Customer service · Recruiting

Where can I find good candidates to be customer advocates?

Jeff Whelpley CTO at GetHuman.com

October 7th, 2015

We started a new service a couple months ago where visitors to GetHuman.com can now enter the reason why they are trying to reach some company. We then try to solve the problem by either providing information or sometimes calling the company and acting on behalf of the customer in order to solve their problem. This service has grown pretty fast, so we are starting to look for additional customer advocates, but there is some internal debate as to where to find potential candidates and what type of background they should have. Some of the ideas thrown around include:

- college interns
- people with paralegal experience
- someone coming from the non-profit world
- MBA students

The challenge is that while some of the work involved is just searching around on the internet for a good answer, some of it also involves fighting on behalf of the customer and having good negotiating skills. While college interns or anyone could probably handle the former, the latter is much harder to find.

Any ideas/thoughts would be appreciated.

Taj Sateesh CEO at Sphinx Resources--The Preferred Recruitment Partners in Hi-Technology R&D & Manufacturing

October 7th, 2015

Hi Jeff,
Have you checked out Job portals? Since you are in USA, there are quite a few free job portals. Some accept job postings free-of-cost & some also allow you to search for profiles of registered candidates freely. Suggest give this a shot--you can google & find which ones suit your needs.

Another option is to go for Alumni websites of those colleges near to your location.....not sure how many allow you free access, but I am sure you would find at least some who do.

Coming to your view about MBA students being OK for these roles, you may be right from YOUR perspective. But are you sure MBA guys would find it interesting? Pl give this aspect a thought before spending time on this front. 
So too with paralegals. 

Another way to look @ it is: since the role involves at least some sort of negotiating skills, suggest focus on those with ~1-2 yrs of Sales exp. They should do great for what you are looking for. Depending on your budget for these positions, you can fine-tune the exp level as you go along.

Rgds,
TS

Kimberly Wilson Talent Acquisition Specialist| Executive Recruiter| Helping Talent and Companies create Win-Win Connections

October 7th, 2015

I agree with the many comments that state that someone with a people-oriented approach is best and that sales or customer support would have these skills.  As a recruiter my  thoughts are that full time retail associates/managers have this experience already and they can be recruited by going to stores and observing their style. This is an added bonus since we usually cannot see everyone in action before we hire them.  Also, I would look at customer service call center individuals/supervisors (from places that are constantly getting customer calls).  They have to field the calls and act on the behalf of their company and the customer. Their skills will be very valuable.  Also, a recruiter at a contingency firm that has to get both their clients and find candidates may be an interesting candidate. Retained recruiters are more business consultative, but contingency is very transactional. All of the individuals listed will typically have a college degree (which seems to be a focus). 

Depending on your salary range I believe these will be the more reasonably priced individuals with skills to bring right away.  A college intern will probably do well, but will need to be trained and ramp up.  They will also be there for a short period of time. If a temporary position is what you are looking for than a college intern is great, but if you want to train someone that does not walk away with the skills, this may not work.

I am reading this post as if the need is for purely customer service oriented individuals who know how to communicate clearly, listen and persuade the communication to a resolution.  If that is the case the only non-for profit person that I think would work is someone in fundraising or has customer service skills (sets up big events, works with volunteers, etc.).  I personally think the MBA student or paralegal may be difficult to attract.  Most MBA students are working in tandem with their degree (aligning work with their studies). If they are not working they are focused on their degree and typically only work part-time. In reference to a paralegal, though they should have the skills, they will probably prefer to be in a legal environment.  In other words, if I were recruiting for this position personally I would not focus on that target, but would keep my eyes and ears open for someone that is looking to leave the legal environment. This area will probably bear less fruit and take a while to attract. 

Jerome Pineau Digital Transformation Consultant

October 7th, 2015

I would start looking at people with a background in customer support & service! They'll be the best trained to deal with their peers - from the other side of the fence no?

Marwan Rateb Consultant | Helping Companies Translate Their Business Goals to Reality

October 7th, 2015

Hi Jeff,

Not knowing the specific business model, did you consider tiering? 

College interns / outsourced international call centers / work from home virtual call center candidates / Mechanical Turk can scrape the internet / manage preliminary interactions with customers, etc... 

MBA students / paralegals / non-profits / legal clinics / law school students / recent law school grads / former customer service reps / lobbyist assistants could then manage the more complex advocacy.

Hope that helps.

Good Luck!

Reem

October 7th, 2015

Hi Jeff,
It's not clear whether this is a full-time or part-time position.
If part-time, you can post your job on HelpAroundTown.com
With one posting, you'll be seen by college students, stay at home moms, and young retirees. The moms in particular may be really good at this.
+ You can rate & recommend the people you hire
+ They're local, so they know the American consumer landscape well 
+ I suspect it won't be expensive to have someone good

Doreen SPHR Recruitment, Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Startup & Technology Recruitment, HR & Recruitment Expert

October 8th, 2015

A lot of insightful advice given.  Another way to approach your needs being met is to hire the people with great soft skills, and then provide the training for negotiations.  It is easy to learn, and being in an environment where they can apply it immediately, they'll become experts quickly.

Dina Destreza Digital Content Manager at Keyideas Infotech

October 7th, 2015

I would suggest you to hire people who are people-oriented in their approach. One needs to have the passion of providing service to customers. In other words, he or she needs to be a good listener and listen attentively. Qualifications hardly matters and the most important part is that he or she needs to have a thorough knowledge about the work that he or she is handling. 

Rex Stock

October 9th, 2015

Go to restaurants and hire waiters and waitresses. They know what hard work is, how important it is to please people, and how to work in team environments. All the groups you mentioned (especially the MBA students) sound like folks who will want recognition for them being there which is the exact opposite of what you hopefully are looking for. Oh, and do endeavor to find people that don't speak boring buzz business jargon--nobody's impressed. 

Isaiah McPeak Entrepreneur and Debate Coach

October 7th, 2015

I just came from a SaaS company where I helped build this team. In my opinion, the MBA type isn't the right person, but you need at least one MBA-level person. What I mean by that is this: customer advocacy is a *human-centered *role, and too often the MBA is *business-centered* and has lists of things that are expected. The senior person on this team should:

Taj Sateesh CEO at Sphinx Resources--The Preferred Recruitment Partners in Hi-Technology R&D & Manufacturing

October 7th, 2015

Customer support & service people should also do fine Jerome....but the selection needs to have filters as this crowd doesn't necessarily need to have negotiating skills--only people handling skills. 
Also the selection depends on whether the roles are offline or client-facing. 
That's for Jeff to zero-in.