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Exceptional Customer Service: 5 Essential Skills When Interviewing

Over the past few months, we have posted various blogs regarding the patient experience; particularly as it pertains to providing exceptional customer service. There are countless ways to audit, review and train your staff to ensure that excellent service is provided. Training and development are your constants as you should always be striving for better and there’s always room for improvement. Having said that, if you hire someone “cut out” for customer service, that certainly gives you an edge. Luckily, there are specific steps that can be taken during the hiring process to ensure that you have individuals on your staff who are naturals at providing exceptional service. Below are just some of the “soft skills” that you should look for during interviews:


Having a staff member with patience is always desirable, but it is particularly important for customer service providers in the medical industry. Very often your staff will be dealing with ill, overwhelmed and stressed out patients or family members. It is vitally important that they are able to remain calm during times when the patient may be in a heightened emotional state. During the interview, ask the candidate questions, like, “Many people find it challenging to exhibit patience. How do you manage to remain patient in difficult situations?” You may even give them a hypothetical situation for a concrete response.

Personal Caring

During the interview, you should be able to sense that the candidate has the ability to project personal caring. This includes good eye contact, posture, nonverbal communication and a empathetic attitude. Even while meeting with the person, you should be able to get a feel for attentiveness and sincerity. In addition to watching for body language and observing the tone of voice, you can also have candidates provide a few examples of how they would show a patient that they care about him/her and his/her health. Ask for in-person and over-the-phone examples.


In the medical field this is a coveted skill. Dealing with patients who are hurt and sick can be very trying on staff. Hiring optimistic individuals who can maintain a positive attitude even through challenging situations can prove beneficial. However, it is important to note the distinction between overly bubbly and optimistic. Overly bubbly can appear insensitive to the medical challenges of your patients. Optimism is key. Your staff should be curious and energized at the opportunity to turn a negative situation around and to troubleshoot problems. To discove whether someone posesses these traits, ask questions regarding personal attitude: Would you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?

Positive Language

Your customer service representatives must use specific language to convey the correct message and tone of the practice. While representatives might have a pleasant tone, their actual words might be undermining their ability to connect with the patient. To determine whether tone and language sync, present hypotheticals. “If I were a patient, explain to me that you cannot accept a certain form via fax but don’t give me any particulars as to why not.” This will challenge candidates to chose their language carefully and think on their feet, both of which will be required when dealing with your patients.


While positive language and optimism are vitally important to keep communication open between staff and patients, so is assertive. Employees who are too nice, shy or passive can cause problems when dealing with pushy or aggressive patients. Candidates should be able to use a firm but courteous tone and be strong enough to uphold office procedures when patients or their family members make unreasonable requests. A question that can test this is, “How would you handle a situation where a patient is asking for something that violates a policy of the practice?”

Understandably, there are many characteristics needed to be an exceptional customer service employee but addressing these five soft skills during an interview provides a solid foundation for identifying if you have a proper candidate; one who will understand the requirements of the position and who possess the skills to perform at the level you require. If you would like more information on Customer Service Training or Process Improvement, contact Points Group.