Hiring and Training a Winning Customer Service Team

This article was contributed by Jeff and Jenna Lieber from TurnKey Product Management, an Amazon consulting company based out of California. With over 12 years of Amazon experience, over 150K products sold, and $10M in revenue made for our clients each year, we are uniquely positioned to help you succeed. Whether you’re just starting out or are an Amazon expert we can help take your business to the next level.

Hiring and Training a Winning Customer Service Team

When building a brand on or off of Amazon, it is important to remember that a business is only as strong as the team that supports it. This point is especially important when we are speaking about customer service personnel. The men and women who make up your customer service department are in direct contact with your customers day in and day out. In the eyes of the customers, they ARE the company.  This is why selecting and training a quality customer service team is essential to the continued health and growth of your business. Also note that this hiring process can be applied to ANY position at your company (advertising, logistics, operations, marketing, etc..). If you want a more detailed step by step Standard Operating Procedure for this process that you can hand off to anyone on your team to hire and train, it is totally free here.

The Hiring Process

It is important to note that while we are focusing on customer service personnel in this article, the basic principles can be applied to any position you wish to fill. While the hiring process can seem intimidating, breaking it down into more manageable sections will help to keep you on track and organized. At TurnKey, we utilize an eight-step process when searching for and hiring personnel.

Getting the Systems in Place

Organization is key when embarking on the hiring process. Before you post an ad or read a resume, it is important to establish a system that works for yourself and your hiring team. For us, this is separated into two main parts. First, we establish a place to store hiring documents. This includes anything from templates to resumes to miscellaneous hiring information. Everything has a place in our hiring system. Second, having a centralized place for the hiring team to assign and keep track of hiring tasks ensures that no candidates slip through the cracks.

Creating the Job Posting

A properly constructed job posting will save you hours of time by filtering out candidates who are not a good fit for your position. In addition to the usual items you would think to include in a job posting (ie. their day-to-day responsibilities, specific qualifications, details like hours and pay rate), it is also a great place to begin weeding out unqualified candidates. Create specific action items that require people to read the posting carefully. This will filter out people who either are mass applying to jobs or are not detail oriented.

Sending the Questionnaire

At this point, you should have a lot of good potential candidates but there are still too many to call. In this step, you’ll review how to further filter your candidates to focus on the ones who will be the best fit. For the candidates that applied to the job correctly, the next step is to have them fill out a questionnaire and create a video so that you can get a glimpse into who they are and if they are qualified for the job. You’ll want to ask qualifying questions that allow you to get to know them a little better as well as questions that test their level of customer service expertise.

Conducting Live Interviews

By now you should have a lot of background information from your candidates. You’ve seen a bit of their personality and what they believe it takes to provide incredible customer service. Each of the previous steps has also helped you filter out candidates who were not good fits for the position. It’s now time to hop on calls with these candidates for a live interview. We recommend interviewing three to five candidates for every position you’re filling.

At TurnKey, we utilize a three-part interview process.

  • Ask questions about the candidate and their pertinent experience.
  • Explore the position and day-to-day responsibilities.
  • If you are hiring outside the US, we recommend including a typing test as well as a brief, on-the-spot writing prompt to test their grammar and vocabulary.

Written Blog Post Test

Written communication is vital for any customer service role and having candidates write out a blog post which gives insight into their writing abilities. This also protects your team’s time by further eliminating candidates that are not a good fit for this position. Select topics that highlight what it takes to provide great customer service. To ensure that candidates take this project seriously, we choose to pay them a flat fee for the time spent researching and writing the post.

Calling Professional References

This is the last step of the qualification process prior to sending offers to the candidates. In this step, you’ll reach out to the candidates’ professional references to ensure that they are being honest with you. We recommend that you reach out to at least one referral via email or phone call. However, we prefer to call references as you’ll get more background information and you can instantly follow up on specific answers that they provide. Focus on questions that address the candidate’s ability to work with a team, their trainability, and their track record.

Sending Out Offers

The end of the hiring process is in sight! You’ve screened the candidates and are ready to inform them if they’ve been selected for the position or not. We recommend hiring at least two people for the customer service position for several reasons. It creates a sense of competition for the candidates, allows you to compare the work of the two people side-by-side, and if one of the new hires doesn’t work out then you still have someone helping you with customer service.

For the candidates that you don’t hire that were still a good fit, we recommend that you put them on a “wait list” so that they know that you’re still interested in them should another position open up. Having a list of qualified candidates for the next time you have to make a customer service hire will save you both time and money.

Creating a Training Plan

Congratulations! You’ve hired a new batch of customer service professionals! Now that the candidates have accepted their offers you need to be prepared to onboard them. We strongly recommend creating a planned training program of at least a week. This should include putting together a combination of videos and standard operating procedures to help your new hire understand what is expected of them and give them the tools necessary to perform their jobs.

The Training Process

When training your new hires, the focus should always be on providing a superior experience to your customers. This should include wowing happy customers and converting displeased customers into happy ones. Providing templates and standard operating procedures will go a long way in helping your customer service team to excel at their job. Here’s what we recommend you include in your training process:

Checklists and Timelines for Tasks

Create a list of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks that need to be accomplished. This a can include anything from checking buyer messages daily to sending out product updates quarterly and everything in between. Establishing a clear set of expectations for what needs to be done and when will help your team ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.

Templates for Customer Communications

Whether they are dealing with a happy customer that you’d like to see converted into a five-star review or removing a negative review about a late shipment, providing strong templates for your team will save time and make them more effective at managing your customers. Take some time to analyze the types of communications that you utilize regularly and create templates that set the tone you’d like to have your customer service team convey.

Training Videos

It is important to consider learning styles when training new hires. In addition to written and verbal instructions, videos are a great way to connect with your employees and give them a tool for future reference. Consider utilizing video instructions and walkthroughs for tasks that can be confusing or involve a lot of specific steps. It can often be beneficial to see exactly what is needed and you will have peace of mind knowing that your team has been shown exactly how to perform the tasks you have assigned them. In addition, it allows them to revisit the video as needed throughout their training and beyond.

Taking a Shortcut

Hiring and training new hires can be a daunting and time intensive job. Luckily, you do not have to start from scratch! At TurnKey we’ve created an entire online training program on this and a number of other subjects that are pertinent to your Amazon success called TurnKey Systems for Amazon. We also provide 1 on 1 coaching where we can personally walk you through this process or any other aspect of growing your sales on Amazon! If you’d like in-depth insights, instructions, and templates for the hiring process, sign up for our free sample lessons here. Want to access the full, nine-module course that includes a thorough lesson on training your employees complete with customer service, frequently asked questions, and standard operating procedures? You can purchase it today by following this link. Let us show you how to save time and take your Amazon channel to the next level all at once!

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