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How to Identify and Train Stellar CSRs

How to identify beneficial attributes and what to expect when hiring CSRs.

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Tim Paap undoubtedly believes that at the core of every successful business and team dynamic is exceptional custo­­mer service.

“A customer service representative (CSR) would bring to your business an upbeat, positive personality, and it would get the customer off on the right foot,” Paap, owner of Paap Auto Body in Mattoon, Ill., says.

As for what first incentivized him to open his shop in 2001, customer service and the quality of repairs top the list.

Not only does he ensure that all representatives tend to every detail and need of the customer, but Paap says that they must do so while maintaining empathy, as well.

Although the caliber of skill a representative provides drives how relationship building will transpire over that two- to three-week period, Paap says, small shops require a bit more give and take, as they can’t typically afford full-time representatives.

Therefore, being a representative who can cater directly to both the customer and shop goes a long way. Having a more diverse skill set can not only improve customer experience but strengthen one’s resume as well.

So, finding individuals who have the grit it takes to make a good CSR is critical.

How can you ensure the right fit?

Recognizing inimitable representatives who ensure positive exchanges with customers can often be easier said than done.

Hiring individuals who have a passion for helping others make the best representatives, according to Michelle Marrow, the manager of operations at Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Knowledge Center.

Both Marrow and Paap encourage the use of personality tests to aid in the process to ensure that every hired representative’s personality matches that of the shop’s ideal candidate.

However, Marrow feels that the tests should be accompanied by asking specific questions when hiring potential CSRs.

“I think that using a personality test is a good guide, but you really have to speak to someone and when you’re interviewing them, you have to ask those situational questions,” Marrow says.

Deciphering what, specifically, it is about customer service that the potential representative really appreciates is key in determining what will motivate them as an employee.

“It can’t just be about pay, it can’t be about recognition; it has to be truly a passion that you have to want to help individuals,” Marrow says. “So, yes, I do believe you can use the personality test as a gauge, but it should not be your sole decision-making tool.”

What are their potential beneficial attributes?

While some qualities are picked up or learned, others, such as the required hard and soft skills, can’t always be taught.

The No. 1 characteristic Paap looks for when evaluating a candidate for an ideal fit is the ability to multitask and work well under pressure.

Distinctive qualities such as these are vital to have as a representative.

However, not all prospective applicants are fit to be CSRs, according to Paap.

“Sometimes they just don’t have it. Sometimes they’re just really good at customer service, and they just don’t have the thought process or the mentality of how to write a good estimate or write a good sheet to make sure the shop is profitable,” Paap says.

Instead, their contribution is making the shop gainful just by being a good representative.

“A CSR that’s bubbly, friendly, and can take care of the customer probably cannot write a good estimate,” Paap says.

The same can be said regarding individuals who can write good estimates but don’t possess the people skills deemed necessary to be a good representative.

This is where things get tricky.

Take Paap Auto Body, for instance. The shop has had a few outstanding CSRs, according to Paap. However, “the only downside to that is sometimes there’s no room for growth with them.” At small, locally owned shops such as his, these CSRs can only be paid so much before needing to learn new skills, such as how to write estimates, to move up the ladder.

What can they expect?

“From standing up and greeting a customer to answering the phone in a courteous manner and being empathetic and sympathetic,” Paap says that a well-trained CSR’s main priority should be to tend to a customer’s every need and expectation.

Being trustworthy, flexible, and engaging are just a few of the attributes required of a representative.

“You could get two customers who have the exact same issue, but you have to handle them differently,” Marrow says.

Representatives that can be flexible in multiple areas and adapt to every customer they’re interacting with are the most successful.

Agility and forming relationships built on trust and engagement with customers ensure positive experiences.

Why do they matter?

Without CSRs, a key component within the collision repair process would be lost. Communication and security are just two of the many important attributes that make up the industry.

“They are as valuable as the detailer because they are the first person that the customer sees and contacts, just like the detailer is the last step of the car being done and out the door,” Paap says.

Similarly, stressing the importance of customer service’s major role within human resources, Marrow believes that representatives must be approachable, warm, and easily teachable. She also says that they must listen, build trust, and establish the engagement that’s needed for effective communication.

“Customer service is something that is needed across all areas and all industries,” Marrow says.

These professionals are also on the front line, so good representation is essential.

“When a person calls into an organization, that person, that professional, is the company to that customer at that moment,” Marrow says. “So, if that customer is having a bad day, if that customer is confused about a particular product or service, that customer service professional has the opportunity to support the brand of the organization.”

After each call ends, Marrow says it’s important to remember that a customer will either love, recommend, and network for that company or give it a bad review because the representative didn’t represent it well.


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