Hiring Top Customer Support Agents | How to Hire CSAs

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Customer support agents are the backbone of any positive customer experience. They are the friendly voice on the other end of the phone, the calming presence in a live chat, and the ones who can turn a frustrated customer into a loyal brand advocate. But finding the right people to fill these crucial roles can feel daunting. Here’s a comprehensive guide in hiring top customer support agents.

How to Hire a Customer Support Agent?

1. Define Your Ideal Candidate:

Before you write a single word of your job description, take a step back and consider the ideal person for the role. What skills and experience are essential? Are you looking for someone with a technical background, or is excellent communication your top priority?  Think about the specific challenges your customer support team faces and tailor your ideal candidate profile accordingly.

2. Craft a Compelling Job Description:

Gone are the days of dry, generic job descriptions.  This is your chance to showcase your company culture and what makes working on your customer support team special.  Highlight the opportunity for growth, the supportive work environment, and the impact agents have on customer satisfaction.

3. Cast a Wide Net:

Don’t limit yourself to traditional job boards. Consider niche platforms focused on customer service professionals.  Think about employee referrals –  your current team members might know hidden gems who would be perfect for the role. Utilise your professional network and social media platforms like LinkedIn to reach qualified candidates.

4. Go Beyond the Resume:

Resumes can tell you part of the story, but they don’t reveal everything. When evaluating applications, consider including a writing sample or a customer service scenario test. This will give you a glimpse into the applicant’s problem-solving abilities and communication style.

5. Make the Interview Count:

Structure your interview to assess the skills and qualities you identified in step one.  Ask behavioural questions that encourage candidates to share specific examples of how they handled challenging customer situations.  Pay attention to soft skills like empathy, patience, and a positive attitude.

6. Onboard for Success:

Hiring doesn’t stop after you make an offer.  A well-structured onboarding program is essential to get new hires up to speed and feeling confident.  Invest time in product training, customer service protocol education, and team introductions.

What Does a Customer Support Agent Do?

Customer support agents, also sometimes called customer service representatives, wear many hats! Here’s a breakdown of their key responsibilities:

  • Problem-solving:  They are the front line for troubleshooting customer issues,  addressing complaints, and finding resolutions that leave customers satisfied.
  • Communication is key:  Customer support agents are masters of communication,  answering customer questions clearly and patiently  across various channels like phone, email, chat, and social media.
  • Information station:  They act as a resource for customers, providing  information about products, services, and company policies.
  • Order and Processing:  In some cases, agents might  be responsible for processing orders, returns, or even  taking payments.
  • Building Relationships:  Customer support agents can play a crucial role in fostering customer loyalty by providing a positive and helpful experience.
  • Feedback Loop: They often  collect and report customer feedback, which  helps identify areas for improvement within the company.

Two Types of Customer Support Agents

Customer support agents can be categorised in two main ways:

Customer Support Agents By Communication Channel:

  • Phone Support Specialists: These agents handle customer inquiries over the phone. They need excellent verbal communication skills, patience, and the ability to build rapport over the phone.
  • Email Support Specialists:  These agents answer customer questions and resolve issues via email. Strong written communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to manage multiple email threads are essential.
  • Live Chat Support Specialists:  These agents provide real-time assistance to customers through chat windows. Typing speed, multitasking abilities, and a friendly online persona are key for this role.
  • Social Media Support Specialists:  They engage with customers on social media platforms, responding to comments, questions, and concerns. Social media savvy, excellent written communication, and the ability to navigate different social media tones are important.
  • In-Person Support Specialists: These agents provide face-to-face customer service, typically in retail stores or service centres.  They need strong interpersonal skills, a positive demeanour, and the ability to handle customer issues in person.

Customer Support Agents By Area of Expertise:

  • Technical Support Agents:  These agents specialise in troubleshooting technical problems with a company’s products or services.  A strong technical background and the ability to explain complex issues in a clear and understandable way is essential.
  • Product Specialists:  These agents are experts on a specific product or service line. They answer customer questions about features, benefits, and usage.
  • Account Managers:  These agents handle customer accounts, managing billing, subscriptions, and other account-related issues.
  • Customer Success Representatives:  These agents focus on building long-term relationships with customers, ensuring they get the most value out of a product or service.

It’s important to note that these categories can overlap.  For instance, a phone support specialist might also handle emails, and a technical support agent might need to be familiar with specific products. The type of customer support agent you need will depend on the specific needs of your business and your customers.

Average Customer Support Agent Salary in the US

The average salary for a customer support agent in the US can vary depending on the source you consult. Here’s a breakdown from a few reputable sources:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): According to the BLS, the median pay for customer service representatives in 2022 was $37,780 per year [BLS customer service rep ON Bureau of Labor Statistics (.gov) bls.gov].
  • Salary.com:  Salary.com reports a higher average base salary of $44,967 for customer service agents as of March 2024 [Salary customer service agent salary ON Salary.com]. They mention a range of $40,358 to $51,077.
  • Built In: Built In shows an even higher average salary for customer support reps at $53,057 in the US, also as of March 2024 [Built In customer support salary ON builtin.com].

Factors Affecting Salary of Customer Support Agents in the US:

It’s important to remember that these are just averages, and several factors can influence a customer support agent’s salary:

  • Experience: Generally, agents with more experience will command a higher salary.
  • Location: Cost of living plays a role. Agents in major cities might earn more than those in rural areas.
  • Industry: Certain industries, like tech or finance, might offer higher salaries for customer support agents due to the complexity of the products or services.
  • Company Size: Larger companies may have the budget to offer more competitive salaries.
  • Skills and Certifications: Agents with specialised technical skills or relevant certifications may earn more.

Finding the Right Salary Range for Customer Support Agents:

To get a more accurate picture of customer support agent salaries in your area, you can search on job boards or salary comparison websites like Indeed or Glassdoor.  These platforms allow you to filter by location, experience level, and company size to get a more targeted salary range.

Average Customer Support Agent Salary in the UK

The average salary for a customer support agent in the UK also varies depending on the source, but here’s a range based on recent information (April 2024):

  • £17,000 – £25,000: This range is from PayScale, which reports a base salary for customer service agents in the UK [PayScale customer service agent uk].
  • £22,047 – £27,000: This is from Talent.com, which differentiates between customer service representatives and customer support agents with a slight salary difference [Talent customer service rep uk ON uk.talent.com, Talent customer support agent uk ON uk.talent.com].
  • £25,000 – £29,457: This range comes from Reed.co.uk, which highlights a national average of £27,326 but also shows job postings with higher salary ranges [Reed customer service salary uk].

Additional Factors Affecting Salary of Customer Support Agents in the UK:

Similar to the US, several factors can influence a customer support agent’s salary in the UK:

  • Experience: More experienced agents typically earn more.
  • Location: London and other major cities generally offer higher salaries compared to rural areas.
  • Industry: Technical industries like tech or finance might offer more due to the complexity of products or services.
  • Company Size: Larger companies might have the budget for more competitive salaries.
  • Skills and Certifications: Specialised skills or relevant certifications can increase earning potential.

Finding the Right Salary Range in the UK for Customer Support Agents:

For a more precise picture of customer support agent salaries in your specific UK location, you can search on job boards like Indeed or Glassdoor. These websites allow filtering by location, experience level, and company size to get a targeted salary range. You can also try searching on Reed.co.uk, which offers a national average alongside specific job postings.

Remember, hiring customer support agents isn’t just about filling a role; it’s about finding individuals who become brand advocates.  By prioritising cultural fit, strong communication skills, and a passion for helping others, you’ll build a customer support team that fosters positive customer experiences and sets your business up for long-term success.

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