Measure an Applicant’s Hard and Soft Skills to Hire Only the Best Employees

According to The State of Customer Experience survey conducted by Forrester, 90% of companies agree that customer service is important and 80% of those companies want to use customer service as a way to distinguish themselves from their competitors.

However, the key word here is “want.” Businesses want to stand out among their competitors simply by offering unbeatable customer service. And if done correctly, outstanding customer service can persuade customers to choose your business over competitors. In fact, according to the Harris Interactive Customer Experience Impact Report of 2010, 85% of customers will pay more to a company that provides superior customer service.

So, how exactly can you hire customer service representatives that will provide only the best customer service? Well, as you are reading resumes, you should be reviewing the applicant’s hard skills. Equally important, as you are conducting the interview, you should be noting the applicant’s soft skills.

Hard skills are defined as the ability to carry out the requirements of a job. Hard skills are tangible, easily taught and learned, measurable, and visible. Some examples of hard skills include:

  • Typing/ Computer skills
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Ability to use certain software
  • Ability to operate certain machinery or equipment
  • Hands on experience
  • Licenses or certifications
  • Language proficiencies

soft job skills are crucial after a prospect has been qualified for hard skillsHard skills are typically highlighted on a resume and may be a good indicator of the applicant’s ability to perform the essential job functions. If the applicant possesses the necessary hard skills to serve as a member of your customer service team, it is time to bring them in for an interview. During the interview, it is essential that you note their soft skills, which will be one of the most important factors in customer satisfaction.

Soft skills are typically one’s ability to engage and interact with others. Soft skills are more broadly applicable and excellent soft skills can land a person a job and help them maintain it.

Although there are hundreds of soft skills, some examples include:

  • Motivation
  • Attitude
  • Optimism
  • Responsibility
  • Sense of humor
  • Time-management skills
  • Cooperation
  • Honesty
  • Work ethic
  • Flexibility
  • Courtesy
  • Respect

Soft skills are related to communication, listening, understanding, and etiquette. In the customer service field, the hard skills are necessary to actually perform the job. However, the soft skills are essential to customer satisfaction.

So, how are soft skills used? While every situation requires the above listed soft skills, typically there are three situations that require very specific soft skills:

Face to Face

In customer service situations where contact is typically face to face, some soft skills that are necessary include eye contact, body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions.

Telephone

In a majority of customer service situations, contact is over the telephone. Soft skills that are necessary include close attention and listening, repeating customer complaints or situations to ensure understanding, providing guidance for the customer, providing resolution, and following up.

Online

Becoming increasingly popular, customer service representatives may find themselves answering e-mails, instant message chats, or social network posts. Soft skills that are necessary online include proper grammar and spelling, proper tone of the message, professionalism, and respect.

Because you are already aware of the applicant’s hard skills based on their resume, focus on measuring their soft skills during the interview. Some questions that may give you a better idea of their soft skills include:

  • Describe your experience with a teamwork project and any issues you may have had.
  • Give me an example of a problem you were faced with and how you solved it.
  • Explain how you have handled an upset customer before.
  • Describe how you multitask and handle numerous responsibilities.

Questions should be open ended and used to gauge interpersonal skills, oral communications, teamwork, and problem solving. As the applicant describes the situation and their solution, you will be able to measure their soft skills. For example, if they told the upset customer to take their business elsewhere, they might not be the person for your company. However, if they acknowledged an error, apologized, and offered possible resolutions, they have proven to you that they are dedicated to providing superior customer service.

In order to provide superior customer service, you must employ only the best customer service representatives. Although their hard skills qualify them for the job responsibilities, their soft skills prove their dedication to deliver the exceptional customer service that you require.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+

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