How to Hire Great Customer Service Talent: Lessons from Marcia Torres, Director of Global Talent at PartnerHero

How to Hire Great Customer Service Talent: Lessons from Marcia Torres, Director of Global Talent at PartnerHero

. 5 min read

Marcia Torres, Head of Global Talent Acquisition at PartnerHero, knows a thing or two about recruiting. Though she majored in Food Science and spent the first part of her career as a Brewing Manager at Anheuser Busch, in charge of millions of barrels (and dollars) of beer a day, she soon found that recruiting, not brewing, was where she could make the biggest impact at the company. Here are three customer service hiring lessons she’s learned along the way.

Lesson #1: Don’t advertise a different job than the one you are hiring for (unless you want to deal with high turnover)

She learned this lesson that hard way in her first job at Anheuser Busch: the person in charge of recruiting at her brewery put out flashy marketing materials that made it seem really glamorous to work at a brewery and, while there were certainly some glamorous moments, that strategy brought in mostly misaligned new hires who quickly quit, leaving shift after shift unfilled. As a Brewing Manager, Marcia found herself covering these shifts herself. To fix the problem, Marcia joined the recruiting team, first unofficially, to explain to candidates the demands of the job. When she saw the impact of her work she decided to make the full switch over to recruiting.

And that is how Marcia learned, through experience, a fundamental truth about hiring: always make sure you are marketing the job that you are hiring for, not a job that you think someone will like but that doesn’t actually exist. Transparency is critical. This is especially important when hiring for Customer Support: the demands of the job can be challenging so it is especially important to be transparent in the hiring process or you risk very quickly losing the hires you worked so hard to bring in.

"Always make sure you are marketing the job that you are hiring for, not a job that you think someone will like but that doesn’t actually exist."

The best way to be transparent about what a job will actually be like is to have clear job descriptions, to have screening calls with recruiters who are able to share details about the role, and to provide candidates real on-the-job case studies as part of the interview process. At PartnerHero, we have candidates take real tickets from the company they might work for to see how they would handle the customer issue. We know they likely won’t give the customer the “right” answer but it does two important things. First, PartnerHero gets a sense of the candidates natural empathy and problem solving skills and, just as important, the candidate gets a taste of what the day in and day out of their role will look like.

After seventeen years at AB InBev, Marcia moved on to her next role and to her next big lesson about hiring.

Lesson #2: Employer branding is everything

In a big shift to a new industry, Marcia’s next role was as a Talent Acquisition Manager with Newport News Shipbuilding, designer, builder and refueler of nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines. Being there was like working in a city within a city: it was a 30,000 person organization and had its own clinic, Apprentice school, sports league, fire department and hundreds of different teams that it takes to build ships and submarines. A lot of the work she did focused on hiring engineers who, for their day-to-day, would be working alongside welders, electricians and shipbuilders around the shipyard surveying and analyzing the work being done. The job requires sturdy work pants, steel toed boots and being comfortable being in the outdoor elements. Why then, Marcia wondered, did the recruiting teams show up at job fairs in button down shirts and pressed khakis?  Newport News Shipbuilding has been recognized as veteran friendly employer, yet there was no display highlighting how many veterans were working for them in the lobby. Targeting female engineers and different generations required a new approach around employer branding for the shipyard.

By the end of her time there she got the team to show up at job fairs in a more authentic and relatable way which made it easier to build trust with and hire good candidates. The lesson is about more than just what you wear to a job fair though.  How your company shows up as an employer has a huge impact on the types of candidates you will attract and the odds that they will actually sign your job offer.

"The lesson is about more than just what you wear to a job fair though.  How your company shows up as an employer has a huge impact on the types of candidates you will attract and the odds that they will actually sign your job offer."

Ultimately, a recruiting team is a lot like a marketing team. First you need to really understand your target candidates: what do they care about? What are they looking for in their career? What news do they consume? Where do their friends work? Then you need to design your recruiting strategy to address their interest and needs.

For customer service recruiting a big part of it is showing that you will be a kind, empathetic and a good listener as an employer - after all, you are looking for kind and empathetic people.

At PartnerHero we show candidates how much we care by treating each candidate like a special candidate that we’d really like to get to know and hire which, in many ways, flips the traditional hiring paradigm on its head. We also strive to give each candidate, regardless of whether we hire them or not, valuable feedback about how they did in our process. Many may not get an offer the first time around but we know they might be a great candidate for a future role. By providing feedback we are showing that we care and continue to have interest in them, not only as a candidate, but as a person.

Lesson #3: Empathy is Only Half the Package

Everyone will tell you that empathy is one of the most important qualities to look for when hiring for a customer support role. Marcia has learned in her new role at PartnerHero that two other qualities are make-it-or-break-it for success on the job: problem solving and attention to detail.

Problem solving or “digging one layer deeper” as we like to call it is the candidate’s ability to thoroughly understand the customer issue and then figuring out, sometimes on their own, how to solve it. As any customer support manager knows, macros will only go so far and if you want to provide high quality, brand-forward customer service you will likely need to make at least one if not three or four changes to any given macro to truly address a customer’s need.

"As any customer support manager knows, macros will only go so far. If you want to provide high quality, brand-forward customer service you will likely need to make at least one if not three or four changes to any given macro to truly address a customer’s need."

Attention to detail ensures the candidate will be able to do all the post-ticket steps correctly (like tagging, issuing a refund etc) as well as thoroughly answer the customer’s question.

To test for these qualities we have candidates take a mock ticket that might have two or three separate issues in it to make sure they remember to cover each concern the customer had. We also ask them what other steps they might consider taking to resolve the issue. We aren’t looking for the “right” answer but are watching to make sure they are thorough and a problem solver.

Those are three tips from a recruiting leader with years of hiring experience. What have you learned along the way about hiring for customer service teams?