I’ve sat through many interviews for customer experience professionals at all levels. Some of those interviews have been painful and others have been an absolute joy. The painful interviews have included interacting with candidates who have a flippant attitude to service, who talk incessantly about concepts and not achievements and who spew intellectual and academic rhetoric about serving people.
Conversely and mercifully, the joyful interviews were those that evolved into conversations about the joy of serving customers. Invariably, these conversations highlighted the direct relationship between good service outcomes, customer success and revenue generation.
So, I’m hard to impress in an interview. Simply because I know that candidates often are primed to answer questions prescriptively, rather than with authenticity. As an example, I’m drawn to candidates who admit that they do not know the answer to a case study and who, in turn, ask the interviewers to share the correct answer. That, to me, is authenticity. There are five attributes that I look for in candidates who are being interviewed for service-specific roles.
I’m drawn to candidates who admit that they do not know the answer to a case study and who, in turn, ask the interviewers to share the correct answer.
A candidate should have consultative skills, since exceptional customer engagement and needs resolution require customer contact staff to be able to probe, enquire, conduct gap analysis and suggest options for good service outcomes. In the customer experience universe, the customer should be allowed to do the talking. The agent does the listening, edits out the noise (as in customer vexation and irritation) and presents a viable option. If a candidate talks too much, this becomes a pause moment for me and I throw questions that test his or her listening ability. Of course, not talking enough is a worse sin.
Candidates who demonstrate that they are self-motivated and self-managing catch my attention. This hints at the ability to perform without the need for close supervision. When individuals can complete their tasks to time, to quality standards and to performance expectations, everyone wins. Well, everyone should win. The individual, the team and mostly, the customer. Self-managing service employees tend to be focussed and disciplined when it comes to completing tasks. So my questioning leans in to having candidates highlight situations where they have worked on projects or teams and how they balanced working independently, with delivering value as a team member.
Candidates who demonstrate that they are self-motivated and self-managing catch my attention. This hints at the ability to perform without the need for close supervision.
Customer experience situations can change at a moment’s notice. For example, a customer can go from being pleasant to angry, raging and demanding in the blink of an eye. Customer contact staff in this line of fire, either face to face, on the telephone or online, need to be able to adjust on a pinhead. Adaptability is a key attribute.
During interviews, I like to discover how candidates react to changing situations at a moment’s notice. Their responses tell a lot about their ability to remain calm under pressure and to reduce the temperature in heated circumstances, whilst landing outcomes that are palatable. In this line of questioning, I am not looking for award-winning responses, but for candidates’ ability to maintain a sense of command over the situation. If they can hold their ground whilst under fire, chances are that they will not bolt when customers and highly-charged service situations start to overheat.
If they can hold their ground whilst under fire, chances are that they will not bolt when customers and highly-charged service situations start to overheat.
Many years ago, I was hired as the Training Manager for an organization, placing someone who had thirty years of service as my direct report. She was not a happy camper, since she believed that she was entitled to my position. She had tenure, but lacked expertise. So, for three years, I said “Good morning” as I passed her desk on my way to mine. She never answered and I continued to say good morning, despite the silence. During year three, she retired and I was responsible for organizing her retirement function. It was really well organized, because that’s what she deserved, after thirty three years of service. My point?
Another attribute that I look for in a candidate, is his or her ability to uphold personal standards that are high quality, even when those standards are at odds with those of other individuals.
When others are doing their best to have us capitulate, we must be strong enough to stand alone.