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3 Essential Traits Your Next Client Service Professional Must Have

job-interview.jpgIn a recent roundtable, business owners and operations managers made a list of the top three attributes they want in a client service professional. Surprisingly, few of the participants had a way to assess those qualities. So, how can you tell if your candidate hits all the high notes?

1. They are Detail-Oriented

Besides using hiring assessments like Kolbe A (which helps to assess the how high up on the “follow-through” scale a given candidate is), there are other concrete ways to get at the detail-oriented attribute. For example, did they send you a Word document of their resume instead of a PDF? If so, screen them out. While that may seem harsh, if you only plan to hire A+ candidates, you need to have objective obstacles to knock out any but the best as early as possible in your interview process without a lot of time commitment on your end. For candidates who make it all the way through your screening process to a live interview, put them into a real world situation that has a time constraint, without the ability to get any help.

For example, give your client service candidate a handwritten list of 20 budget items. Ask them to type it up in 20 minutes, and make it look good enough to present to a client. If they ask you if they should use Excel or Powerpoint, etc., tell them the tool choice is theirs. If they ask whether they should calculate totals or format the budget in any way, tell them they have 20 minutes and to do whatever they can to make it look presentable to a client in a meeting. 

Once you’ve returned after the 20 minute time lapse, if they have not categorized or tallied the budget by this time, ask them to take another 15 minutes to do that.

As part of your assessment, besides checking to ensure they got all the items with correct spelling and amounts (attention to detail), you are also checking to see

  1. if they chose the best tool for the job, and
  2. whether they produce quality client work independently.

While it’s up to you to come up with your own assessment to measure candidates’ attention to detail, remember that A+ client service team members must be able to produce work with a high degree of detail and accuracy with minimal oversight and checking. Because you also want tech savvy employees, ensure that whatever real world scenario you come up with to use for an assessment involves the use of software instead of being just interview questions.

2. They are Clear Communicators

Another top requirement from roundtable participants was for client service team members to be clear communicators. You’ll have fun coming up with ways to assess this. Here are some simple ideas.

Ask them to write a short essay for the final step in the interview process. It should be something non-issue oriented. (I would not ask them to write a paragraph about something they are passionate about – that could get you into HR trouble!)

A more HR-friendly topic might be to write about “my three key take-aways from my interview with your firm.”  An A+ client service member should be as inquisitive about your firm as you are about them and should be able to demonstrate both great listening skills from their interview and fact finding skills from checking out your website before the interview.

Alternatively, you could provide a mock email from an advisor with instructions to a client service team member asking them to write up a meeting debrief to the client that includes

  1. a meeting summary, and
  2. next actions from the typed up advisor’s meeting notes you provide from a mock client.

The point is, whatever writing assignment you come up with, you are looking for the candidate to provide some type of summary to determine whether they write in a clear and concise communication style. Whatever assessments you create, give the same assessment to all the candidates to ensure the most objective evaluation among them.

3. They Improve Processes

Another attribute of an A+ client service team member from our roundtable is that they

  1. identify patterns and address them, and
  2. enjoy, and are skilled at, making processes better.

So, what would be a creative way of assessing this? Top performing employees not only do the work, but most importantly, are responsible for how the work gets done.  You want to ensure your newest hire is able to make substantial process overhauls.

There are lots of ways to get at this. Some conversation starters are:

  • What is the least tech savvy thing you do at your current firm? What makes it that way? (Basically, is this a problem they could, but have not chosen to address)?
  • Tell me about a process that drives you absolutely nuts – something that has you thinking – “Why do we do it this way?” Or, describe a process that was like that, that you helped to change.
  • Tell me about a reoccurring problem you’ve seen and how you’ve gone about addressing it?
  • What is one thing at your current firm, that if you had the ability to change it, you would?

Or, you could simply describe a real process problem that your firm worked on.  Describe the scenario and the resulting pain points. Then ask the candidate:

  1. What are the top questions that come to mind to help the team address this problem?
  2. What are a couple of strategies you might consider to help us solve the problem?

Simply asking interview questions doesn’t always lead to great outcomes. Especially for a client-facing professional, you want to see evidence of their past successes and ensure they are more than a 'good fit.' It's worth it to go the extra mile to see evidence that they are detail-oriented, clear communications, and love process improvement.

Are you getting ready to hire a client service professional this year? Get some other gret insights in our hiring blueprint! Download it below.

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Jo Day

Jo Day

Jo loves learning about interesting problems and how people are solving them. Jo is well known for connecting people and ideas and is a great catalyst (moo!) to change. Where some people see the world through rose colored glasses, Jo sees the world through processes. When Jo isn't hanging out with her family, Jo's favorite hobbies are being anywhere outdoors and coming up with new business ideas – just for fun!