How do you determine whether potential employees have special qualities to be excellent customer service representatives? When you're interviewing for the job, you should ask candidates to describe a difficult problem they once faced and how they solved it. Did they come up with multiple solutions?

In addition, inquire whether they've ever had to help solve problems within a company or had to organize people. As a rule, people good at these tasks would also be good at customer service. Like salespeople, these individuals will have ego drives. Salespeople, however, have the need to persuade, whereas customer service people have the need to help.

Finally, remember that all customer service jobs are not the same. Many involve cross-selling, while others are like account management positions, which often include some sales. In the case of cross-selling, you should look for more of a mix. Still, no matter how much selling the customer service rep does, he or she is still servicing existing accounts, and that should remain the focus of the job. Change the focus to selling, and you've changed the position--and more than likely the type of person you want to fill it.