Hiring customer service staff to scale up or meet temporary seasonal demands isn't something new to businesses across many industries. The COVID-19 pandemic has only put increased pressure on organizations to meet ever-changing client and market needs.

Some reasons you might need to hire temporary staff to fill customer service jobs could include:

  • Seasonal changes in calls, website visitors or foot traffic
  • The need to fill spots when regular staff are sick, on leave or otherwise can't work
  • Staffing up to meet upcoming needs due to a product launch or other growth process
  • Meeting urgent customer service needs related to a crisis or brand reputation issue

what to look for when hiring temporary customer service workers

Whatever the reason you're looking to hire temporary workers for customer service jobs, it's critical to find the right people. Even if you're hiring urgently, you can't afford to put people in customer-facing jobs who aren't equipped to provide positive, helpful and value-added experiences.

Here are some of the most important attributes and skills to look for when hiring call centre staff or talent for other customer service positions. 

customer service experience

Sure, you can train people to provide excellent customer service. But if you're staffing up during a crisis, seasonal onslaught or temporarily replacing an experienced customer service rep, you likely can't afford to start from scratch.

Practice makes perfect in customer service, so look for temporary workers who have already proven themselves somewhere else. That doesn't mean someone's experience should be an exact match, but it should come close.

For example, if you're hiring live chat specialists, they must communicate quickly via text, understanding customer issues and solving them without seeing or speaking to the client on the phone. In this case, you might want to look for someone with chat-based customer service rather than someone who's only experienced in serving customers in person.

a positive attitude

Friendly reps make a huge difference for your company no matter what type of customer service is involved. And that can be especially true if you're in a position where you're hiring temp staff to fill those spots. Your clients might be experiencing stressful situations—such as a natural disaster or pandemic—or simply long hold times during rush seasons. You need people who can turn those negative experiences around with a smile and a great attitude, leaving customers satisfied with their experience.

patience and empathy

Whether it's the middle of a pandemic or just another Tuesday in the call queues, anyone who's dealing with your customers needs to be patient and empathetic.

Find out how your candidates might be able to deal with customers who are grumpy, stressed or angry by posing the right questions in interviews. Some questions to consider include:

  • Tell me about a time when you dealt with an especially difficult customer service situation
  • Can you name three things you might do when dealing with an angry customer on the phone?
  • What are some signs that someone is agitated on a customer service chat, and how can you best help that person?

ability to adapt

You probably provide scripts, templates and tools for your customer service reps—and those are all important training resources when you're scaling up with temp workers. But no one can predict every single interaction, and staff that only know how to rely on scripted responses can come across as inauthentic and unable to solve problems.

Ensure you're hiring people who can think on their feet and adapt to the needs at hand. That might mean people who can shift from telephone customer service to livechat environments or reps who are able to jump from billing concerns to addressing the quality of a product.

Again, interviews can be critical. Ask questions designed to get people talking about situations they've had to adapt to in the past or throw out random questions to see if they can switch gears in the conversation with you.

strong communication skills

Hiring customer service staff who can't communicate is setting your business up for failure. Read resumes, carefully review emails and pay attention in interviews—whether in person or via remote tools—to validate a person's written and oral communication skills. 

problem-solving skills

Ultimately, customer service positions are about solving someone else's problems in a friendly, fast and informative manner. If your candidate can't figure out how to solve their own issues logging into web conference software for an interview or can't talk about problem-solving skills—and give you examples from their past—they may not be an ideal fit.

connect with an HR expert to find the right customer service candidates

One of the best ways to fill your customer service and call centre positions fast is by working with an experienced recruiting partner. Choose one that has proven experience hiring temporary workers as evidenced by:

  • A large database of pre-vetted candidates
  • Experience filling positions on tight deadlines
  • Knowledge of local laws and regulations to keep you compliant
  • Streamlined processes that save you time and money

For more information, download our guide on how to use an HR partner to hire temporary workers today.