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Monster Video: Great Customer Service Requires Trust

Great customer service is critical to the success of many businesses, with companies like Apple setting a high bar with their customer service – online retail giant Zappos is another example.

In this Monster video, Jon Picoult, founder and principal of Watermark Consulting, reveals why these businesses often allow their customer service reps to divert from the script.       

Video Transcript:

Monster: We’re living in a very unscripted world — more and more communication, more people talking, reacting. And yet I think in the customer service realm, companies are still thinking it needs to be scripted — my employees need to follow the script to be successful and to give the customer service that we know that we can count on. Is that the right approach?

Picoult: I don’t want to say that there isn’t any value in that. There is some value in that in that it helps to give people on your front line some guidance; it helps to improve the consistency of the experience they deliver.

But you’re fooling yourself if you think you can script great customer service, because as you say, it’s an unscripted world. And there are circumstances that you could never plan for or envision that your people have to be prepared for.

And so this is why I think companies that do this really well, they give their front line latitude. You know the word of course everybody throws around is empowerment. Nobody really knows what that word always means. I say, you would want to give them the latitude to exercise good judgment in order to do the right thing for the customer, given the circumstance that they’re in.

And here’s the interesting thing about that. Leaders are scared of that. Many leaders are scared about giving their people latitude. Because even if they don’t say it out loud, they’re thinking in the back of their mind, “Oh my gosh, they’re going to give the store away or they’re going to do something and it’s going to be bad.”

And what I think is interesting about that is that really is a symptom of a hiring issue. Because you should not be concerned about giving your front line latitude, if you have hired the right people in the first place. If you have hired people who know how to think on their feet, that can exercise good judgment, have good common sense, have excellent customer focus. 

And so when companies are afraid to give people on the front lines latitude, the first thing I say is: Well, look at who you’re hiring. You’re hiring the right people. Maybe you need to look at your hiring profile and make sure that you’re searching for people that are going to bring good judgment to the table. So that when you let them loose with some latitude, you’re actually going to feel confident that they’re going to do the right thing.

Monster: And how would you interview for those skills? How do you uncover that when you’re interviewing people for your customer service roles to find those people who have the good judgment, who have that sensibility to follow the rules and yet work outside of them when needed.

Picoult: When you’re screening people, obviously it’s hard to see from a resume whether somebody can exercise good judgment. But in the course of an interview, by asking them questions about examples in the past where they encountered a difficult situation, what did they do; times where it went well, times where it didn’t go well.

You can start to get a sense, not only of the level of judgment that people exercise, but do they learn from experience? Are they able to spot those situations where, “Gee, if I had to do this all over again, I would do it differently.” Because that’s an important skill to have too with the people you bring onboard.

Monster: Right, so they’re able to grow and develop along with your business.

Picoult: Right, yes.