5 questions to ask when interviewing customer-facing staff

January 4, 2018

There’s one immutable truth every business must embrace: customers are lifeblood. As difficult as they can be to serve at times, their happiness and satisfaction are crucial to the long-term success of your business. That’s why it’s so important for you to equip your business with staff that are adept at interacting with and, ultimately, serving the customers. With that in mind, this post explores some best practices for HR searches when hiring a customer-facing position.

Since nearly every business has to face customers at some point (even online stores), this can really apply to any and all small business merchants. This could include sales staff at any retail outlet, but it could also include massage therapists, tutors, hair stylists, customer service agents, hosts/hostesses, or restaurant servers.

We’ve come up with 5 questions you need to ask as you try to identify potential customer-facing employees. If they’re able to answer these questions in the affirmative, it’s a good sign they possess these must-have attributes. It also ensures hiring them will let your sales force connect with customers in relevant ways as they conduct day-to-day business.

1. How easy is it for you to put yourself in a customer’s shoes and see a problem from multiple perspectives?

The key attribute you’re looking for here is empathy. The more flexible the employee is in understanding a customer’s needs, the easier it will be to help them find solutions. At the same time, customer-facing staff need skill in delivering bad news gracefully. Can your job candidate recount an anecdote (or role-play a theoretical) in which the news they had to share with a customer wasn’t ideal? How did they keep the interaction constructive and the customer as happy as possible?

2. How long is your fuse when dealing with a customer in a less-than-ideal situation?

Patience is crucial. You’re trying to determine if the employee is short-tempered and whether they are used to everything moving quickly and in an orderly manner. These are two very different things, but present challenges for the impatient employee. Customers may think in a non-linear fashion, may not articulate their needs, or may not know the products before coming into a particular store or place of service. A good customer-facing employee exercises patience while trying to help.

3. Have you been a client of our store in the past?

This question deals with having a complementary aesthetic. It goes without saying that it’s important to find customer-facing employees who are polite to customers. But following that train of thought, it’s even more crucial that your employees reflect the aesthetic and energy of your business. So, for example, if you run a yoga studio, having customer-facing employees who stay calm and cool reinforces your brand. And if you’re running a party or events company, high-energy employees instill confidence that the products will be fun and engaging. An ideal potential candidate would be someone who might have been a former customer. Their sincere appreciation for your product or services will be evident in their communications.

4. How good are you at identifying customer needs and solving their problems on your own?

This is all about initiative—a mandatory trait for providing top notch customer service. To be sure, the best customer-service employees can solve problems for customers in need with creative ideas that stay within the bounds of proper business practice. Instead of just following a script, ideal employees will stay within the bounds you’ve laid out for them, but provide customized service to help your customers have the experience they want.

5. How comfortable are you working as part of a larger team?

Every new employee needs to be able to function as a team player. Even though the primary function of the employee may be customer-facing, you need to verify that they can coexist and collaborate with your other employees. Make sure that they’ll support other members of the team, and adapt as practices/policies of a small business evolve.

These five questions should serve as a good gauge of who would best serve your company’s interests in customer-facing roles. But beyond that, we also wanted to give you insight into a valuable tool you have at your fingertips that can elevate your customer service game to another level.

Feedback is free with your Clover POS. It lets you monitor sentiment about customer service directly through the app. You can also use the feedback collected as a teaching tool to reinforce good behavior and discourage behavior that does not align with your brand. It’s a game changer for businesses because it enables you to get ahead of any negative feedback or reviews before they make their way to review sites like Yelp.

Armed with these questions and this app, you should be well equipped to get your staff, and your business, perfectly positioned to deliver the best possible customer experiences.

[image: Fishmonger, Vanha kauppahalli by La Citta Vita on flickr]

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