Recruitment Trends: 4 New Skills to Look for When Hiring Customer Service

Customer Service job openings make up a sizable portion of jobs posted to ZipRecruiter each day. As with many fields, emerging technologies are creating a demand for new skills in CS.

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Customer Support Jobs in the Twenty-First Century

Remember when we used phones for talking? Think about it, what is your ratio of text messages and emails to actual calls? This shift is not exclusive to personal communications either. There has been a 24% increase in customers using live chat for customer service, as well as similar shifts in usage for other digitally-based channels.

This trend impacts the kind of talent companies need in their customer service department. While the basic skills needed once stopped at being comfortable and capable on the phone, customer service representatives must now navigate a complicated web of communication channels.

Recently, I rallied a group of hiring experts and HR technology professionals to help me understand how these changes should impact recruiting in the support department. Here are the four key types of talent they see as necessary for the organization of the future.

Content Strategy and Analytical Savvy

Customers don’t really want to call you. They don’t want to sit on hold, mess with a sea of transfers or repeat their information to five different agents. If they can find their answer online, they will.

Bearing that in mind, companies need talent who can figure out a) what answers should be online and b) how to ensure customers are able to find the answers in self-service communities and / or on FAQs pages. The ideal customer service agent would do this by mining for popular topics in call center notes, and using Web analytics to assess which articles in the self-service community garner the most traffic.

At the same time, they would also moderate content created by the customer community and facilitate the sharing of this user-generated material.

Social Media / Community Management

Social media is no longer a channel for simply airing grievances. Customers now expect a response. In fact, about 47 percent of social media users have ventured to Facebook, Twitter, and other channels for customer service (59 percent for 18- to 24-year-olds). Of those, about 71 percent would recommend a brand that responds effectively.

For this reason, companies need agents with actual community management experience. The agents need to ensure responses are properly routed and responded too, while keeping an eye out for opportunities to market support interactions. They also need to work to refine keyword identifiers that tell social listening and analytics technology what to listen for (e.g. combinations of the brand name and “help,” “broken,” “angry,” etc.)

Natural Language Processing (NLP) Expertise

In order for customers to find the article or response they need in self-service communities and other online-based channels, the website needs to be smart enough to know what the person is looking for no matter how they search for it. This requires sophisticated algorithms that can process natural language to find the answer.

While most companies will deploy off-the-shelf or open-source NLP technology, they would need NLP expertise to make substantial configurations to apply it to their company’s specific use cases and content. If you customers can’t find your content, you essentially waste all the effort spent creating it.

Virtual Call Center Management

The increase of digital communication has also impacted the customer service department in another way — with technology delivered over the internet, customer service agents can more easily work remotely. Having this capability often helps with retention and recruiting, because agents can work from anywhere and 89 percent of employees consider telecommuting a perk.

But running a remotely-based team can be difficult. Companies will need a person to decide when and how to interact with their remote workforce, monitor their performance, and adjust the size of the team as needed. During peak communication cycles, for example, the customer service manager would need to make the decision to increase the number of agents on duty.

This person would also consistently comb through key performance metrics to identify weak spots. If they noticed one remote agent lagging behind their cohorts, they could start monitoring calls and provide additional training.

These are just a few of the potential skills our experts see emerging in the future of customer support. What changes do you see when recruiting for or applying to customer service positions? What’s missing from this list? Join the conversation by commenting below.

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Ashley Verrill

About the Author

Ashley Verrill has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been featured or cited in Inc., Forbes, Business Insider, GigaOM,, Yahoo News, the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others. She also produces original research-based reports and video content with industry experts and thought leaders.

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