You might be hiring the wrong people for customer support. Here’s why.

I’d rather swim with ravenous great white sharks than call customer support. That’s just how unlikely I am to dial one of those hidden numbers on the footer of a website to talk to a stranger.

And I’m not alone. According to a recent survey, 75% of millennials prefer texting over talking on the phone. If you add that to the fact that 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative, you notice the trend is rising.

This obviously has many implications on how you manage customer support and who you hire for the team.

Because of self service technologies and artificial intelligence tools that improve customer experience, support agents are getting to the issues customers can’t solve on their own. However, despite the decrease in volume of support tickets, the job of a customer service agent doesn’t get any easier.

They are under constant crossfire, facing the rage of angry customers and dealing with the complex problems that machines can’t solve.

This means that the people you hire for your team need to be ready and fully equipped to tackle the challenges of customer support. But, are you hiring the right people? Probably not.

The ideal profile of a customer support agent

Most people think that to be a good customer support agent you need to be a good listener and enjoy solving other people’s problems. In other words, someone who’s empathetic.

Sure, those personality traits are important. However, what this study published on Harvard Business Review found out is that agents who are empathetic, good listeners and who try to understand other people’s problems, are not the best performers.

They reached that conclusion after conducting a global, cross-industry study with 1,440 reps where they determined 7 profiles for customer support agents: Accommodators, Competitors, Controllers, Empathisers, Hard Workers, Innovators, and Rocks.

Almost every manager they spoke to assumed the best pick for their customer support team would be the Empathisers. But, they were completely outperformed by the Controllers who were more efficient and increased customer satisfaction overall.

The Controllers are described as “outspoken, opinionated” and those who “like demonstrating expertise and directing the customer interaction”. But, why are they better at customer support than all the other profiles?

According to Harvard Business Review, “they are driven to deliver fast, easy service and are comfortable exerting their strong personalities in order to demonstrate their expertise”. They take control and guide the customer through the best possible experience, which in this case is getting the problem solved fast.

This is important because Controllers are efficient and able to solve the most complex issues.

“Controllers focus less on asking customers what they’d like to do and more on telling them what they should do—the aim always being to get to the fastest and easiest resolution.”
— Harvard Business Review

And as we’ve seen in recent studies, most consumers are so impatient that they’re only willing to spend up to 10 minutes resolving their issues. So, the people you’re looking for really need to deliver a fast and easy service.

How do you hire them?

It’s not that difficult to find people who fit the Controller profile. However, you need to know exactly how to get them to apply to a customer support role.

Chances are, they never worked in customer service before. So, if you ask in the job description for previous experience in the field you probably won’t get the people you need. Instead, you can figure out if the person you’re trying to hire is good at solving logistical problems. For example, if the person organised a group trip or a sports tournament before, that’s a pretty good indicator because both tasks can turn into logistical nightmares.

Also, understand that the controller is someone who likes to express his or her personality and handle issues on their own, which often means going off script. For this reason, if you make the job opening look like you’re looking for someone good with processes and who can follow the rules, you’re not going to attract the right crowd. Controllers like to be trusted to exercise their own judgement and that’s what makes them so efficient.

This interview guide will help you identify the right people.

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