Damage Control: CSR Hiring Mistakes

problem csrMonica L. Jenks advises how to avoid common interview mistakes when hiring CSRs.

How did it happen? You hired what you thought was the perfect associate (let’s call her Rebecca) for your contact center.

Rebecca’s resume and credentials were impressive. She graduated from a renowned college and was enrolled part time in graduate school.

She arrived early, looked sharp and professional, and the interview was engaging and energetic. Rebecca was offered the job and accepted. Within one day of her employment, you realized your mistake.

Rebecca’s use of grammar and her writing skills fall significantly short of your expectations. How did you miss it? What, if anything, can you do about it?

Rest assured this is a common error made by many. It is easy to be influenced by what you see on paper and many flaws can be missed in a face-to-face interview. Obviously, the problem is that a contact center associate must represent the company and the brand in the most positive, pleasant, and professional manner possible. Poor spelling, vocal tone and grammar can destroy an associate’s credibility and, even worse; negatively impact the image of your company to your customers.

Before the Face to Face Interview

The first two interviews for any potential candidate should be conducted by phone by two different interviewers. In a phone interview, the objective is to listen carefully to the candidate’s vocal tone and word choices. Does she or he have a mastery of the English language? Does the candidate speak too softly or too loudly?

If English is not his or her first language, does the accent present a barrier to effective communication? Is proper grammar being used? How much slang, colloquialisms, and/or unprofessional language “creeps” in?

If the first interviews are conducted face-to-face, you could easily be impressed (or, conversely, not at all impressed) by the appearance of the person sitting before you. A pleasant expression, well dressed and attractive person can cause the most seasoned interviewers to completely overlook the candidate’s language strengths and opportunities.

Include a Written Exercise in the Interview Process

A grammar and writing test should be conducted early on in the interview process. If the job involves email or letter responses, this is particularly important. I compiled my personal “Top 12 List of Spelling Errors” that will help you identify common errors that affect credibility. These are also ones that spell check will miss. Words to look for include:

1. By (preposition) versus buy (purchase) versus bye (farewell or a competitor advancing)

2. Sight (see) versus site (place) versus cite (quote)

3. Though/thought/through/thorough (We know the differences but these are three words that writers tend not to notice are being misused.)

4. Few (number) versus less (amount or quantity)

5. They’re (contraction for they are) versus their (possessive); versus there (place)

6. Who’s (a contraction for who is) versus whose (possessive)

7. You’re (a contraction for you are) versus your (possessive)

8. Lose (not win) versus loose (not tight)

9. Too (also) versus To (toward, direction) versus two (number)

10. Its (never an apostrophe for possessive) versus it’s (contraction for it is)

11. Then (used for time) versus than (used for comparison).

12. Assure (make confident) versus ensure (make happen) versus insure (issue policy)

Are These Problems Changeable or Trainable?

This is all good to know before you hire Rebecca. But what if you discover problem after you hired her? Use great care and caution please. When you hired Rebecca, you hired a behavior(s) or trait(s) she has probably had her entire life and it will be very difficult for her to change. Are you stuck? Perhaps not. Before you start any plan of action, you need to learn the answers to the following three questions.

1. Is Rebecca Aware of the Problem? Tread carefully and be as positive as possible! Let Rebecca see the problem with you and let her know upfront that you will do all you can to help. Go over a poorly written email or letter with her. Discover if she sees the errors before you point them out. Listen to a recorded phone call with her and ask for her input. If she acknowledges there is a problem and is willing to work on improving it, the “battle” is half over.

2. Is the Company Willing to “Go the Extra Mile” to Provide Assistance? Depending on the degree of learning needed, Rebecca may need specialized training often only available outside the company offerings. Perhaps a college level class, use of a tutor, English as a Second Language course, or other special class is in order. If her language usage is not a huge obstacle, Rebecca could benefit from working one on one with a trainer and then coached by a supervisor.

3. Are You and the Company Prepared for the Time Needed for Change? Be prepared for this learning to take time and effort as well as ongoing support. It is important to understand adults do not change behavior easily or quickly! Research shows that, even with support, it can take up to a month of concentrated effort for an adult to change a behavior. (Children, of course, are quite the opposite. They can take an idea and run with it immediately.) Also note that even after a month, it is not uncommon for an adult to “slip back into old habits”. Therefore, the continued support and coaching by management is absolutely critical to Rebecca’s long term success.

I hope this helps you either before your next candidate interview or after you’ve already hired an employee with a challenge to overcome!

About the Author

Monica L. JenksMonica L. Jenks is the Principal and Owner of Great Connections, a boutique style training and consulting company dedicated to helping organizations “raise the bar of customer care excellence”. Monica has personally assisted over 130 clients in the U.S., U.K, Europe, Australia, and Africa. She has been requested as a conference speaker, quoted in numerous newspapers, and has written many articles on customer care topics.

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