It’s tough to hire someone good for any role if you don’t clearly define the skill sets needed for success. When hiring customer service agents, you’re probably aware of a few skills that are important for success. But evaluating that upfront in the recruitment process can be difficult. On top of that, when you need a new customer service agent, you typically need them quickly. So hiring speed matters.

Hiring customer service agents is not easy. But if you know these specific critical skills that determine success and have a simple but effective way to test for those skills during recruitment, it can make hiring agents much easier.

At HelpFlow, we provide 24/7 Live Chat and Customer Service Teams for over 100 e-commerce stores. We’ve been in business for over five years and have hired hundreds of customer service agents. We have built an insanely robust hiring process that consistently produces great quality agents.

In this post, we’ll walk through the three most important customer service skills and how to screen for them easily in the recruitment process.

Let’s get into it.

Being Detail-Oriented / Active Listening

As a customer, one of the most frustrating things that can happen with customer service agents is to feel like you are not being heard or understood. Spending the first few minutes of a customer service interaction repeatedly trying to explain the situation to the agent and the resolution needed always start things off on a negative foot. You can read this article and understand how companies are enhancing their customer service experience.

While some of the problems can be customers that don’t communicate enough, oftentimes, junior agents don’t have strong enough listening abilities or aren’t detail-oriented enough. These are things that become apparent over time when managing a team of customer service agents, but it is possible to screen for the skills upfront.

For example, you can bury an instruction in your job posting with “start your application with ‘yes, I read everything.” If someone doesn’t submit their application starting with that, you can assume they’re not detail-oriented. If they miss a detail like this during a job application, what other information are they going to miss when the stakes for them are lower. 

In addition to that simple screening method, try this to screen listening abilities. Please explain in the job post what’s most important to success in the role, and then later in the application, ask them what they think will be most influential to them doing well in the job. It’s basically the same topic, so they should provide an answer somewhat in line with what you said. If they don’t, that might mean that they aren’t really paying attention or listening to what you shared in the job posting. 

Problem Solving Ability

 Customer service is really about problem-solving and helping customers overcome issues. If an agent does not have good problem-solving abilities, your customers will be left unhappy, and you will be left frustrated hand-holding them through simple situations. 

The specific problems agents solve for customers will vary depending on your business, but you can test their ability to problem solve by adding a few steps to the application process. 


First, ask them to submit an online video link to one of the answers on your application, but don’t tell them which tool to use. There are plenty of ways to record a video and share it online, so if they’re not able to figure out how to do that, they may not be skilled enough for problem-solving or technical enough for a customer service role.

Another option is to ask them to send a copy of their application to another member of your team, with you providing the first name, last name, and title but not the email address. Then see if they can successfully complete that by finding them on LinkedIn, contacting your company to ask for the contact information, or some other method. If they come back to you and say you didn’t provide the email address, ignore them and see what they do. If they only present YOU with the problem, then they probably don’t have a problem-solving mindset. 

Composure Under Pressure

Customer service is a high-pressure job. Agents need to be able to listen and catch details while problem-solving under pressure. All while not breaking down and being rude to a customer because they are overwhelmed or frustrated.

This is something that’s a bit tough to test, but the below scenario can work well later in a job interview process (i.e. well past the application phase). 

On a phone call, set up a mock scenario for them to search your website for information while you watch them on your screen. Tell them that you’re going to ask them to find something, while also asking them a few other questions along the way.

Once they start looking for the information, ask them relatively simple questions about their job history while they are looking for the info. An agent that can be cool under pressure will be able to continue progress on what they’re looking for while answering relatively simple questions nicely. If they start to sound frustrated, confused, or annoyed, it can be a sign that they don’t know how to handle pressure (or relieve pressure by nicely asking, “give me just a second while I look this up”).


What’s Next?

As you start to hire additional customer service agents for your business, make sure that they have the skill sets so they represent your brand well. You can avoid misfires by integrating these screening techniques or other similar techniques into your hiring process. 

Having a turnkey customer service team working alongside you would be helpful as you scale your business. So reach out to us today. We provide 24/7 live chat and customer service teams to 100+ stores and can help you scale seamlessly and profitably. Even if we don’t end up working together, the customer service audit process we can take you through will spark a lot of ideas for you since we’ve worked with so many stores.

Jon Tucker


Jon Tucker is CEO of HelpFlow, a provider of 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for 100+ eCommerce stores. Launched in 2015, their team of agents has produced nearly $100M in chat revenue for a wide range of stores using a conversion-focused approach to live chat.


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