More threads by Garrett Sussman

Mar 15, 2016
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How to Hire Support Employees that Guarantee Positive Online Reviews


Customers can be tough.

Some, once they?ve paid for your product, become demanding and difficult. These customers pick at your support staff, slowly wearing them down.

When this happens, conflict is inevitable.

Your support staff is your first line of defense. They experience abuse on a regular basis. Customers approach from a neutral place of need and occasionally a negative place of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Can your support staff thrive in that environment or?

Will your support staff make things worse?

Most of us know it?s important to choose the right support staff. We hear legendary stories about amazing support teams and how they?re (rightfully) rewarded with amazing reviews and more business.

But we also hear the horror stories.

You have your own horror stories I?m sure.

We all know what a horrible customer service experience looks like. We?ve also seen the negative reviews that come with horrible service, and we know what it?s like to deal with terrible support staff.

How do we find and hire amazing support staff?

More specifically, how do we hire support employees who?ll virtually guarantee we receive positive online reviews?

It?s simple.

Step #1: Use OCEAN to find amazing support employees

The big five personality traits, listed under the acronym OCEAN, gives you the keys you need to find amazing support employees.

  • Openness to experience measures intellectual curiosity. Imagination, independence and variety are hallmarks of this personality type.
  • Conscientiousness describes a person who is dependable, ambitious and dutiful, showing self-discipline, and a preference for planning.
  • Extraversion refers to the energetic, passionate, and fun-loving life of the party. These employees are often seen as talkative and domineering connectors.
  • Agreeableness refers to the empathetic, compassionate and cooperative peacemakers among us. These employees tend to be helpful, trusting and pleasant.
  • Neuroticism describes the tendency for a person to experience unpleasant emotions (e.g. anger, fear, depression and anxiety) more easily than others around them.

So which personality traits are most important? Which one will lead you to the right support employee?

1. Agreeableness. Compassion and empathy are standard requirements for support employees. These employees have higher levels of compassion and politeness so they?re much easier to get along with.

2. Conscientiousness. Higher levels of conscientiousness means your support employees will do what it takes to take care of the customer and your business.

While the other factors are helpful, agreeableness and conscientiousness are most important. Here?s the thing about that though.

You need them both.

High on agreeableness, low on conscientiousness? These support employees are far more likely to become doormats, handing out too many concessions, discounts and incentives. They?re routinely abused and mistreated by customers.

High on conscientiousness, low on agreeableness? These support employees can be domineering, authoritative and brutal. They?re often inflexible, cold and matter-of-fact. This means they?re less likely to convey empathy and compassion to customers.

Check out the rest of Andrew's post here, to see the other 4 steps he lays out for finding and hiring those cream of the crop support employees.


Garrett, you guys always come up with such creative story lines and great tips!

OCEAN - I don't get the last one: Neuroticism - how is that a good trait?
Anyone care to weigh in?
Thanks for the reply, Linda!

Neuroticism isn't necessarily a good thing, as you pointed out! It's a major trait in traditional psychology personality trait studies. If anything, you'd want to find employees that present less neuroticism (as you implied in your comment).

I know I try to limit my neuroticism!!
OCEAN is actually a mainstream psychology tool that's been in use since the 80's. Also as an interesting aside, there was a Guardian investigation published a while back about a data analysis company that paid mechanical Turk users $1 to take the OCEAN psych quiz, and provide their Facebook like history. Supposedly they ended up with enough data to start extracting the OCEAN psych profile for users just from Facebook likes using a trained neural net. I don't want to get political, but just from an advertising perspective, it's a fascinating story, whatever you make of it. Garret's right, it's certainly an interesting tool for looking at and classifying behavioral patterns. Makes sense to use metrics like this to influence hiring decisions.

Who knows, maybe in the future you can take your resume stack, feed in their Facebook information, and sort out applicants based on favorable OCEAN patterns for the job you're hiring them for. Not sure if that'd be a particularly good thing for our society, but it'd certainly make it easier to sort through a big list of applicants.
Thanks for the comment, James! And for providing that link.

That's fascinating (and scary)! It just highlights how the seemingly innocuous info we put out there could be used in some impactful aspects of our lives. I wonder to what extent that use of data in the future will be transparent in the hiring the process, if implemented.
I don't know, but it certainly sounds like it had a fascinating place in the 2016 election. Seeing the level of sophistication the Republican party was able to pull together makes me feel like a real stone age advertiser using Facebook's normal ad manager. Ah well, we do the best we can with what we've got.

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