident while communicating clearly. A customer service employee is usually the first point of contact when a customer has a problem. The ability to converse with an angry customer, calm him or her down, and communicate in a clear and (why not?) out-of-the-box manner should be the top skill you look for when hiring this type of employee.

Take Amazon’s example: When their customer service rep introduced himself as Thor and the customer responded with a joking mythological reference to Thor’s father Odin, the rep played along with the customer’s lead, and they started a humorous role-play. Not only was the customer’s problem solved, he or she had fun, even though the conversation started as a complaint.

  1. The ability to communicate clearly.

Communication in all its forms is a very complex skill to test. You need people who use positive language, who empathize with the customers and who can read customers “between the lines.” But these skills are just the norm. How about going above and beyond the norm? Have a look at what a Starbucks barista did to be able to communicate clearly. With everyone.

Starbucks customer service skills
  1. The ability to sell in a natural manner.

You might think that there is no way to “sell in a natural manner.” You can. You just need to hire people who easily relate to others and offer genuine help.  One day, Michael Parker Mathis was on his way home to Boston by train and lost his Warby Parker glasses. He ordered a new pair the next day, but a few weeks later, to his surprise, he received a package with a handwritten note:

“Hi Michael, This might be odd … but you sat across from me on the train ride from NYC to Boston a few weeks ago and left your glasses on the train! As luck would have it, I happen to be the GC of Warby Parker, and there is nothing I like more than a good mystery… I hope these find you in good health! (also, we noticed your lenses were scratched so we made you a fresh pair!)

Sincerely, AK “

Mathis was so impressed that he immediately shared his story on Facebook:

customer service skills
  1. The ability to manage their time wisely.

This is the “ugly truth” of working with people. A customer service rep needs to know when to stop spending time with a customer. They need to know how to serve customers in an efficient manner. And, they also need to know when they cannot serve a customer anymore. Sometimes, there are times when certain customers are implacable—they aren’t really looking for a solution or are unrealistically demanding—that’s when the rep just has to give up on trying to help and maybe even suggest that the customer go elsewhere.

  1. The ability to work with data and personalize it.

There is no way to avoid it. A customer service rep will need to interact with many tech systems while talking on the phone. They’ll need to look up data, update it, and generate reports to solve a complaint–all while talking on the phone!. This requires concentration and attention to details. In this example, one Spotify customer care rep takes the ability to work with data and to pay attention to details to the next level. Here’s their reply to Jelena, a customer who sent the music service some positive feedback in an email. (Read down the track list to see the hidden message.)

customer service skills

These are the five most valuable customer skills you need to look for when hiring your people. I personally hired my team taking these skills into consideration. However, the question remains:

How can you identify the perfect candidate who is emphatic, learns technology quickly, types accurately, and multi-tasks effectively? Can you really find this person? What are the tools you need to do it quickly and with compliance?

That’s something we’ll talk about in part two of this article.


To data-driven skills testing,

Lisa Perrin

P.S: Amazon and Spotify use eSkill tests for selecting their customer service reps. Did you like the people they chose?

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About Lisa Perrin


Lisa Perrin is the Office Manager and HR Administrator for eSkill Corporation, a premium web-based skills testing provider. With an education in Accounting and a love of technology, it seemed like a natural move for her to go into office management for a temporary staffing organization and specialize in HR-related roles. After 20 years of experience in these roles, Lisa enjoys sharing nuggets of wisdom any time she gets the chance.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Melissa March, 21, 2018

    Thank you for the article. These skills are really the core of customer service, and I loved the way you illustrated them with industry examples.

  • Karen March, 21, 2018

    Candidates who know the importance of developing these skills and emphasizing them in a job application and interview will rise above the job market competition. And this is what I look for when I hire.

  • Kristina March, 21, 2018

    This is an excellent list! I’d say #2 on your list is the foundation of all great customer service reps!


Guest March, 21, 2018