Little girls are made of sugar and spice; little boys of snips and snails (say what now?), but what are good customer support representatives made of?

If you’ve been in the business awhile, you know that dedicated customer service and support reps are hard to come by.  If your new hire isn’t a “people-person,” you’ll be interviewing again for the position in just a few weeks.  Someone who gets agitated easily will end up screaming into a phone, sending out unhelpful emails, pawning work off on someone else or even worse – not responding to your customers altogether.

So how do you know when you’re interviewing a great rep?  Here’s what we at FuseDesk think the best customer support reps are made of.

Patience – 10%

Patience, patience, patience.  Need we say more?  Toe-tapping, finger-drumming and obsessively checking the clock are all signs that the person you’re interviewing doesn’t have it, and therefore, doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in customer support.

Compassion and Experience – 10%

Ask your customer support candidate for an example of either phenomenal or shoddy customer service.  A great rep will know the difference.  He or she will have interacted with a company or agent that treated them with such disrespect it left a bitter taste they still remember, even after chewing a ton of Orbitz gum – woah, that’s serious.  Or, they’ll have been surprised with an unforgettably positive experience that will serve as their model, driving them to perform customer support magic for your company.

Problem-Solving/Critical Thinking – 30%

A customer support rep’s job isn’t just about keeping customers happy, or the speed at which they can respond to questions.  And it’s definitely far from easy.  Ask your interviewees what they would do when faced with an issue they could not solve using prior knowledge.  If they can’t come up with a response, this is probably not someone you want on your team.  Whether it’s asking a higher-up for help, googling the issue or simply testing by trial & error, a superlative candidate for your customer support department will have a plan of action.

Excellent Communication Skills – 50%

Verbal – 10%

Your customers likely won’t ever come face to face with your customer support reps, but you’ll know something’s off immediately with your interviewee if they can’t look you in the eye or if their answers to questions are simple yes’s and no’s.  Someone who speaks in a professional yet casual tone will also be able to write in that same voice, versus someone who replies with “Yep,” “right on,” “uh-huh,” etc.

Written – 40%

Most companies have online help desks these days, so make sure the person you hire can spell, y’know the old-fashioned way…correctly.  Capitals, punctuation and spelling are key, and most importantly do not allow “text speak.”  Your customer support reps are, for lack of a better word, representing your company, and the last thing you want customers to think is that a bunch of 13-year-olds are managing your communications.  We highly recommend making candidates perform a brief written skills test, something as simple as a sample email to a customer who is having trouble using your website.

Poor Candidate’s Email (If you’ve got any elderly customers, this will look like Swahili):

  • Im sorry we cant help u rt now but we’ll do R best 2 get back 2 u ASAP!!!!!  Thx!

Iffy Candidate’s Email (an honest mistake and nothing a little spell/grammar check can’t fix):

  • We are doing everything we can at this time to solve the problem for you and will let you no as soon as we find a solution.

Ideal Candidate’s Email (Ahhhhh, the sweet smell of perfection):

  • I share in your frustration over the issue you are experiencing with your our site.  I can assure you that we are working tirelessly to rectify the situation and will advise you as soon as we have a solution.  We appreciate your patience and look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Don’t Stop Believin’

The ideal customer support rep IS out there.  Now that you know what comprises the perfect new employee for your company, get out there and hire yourself the best darn customer support representative you can!