Since the start of COVID-19, there has been a significant uptick in the demand for customer service specialists — especially those who have the capacity to work remote. Healthcare suppliers, mortgage lenders, nonprofits and government agencies are just some of the industries who have an increased demand for these roles.
As things stand, this is an ongoing trend. The Salary Guide from Robert Half finds that call center staff and customer service specialists are among the hottest jobs in administrative and customer support. To thrive in this competitive business landscape, companies need to hire customer service specialists who meet or exceed industry standards.
But that doesn’t mean these professionals are easy to hire.
Another challenge is that many companies still require team members to work from home. You won’t be able to meet candidates in the office for in-person interviews, and many will be expected to offer remote customer service from day one.
Here’s an overview of several common customer service roles, interview questions to ask, and tips to streamline the process of hiring remote employees.
Customer service specialist responsibilities
The most critical step in hiring customer service specialists is creating or updating your job descriptions to ensure they contain the key details of the respective roles. Make certain they accurately reflect the kind of employees you want most. If you base your job postings on these descriptions, you’ll increase your chances of attracting skilled candidates.
Every company is different, but here are four customer service positions and their typical job duties:
1. Customer service specialist
- Performs data entry
- Receives and places telephone calls (or if online, receives or offers chat communications)
- Handles questions, provides information, troubleshoots and resolves issues
2. Senior customer service specialist
- Handles the responsibilities of a customer service specialist
- Manages database records
- Acts as a resource for customer service escalations to a problem
- Provides status reports of issues and resolutions
- May train and/or supervise employees
3. Call centre specialist
- For inbound call centres, responds to customer inquiries, processes orders and routes calls to appropriate departments
- For outbound call centres, calls on businesses and consumers — with or without an existing account — to offer products and services, obtains customer information and produces leads
- Manages a high volume of calls
4. Senior call centre specialist
- Along with the duties of a call centre specialist, this position must also have a deeper knowledge of accounts, products and services, and more work experience
- Proactively communicates with prospective customers and clients
- Upsells to existing accounts
- May provide training and/or management of a call centre specialists
Job skills required
Customer service specialists should have a solid understanding of their company’s products and services so they can address any questions about them. They should also be savvy at data entry, and people skills are crucial in this role. Candidates should be great communicators and handle customer questions and concerns with a professional demeanour. If there’s a chance applicants will start the job remotely but move to an office in the future, you also need to assess if they are open to this option.
Questions to ask when hiring customer service specialists
In the wake of the pandemic, many job interviews are now conducted remotely. Because most customer service and call centre roles are already remote by nature, interviewing candidates on the phone or through video are ideal ways to assess their communication abilities and professionalism, key aspects of the job.
Here are a list of attributes to consider during the interview:
- How is the candidate's demeanour during the interview?
- Are they polite, and do they listen closely to your questions and try to answer them fully?
- Do they ask additional questions of their own if they need more clarity?
In addition to assessing their communication skills and professionalism, here are a few questions to ask customer service specialist candidates, along with questions to ask yourself after they’ve responded:
- Can you tell me about a time when you’ve experienced great customer service? Does the candidate emphasize a quick resolution to a problem or warmth and empathy? Because everyone has a different idea of what constitutes good service, asking this question will help you determine if this candidate is a fit for your company’s approach to the job.
- How have you dealt with frustrated callers? Dissatisfied callers are a major aspect of the job, so it’s important to find out how the candidate approaches them. How would they diffuse the situation? What’s the most important thing to do when you first get a call from someone who is upset?
- What do you know about our product or service? Does their reply indicate they have researched your firm to prepare for the interview? While a candidate doesn’t have to be an expert on your products or services, they should have a solid understanding of them.
Customer service specialist salary ranges
The right compensation package can help you attract talent for various customer service roles. You can get the latest salaries and trends shaping the hiring market from Robert Half’s Salary Guide.
With this resource, you can also localize your insights and get starting salaries for different job titles and experience levels.
How Robert Half can help you
If you need help finding the best talent to serve customers, Robert Half has you covered. We make it easy to hire customer service specialists who can work on-site, remotely or a combination of the two. Our highly skilled professionals can help you keep your organization moving forward and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.
Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions firm, and we offer:
- The largest database of candidates in the market — We have skilled administrative and customer support talent ready to start working ASAP.
- Seamless setup for any remote assignment — We can set up remote workers with a secure virtual workspace quickly and easily. If your firm allows VPN access, candidates can connect to your system using a secure device provided by Robert Half.
- Hiring flexibility — Whatever type of worker you need — contract, permanent or project-based — we can help move the process along. And fast. Our talent solutions professionals are well-versed in placing skilled candidates in remote, on-site and hybrid positions. And whether you need one customer service specialist for one week or a team of 100 for an extended period, we can help.
By hiring skilled customer service specialists, your company can continue to offer exceptional service and meet and exceed customer demands.