Look out for these customer service skills

Work history, personality, availability–all things to consider with potential hires. But what matters most for your business? As you build your “A” team, take into account what will translate into benefits for your customers as well.

While the customer may not always be right, they do keep your business going. And one, if not the only, thing customers care about is a great experience. Not only does it increase customer loyalty, but also helps your business grow and boosts your reputation. Hiring employees with essential customer service skills is crucial to making a positive and lasting impression.

Keep these 9 basic skills every hourly worker needs in mind when interviewing candidates:

1. Patience

The most important customer service skill, hands down, is patience. Great service always beats fast service. Your business will be appreciated if workers dedicate the necessary time to better understand customer’s issues and come up with a resolution. Communicate to your employees that it’s just as critical to remain cool, calm and collected even with the most trying customers.

During a job interview, ask an applicant about the right amount of time to spend with a customer. The truth is there is no right amount of time since each situation is different. If the interviewee shares a specific timeframe, you’ll know that is the when their attention span will begin to fade or they probably start getting impatient.

1. Quick thinking

Whether it’s a difficult customer or a situation that wasn’t covered during training, a curveball every now and then is inevitable. The ability to assess and problem solve quickly will make you feel comfortable letting employees handle it on their own, allowing you to focus on your day-to-day obligations.

Throw in some insightful interview questions or reword common job interview questions. For example, don’t ask why they want to work for your company. Instead, change the dynamic by asking, “If you’re interviewing multiple places, why would you choose us?” This will surprise the applicant and require them to think on their feet.

3. Communication skills

Communication is an art. The last thing you need is a misunderstanding with an upset customer. A solid understanding of your company’s policies and procedures will give your employees the tools they need to clearly articulate how they can help.

When interviewing, take notice of whether or not an applicant is fully answering your questions. Are they rambling or talking in circles? While nerves are normal, the point they are making should come across clearly.

4. Empathy

Make customer service simple by asking your employees to think about how they would like an issue handled if they were in the customer’s shoes. A little empathy can go a long way in how a worker deals with, and even speaks to, customers.

Simply asking, “What does excellent customer service look like to you?” will give you an idea of what kind of experience that applicant will provide for customers. Compare their answer with the notion of ideal customer service for your business.

5. Willingness to learn

Encourage your employees to ask questions if they are unsure how to handle a situation. Or if a customer complaint isn’t handled correctly, provide constructive criticism to avoid a similar outcome.  A worker that is willing to learn can outweigh one with relevant work experience that may be stuck in their ways.

You may not have to specifically ask to figure out if a potential employee is open to learning–observe characteristics that would point to such. Motivation about their five-year plan, curiosity during the interview and confidence without being a know-it-all.

6. Attentiveness

Angry customers are unheard customers. They want to know their concerns are being heard and addressed. Make it clear to your employees that timeandattention are equally important.

Posing an interview question about how to handle an upset customer when a line is forming, or when another customer needs help, will give you a sense of how attentive a candidate will be and if they can remain focused under pressure.

7. Knowledgeable

Knowledge of your business can be a deciding factor when hiring new team members. Whether it’s about a product, policy or loyalty program, customers will come with questions and concerns. You want to be sure that your employees can trusted for answers.

The deeper you dive into the interview, the more apparent it will be if an applicant has done their research. While you will train new hires on the job, you want to recruit new employees that understand the basics of your company. Raising a question about their favorite product or menu item will shed some light on their familiarity with your business.

8. Positive language

“We don’t have that product,” versus, “Unfortunately, we’re out of that at the moment, but we have a similar product I think you may be interested in.” Simply framing things in a more positive context can make a drastic difference in how it’s received by customers.

Come up with a hypothetical scenario and ask the interviewee how they would relay the news. Playing the role of the customer will give instant insight into whether or not the message will translate well.

9. Goal oriented

Goal: Keep the customers happy. If you can instill this within your team, they’ll be more willing to go above and beyond to see to it that each customer leaves satisfied. A strong work ethic is a perfect complement and a key trait to look for in potential hires.

Asking, “Why is the role of ________ important?” reveals what the candidate thinks is their main goal on the job. For the best fit, their answer should align with your own company values and culture.


Obviously, better customer service makes for happy and returning customers. Keep these customer service skills in mind when interviewing applicants. Seeking these traits early on will require less instruction on the job and make building your ideal team that much easier. But most importantly, you’ll ensure a consistently great experience for your customers.