Hiring Candidates with an Aptitude for Better Customer Service
By: Sharon Waldrop
A job seeker’s work history tells a story about his skill set. But how do you know he or she has the customer service skills to keep your customers returning for more?
When hiring to fill jobs such as customer service representative roles, focus your hiring process on what he can do for your customers, rather than the job skills they performed for previous employers.
Much of this comes out during the initial contact. Is their cover letter directed at you? Or, is it a generic “one size fits all?” Does he or she care enough about your business to remember that he applied to work with you? Or, when you call for a phone screening, is there a pause after your introduction?
Someone who is sincerely personable and takes the time to make you feel important is likely to act the same toward your customers – and deliver great customer service.
Assessing the Candidate’s Social Skills
As a professional recruiter, I often focus on a candidate’s communication skills, starting with our first interaction.
For example, I recently left a message for an applicant to set up an interview. When my call was returned, I was not greeted. All I received was, “I got a missed call from this number.”
This individual did not have the manners to greet me — or to engage in a polite dialogue. I was not impressed and he was not interviewed. Our customers would not be captivated by this attitude.
“In everything you do in the recruiting and selection process, I strongly think you’re looking for people who demonstrate throughout that process, that it’s not all about them. It’s a lot about other people,” says Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant, speaker, and author of several books on companies that excel in customer service.
Customer Service Increases the Bottom Line
Businesses often form their profits through customers, says Michelli. Thus the key to great customer service is to know your customers and find the right people to serve them.
“If we don’t understand customers and we don’t figure out how to deliver products to them in ways that emotionally engage them, it’s pretty difficult to sustain customer loyalty,” says Michelli.
Michelli suggests hiring people with the emotional intelligence that’s required for great service.
Companies Branded to Please
The Ritz-Carlton has been lauded numerous times for its customer experience. In 2015, 24 of its properties in the U.S. received the Five Diamond Award from AAA. The luxury chain has also received awards from Forbes, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and U.S. News & World Report.
The Ritz-Carlton is the only hotel company twice honored with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.
The individuals employed by the luxury hotel chain are a critical driver in the company’s success. “The Ritz-Carlton strives to hire the best of the best,” says Steven H. Holt, Regional Director, Public Relations, The Americas, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C.
The Ritz-Carlton has crafted a very specific selection process to hire service-driven Ladies and Gentlemen who understand hospitality. “It’s the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton who engage our guests. They are our most important resource in our service delivery,” says Holt.
Individuals who are selected to work at The Ritz-Carlton are able to anticipate guest needs and represent the brand’s culture by providing the finest personal service.
How to Find Employees with a Sincere Desire to Please
Finding applicants with customer service skills is facilitated by asking the right interview questions. One of my favorites is, “Tell me about a time when a customer had a not-so-good experience and you made it better.” If the applicant has limited experience with customers, sharing a situation at school or in the neighborhood will suffice.
Pay attention to an individual’s demeanor on the phone and in person. Is he polite? Would you want to conduct business with this person? Would you feel comfortable asking for a favor?
The ideal customer service professional wants to be that “go to” person who enjoys assisting customers. He or she has a “service heart” — someone who shares takes pride in how they made a difference for a customer.
Customer Service Demands on the Upswing
A 2012 survey from the National Federation of Independent Business reported that 60 percent of small business owners (businesses with 250 or less employees) saw better customer service as their entire competitive strategy.
Prioritizing customer service makes sense from a business standpoint. Michelli says that small businesses often have a hard time competing with large companies on price and distribution. “Where they can have the advantage is being more nimble in the way they create customer solutions, and being more personal.”
It’s those applicants who are humble and focused on others who take the best care of customers.
“They are more likely to improvise to create great human interaction,” says Michelli.