Asking the Right Questions: 5 Questions to Use in Your Next Call Center Interview
As a hiring manager, there’s a lot riding on your ability to have a productive interview and find the right agents and supervisors for your call center. If taken too lightly, interviews can end up being a formality that wastes time and doesn’t help you find the right person for the job (or the person who’ll stick around).
When you don’t come to your interviews prepared with at least a few common questions, you can easily set the wrong expectations for your future hire. Maybe you downplay the role, or maybe you don’t explain the culture and find out too late that the candidate wasn’t a fit. This move can cost your company at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings.
I don’t mean to spook you. In fact, I plan to help out! There’s a ton of information on how to prepare for and hold new-hire interviews. But I’m going to focus on the specific questions to ask. You get to the interview — now what? How do you test the skill sets of your prospective hires to see if they can handle the job?
It’s important to test your candidates’ technical skills, but you also need to include questions that test their soft skills. These core skills separate your agents from robots. Soft skills make your agents human and play a huge role in delivering quality customer service.
Let’s walk through 5 questions to ask in an interview to evaluate the skills of your potential hire.
5 Common Interview Questions
1. What does customer service mean to you?
This question gets at the driving beliefs and principles your candidate has about the role of customer service. Your organization likely has a pretty clear philosophy surrounding customer service and what quality CX looks like at your company. But, what does your candidate think?
A quality customer service rep should be able to explain why customer service matters and offer examples of what good and bad service looks like. Along with this question, prompt agents to explain how they’d contribute to your company’s customer experience mission.
2. Have you ever received negative feedback from a customer? What did you do with that feedback?
This question gives your candidate a chance to show humility and demonstrate how they respond to criticism. It’s likely that every agent will get constructive or negative feedback from a customer, from a peer, or from you at some point. And, how they react to that feedback is important.
If they’re defensive or choose not to deflect instead of reflect, it says they may be resistant to coaching conversations. You want agents who aren’t afraid to handle some backlash and who are willing to grow and develop on the job. This interview question gives them an opportunity to share a specific example of how they put feedback to work and how it made them better in their role.
3. How would you handle a customer question that you didn’t know the answer to?
Your goal as a manager is to make sure your contact center agents have all the tools they need to succeed in their job. They spend most of their day problem solving and answering customer questions and should have all the tools, training, and coaching to competently answer those questions. But…sometimes a question arises that’s brand new.
Contact center agents often need to think on the fly. They need to know how to adapt and tackle all kinds of problems. It’s impossible to have a preset answer to every question customers bring to your team. If your agents don’t know how to respond in moments of uncertainty, they can lose a customer’s trust and cause an irreparable mess.
Have your candidate walk through what they’d do when they don’t know an answer to a question.
- What kinds of resources would they look for?
- Would they turn to a teammate and collaborate?
- Would they feel comfortable asking you for help?
- How would they find the answer for the customer while also keeping an eye on efficiency?
A solid answer to this prompt will help you sense whether your candidate can tackle the unknown without getting dragged under.
4. Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult colleague. What did you do to resolve the issue?
Teamwork truly makes the dream work. But, when repeated communication breakdowns occur, resentment builds between teammates. Difficulty and tensions between contact center agents can really tank the morale of your team and make day-to-day tasks tiresome.
Hiring the right person isn’t just about finding someone with skills to handle the job. New hires need to fit in with the rest of the team to build positive team chemistry, too. Some conflict in the workplace is inevitable, though, and you want to know how your candidate handles interpersonal conflict.
Ask this question to test how your candidate communicates with difficult people. This question is a double whammy — you get to find out how the candidate relates to their coworkers and you also get a sense for their communication skills.
Communication between coworkers is key, and it’s also an essential skill to relate to customers. Your call center agents have to handle angry customers daily and should be able to demonstrate what steps they take in the face of conflict.
5. What qualities make a good team and a good manager?
Customer service is a team sport. Part of evaluating whether your interviewee is a good fit is seeing how they fit with your entire team – including you and your other contact center leaders. It’s critical to hire someone who works well with others, collaborates, and respects your feedback.
Your entire contact center team gives better service when they work together to solve customer problems. And, managers play a critical role in upskilling agents and giving agents the feedback they need to improve. Learning what candidates want from a team (and from a leader) helps you understand if they’re a fit for your team and your expectations.
Ask them what they expect from leadership and from their peers. What kind of culture are they looking for? Are they used to having regular 1:1 conversations? What do they want coaching to look like? How they answer this question gives you intel on how open the candidate is to feedback and growth on the job. It helps to align expectations from the get-go, so no one’s blindsided after onboarding.