How to recruit your team of online customer service agents

Building a team of agents dedicated to real-time online customer service is increasingly common among our clients. It is a crucial step for the project’s success. However, because real-time online customer service is a relatively new channel, it is often difficult for our clients to identify the range of skills their agents need to get the most out of it. Thanks to the feedback we get from a range of different businesses, we have been able to draw up an overview of the recruitment methods they use to build a team of agents that performs. Their objective is to provide an excellent customer experience. 

The objective of the recruitment process: identify agents who will facilitate the customer journey


Your future recruits will also be ambassadors of your brand or company. Their challenge will be to promote your brand while providing excellent customer service. They must be able to handle different channels simultaneously and answer the questions of customers and prospects.

What are the different recruitment options? 

You have two options when it comes to recruiting your team: send out the job offer to external candidates or select people who already work for your company; you could call upon customer service agents who take calls for example.

In the case of internal recruitment, whether it’s a voluntarily or hierarchical decision will have an impact.

In both cases, the candidate’s skills or ability to acquire them rapidly must be at the heart of the recruitment decision. Skills can be assessed thanks to a quiz or practical exercises. Managers have to evaluate the motivation of their colleagues to take on new communication channels (messaging, social media, videoconference…). This is often done during an open and informal interview.
Customer service agents skills

Read more: What are the qualities of an excellent Chat agent?

The essential skills of a customer service agent

Candidates need to be positive. This is key as they need to show empathy and determination when it comes to finding the best possible solution for a customer. Indeed, real-time customer service is intended to help customers when they most need it. According to eDigital Research, the lack of answers to questions related to payments are the main reasons why online shoppers abandon their shopping basket online:

  • Over half (61%) thought that delivery costs were too high.
  • Almost a third (29%) of online shoppers abandoned their basket due to lack of support.
  • Over a quarter (28%) wanted to take their time to compare with other sites/products before making a purchase.
  • One in four (27%) came to the conclusion that the product was unsuitable for them.

Furthermore, messaging requires an analytical mind because customers expect a precise and quick answer. Obviously, messaging also requires excellent spelling and grammar. Another important social skill in this area is conflict management; dealing with unhappy customers can be a challenge:

Over half of online shoppers have already tried to look for online support after an order, to track it or make a complaint.

Source: eDigital Research study – the UK customer service & support market

What the specialists say 

How is your team of chat agents structured?


Audrey Heiser – eCommerce Manager, Renault Retail

We had recruited four Product Geniuses, whose job it was to remove any doubts that visitors had about our products, whether it be online or in dealerships. They trialled the iAdvize chat solution during the PoC and this summer, four chat agents took over to answer chats in real-time and in their spare time follow-up on new leads.”

What advice would you give BtoB chat agents?


Thomas – User Performance Manager, iAdvize

In BtoB, business relations are built on the long-term. The aim of the discussion via chat is to instill trust and share expertise. Quick responses, a swift understanding of requirements and a high level of spelling are essential here.

Assessing a candidate’s skills and motivation

#1 – Simulate a chat conversation

By doing so, you will be able to validate the candidate’s ability to handle a real-time conversation and evaluate the syntax and tone they use during the conversation. Of course, their tone and syntax will depend on several criteria like your industry, your target audience and the overall message of your brand. Do not hesitate to inform of this, it will enable you to assess their ability to adapt.

Example: “Hello, I’m looking for a gift for my brother.”

  • Analyze how the candidates respond to this.
    • Are they polite and helpful? How do they structure the conversation? What tone do they use?

#2 – Simulate a call  

This way, you will be able to analyze your candidates’ capacity to adapt from one communication channel to another. Also, you will be able to determine their ability to provide relevant and positive answers to customers.

Scenario #1: The customer wants a product and the agent cannot provide it because it is temporarily out of stock. 

Example: “Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with this product until next month, it is temporarily unavailable.”

Prefer this option: “This product will be available next month, I can place the order for you right now and will email you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.”

Is the response positive and polite?

Scenario #2: The customer is on the wrong website and is looking for a product you don’t provide.

How does the agent react?

Do they end the conversation by saying that the brand does not sell this kind of product or do they provide a solution for the visitor by redirecting them to another website?

#3 – Discuss the culture of customer service with them

By doing so, you will get an idea of their interest in the job you are offering. It is important to analyze their knowledge of customer service in general, the industry, key trends, etc.

According to the skills they have acquired through personal research and professional experience, you will be able to get an idea of their future level of involvement.

Examples: “In your opinion, what are the most important characteristics and skills that a professional customer service agent should have?”, “What are the differences between a chat conversation and an incoming and outgoing call? 

  • How much knowledge do the candidates have?
  • A part from their skills, do they show interest in the different topics you are talking about? Are they interested in other subjects related to customer service?
  • Are they open-minded?

#4 – Insert some spelling mistakes in your chat conversation 

The candidates’ spelling is one of the essential elements you have to evaluate before recruiting. In the context of online customer service, visitors will have more trust in agents who have excellent spelling and grammar.

Scenario: some chat extracts are shown to the candidates. They contain the most frequently used expressions and formulations in your industry.

Example: “Hello, I’m Matthew, a custumer service agent for the company “X”. What can I do for you? … You can find an externel hard drive on this page of our website. It has a 6GB RAM and costs €99,90.

Can the candidate see all the spelling mistakes? What aspects of the language do they have to improve? Is it their spelling, vocabulary, grammar, conjugation, or something else?

eDigitalResearch report download

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