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Are All CSRs Created Equal?

A Perfect Fit Finding the right CSR for your job can be frustrating, time-consuming and tedious - somewhat like finding the one person who...
July 14, 2005

by Sean Neumayer
The Omnia Group

A Perfect Fit

Finding the right CSR for your job can be frustrating, time-consuming and tedious - somewhat like finding the one person who fits into your glass slipper. You are probably looking for an efficient, productive CSR who is suited to the job, in sync with your work environment, and responsive to your management style. But is that quest an achievable objective…or just a fairy tale?

The term "customer service representative" denotes different things to different people. In the past CSRs may have been strictly service-oriented - standing by to elicit aid to frazzled customers with specific problems, questions or dilemmas concerning a company's products and services. Today, however, more and more companies are looking to hire CSRs who can sell. They need to be able to shift the focus of their conversations with clients from service to sales so as to introduce new products/services and possibly garner additional business.

Let's say you are looking to hire a Selling PL CSR. You interview an assortment of men and women of all ages, with various backgrounds, experience and appearances. While each seems different they all have one thing in common: every one of them seems to want the job you're trying to fill. They may say they're comfortable selling, but might not really be. Placing a person who is naturally unassuming and nonassertive can lead to disaster and disappointment not only for you but also for the new employee.

The person smiling at you from the other side of the interview table knows he or she is on display. Candidates try hard to present the image they think you will like and, in turn, hire. They might seem proactive and enterprising, but what you could really be seeing is social assertiveness, a comfort with people, not sales. Hiring a person who is friendly and animated but not at least somewhat self-starting, can be a big mistake.

Sales-oriented personal lines CSRs typically need to be mildly assertive, sociable, and attentive to details, but not too sensitive to rejection. Their pace should be compatible with your office environment and appropriate for the type of work they will be performing. For example, you do not want to assign repetitive data entry to someone who is easily bored and looking for variety on the job, as doing so will often result in poor performance, frequent absences and, finally, bitter dismissal or resignation.

Sales-oriented commercial lines CSRs should differ from sales-oriented personal lines CSRs by being less gregarious and more technically minded. A direct communication style - devoid of small talk - is also usually favored as they often need to know how to get right to the point when conversing with busy commercial lines clients.

How do you know which candidate is best for the job? You might speak to references, contact former employers, call your favorite candidates back for follow up interviews, scrutinize their resume or seek consensus from colleagues. In the end, though, you will need to make a decision and let a candidate's background speak for itself or simply trust your gut instinct. If you are lucky - very lucky - you will select the person who is best suited to the job. Everyone lives happily ever after. End of story? Maybe not.

Can't We All Just Get Along?

You have found the ideal person for the job. The new CSR seems eager to meet your expectations, prepared to press for results, reasonably resilient and quality conscious. However, as time passes something seems wrong, and your dream candidate is quickly turning into a nightmare employee! Why? Because you forgot to factor in the second most important variable when it comes to hiring - environmental compatibility! Even the most prize worthy CSR will prove disastrous if he/she cannot mix in with colleagues or communicate with superiors.

When co-workers cannot get along, the effects can be far-reaching and nerve-wracking; morale can be lowered, resentment can be felt and arguments (or worse) can ensue. There is little more demoralizing than spending most of the day in a tension-filled workplace.

It's also vital to consider the size of your job candidate's previous work environment. Someone coming from a large agency may not realize how flexible, versatile and multi-tasking he or she might need to be in a small office where employees tend to do everything from running errands to selling products. Conversely, a CSR from a small office might dislike the structure or defined parameters of a big company and could feel stifled and ultimately become resentful. Having a firm grasp on your candidates' mindset can help you better determine how suited they are to your company's specific needs.

A third point to ponder is your preferred management style. Your quality-conscious, meticulous job candidate might need an abundance of your time and attention. If you are often unavailable or tend to let subordinates function on their own, your structure-seeking new employee could seem lost. Many misunderstandings/arguments between a busy manager and a conscientious employee have ensued simply because both needed what the other could not give.

The Omnia Profile®

In the ideal world, the fairy tale world, we would be able to "test drive" job candidates - bring them into the office for a period of time and see how they perform on the job - even measure them against long standing good employees! While that is not plausible, there are viable new ways to help determine whether your prospective employee will be a welcome addition to the team or the person everyone wants to leave behind at the field. The Omnia Profile® is a personality assessment that can help you make informed decisions and benchmark your candidate against current top performing CSRs. It's useful not only for screening CSR candidates, but also for determining an existing CSR employee's strengths and weaknesses.

It takes only a few minutes for your candidate/employee to answer a few simple questions regarding their work preferences. Upon completion the responses are evaluated by trained analysts. An easy-to-read narrative about the compatibility of your candidate/employee can be back in your hands the same day! You will then know what to expect in terms of productivity, accuracy and demeanor.

Though it may not be exactly like test driving a job candidate, The Omnia Profile® is probably the closest thing to it!

If you are a manager and want to find out how much information you can receive from the 15 minute Omnia Profile®, contact Sean Neumayer at 800-525-7117, ext 242 and let him know you're a PIA member for a free evaluation of your own management strengths and weaknesses.