There’s a great deal of nuance involved in working in customer service. People either believe it’s an entry level job where they can transition into their desired department. Or, they think it’s a simple job where you just have to keep customers happy.
It’s not quite that simple.
Truly great customer service isn’t something that can be instructed via a new-starter pack or on a two-day training course. No, giving great customer service relies on intuition and character.
Businesses striving for customer-centricity recognise that it starts with hiring, so let’s break down the hiring process in order to find the people who are the perfect fit for your business’ customers.
Step 1. Reverse-engineer the job advertisement
Start by auditing the job listing, and rethink what it’s really for. Yes, it provides information for candidates, but you should use it as your own brief to deliver new hires that fit the customer-centric goals of your business.
The perfect candidate for your business will be able to empathise with your customers as human beings. Above all else, they should have a genuine interest in solving the customer’s problem. So, before listing the criteria for a specific role, add these top 3 basic questions that every candidate must pass.
- Are they passionate about helping customers?
- Are they sincere and transparent?
- Do they demonstrate confidence in their role and the company they represent?
As a true customer-centric business, every prospective employee should demonstrate these values, just to get their foot through the door. This gives you a great deal of leverage as a recruiter by filtering out candidates that don’t match your company’s vision of customer-centricity. By establishing this basic criteria, you can move forward with the hiring process to select the best of the best.
Step 2. Find candidates out in the wild
Forget LinkedIn stalking or using a recruitment agency: one really great way of identifying prospective hires that show a customer-centric ethic is by engaging in real world customer service interactions.
For example, if you’re at your local café and, because you’re on the lookout for great customer service, you start to appreciate the attentiveness of the barista serving you. Mentally you’ll be checking them against the top 3 basic criteria for a customer service role within your business. If they pass the initial test, perhaps you’re dealing with someone who could interview for your business? For businesses that operate locally or regionally, this tactic could prove especially effective. What’s more annoying for a customer in Philadelphia than to call a local business, only to find their customer service has been outsourced abroad?
This is a great opportunity to get existing employees engaging in the hiring process by nominating prospective hires who they’ve received great customer service from. The more your existing workforce gets involved in this exercise, the bigger indication you’ll get that you’re all collectively moving towards becoming a customer-centric business.
Step 3. Hire for attitude
Once you’ve invited a potential employee to an interview, there will already be something about that candidate which potentially aligns with your company’s goals. Of course, your company may have a specific hiring process, but by the interview stage you’re just looking for the right attitude in your candidates, and to spot any red flags.
The easiest way to finding if the candidate has the right attitude is simply by letting them talk. They should demonstrate to you that they know their sector well.
They’ll expect plenty of questions around their own customer service skills, so flip the conversation. Ask them, have you ever had bad service at a store or restaurant? Why did you consider it bad? How would you have handled the situation? In assessing their responses, you’ll be looking for candidates that go deep with relevant information or anecdotes – if they stray towards soft answers or even overshare, this should be a big red flag: you’re looking out for directness and pragmatism, not the opposites.
Step 4. Train for skill
Congratulations! You’ve hired for customer service excellence, and have some great new employees who fit your company values. You’re so confident in your decision that you put them in front of your customers on day one. But what if they forget key details about your products, or it turns out that they’re just not a good fit after all?
While you’ll want to get the hiring decision first time round, the process doesn’t end there. Successful customer-centric businesses put new hires through a trial period to coach and bring them up to your business’ standard of service. Throughout the trial period, evaluate them against customer support metrics to ensure they’re delivering the service your customers demand.
Finally, your long-term objective will be to retain by incentivising them to remain with your company. Financial incentives are one aspect – creating a harmonious work culture with all colleague pulling toward the same objectives. Incredibly, when this culture doesn’t exist in a company, the results can be catastrophic: 48% of workers admitted to decreasing their work effort, 66% said their sales performance declined, 25% admitted to taking frustrations out on customers, and 78% said their commitment to the organization declined, according to research by Harvard Business Review. You worked this hard to get top-level talent to work for you, so don’t throw it away.
With so much similarity between one business and the next, that the one true variable to set yours apart is the employees you hire. The challenge is getting them before your competition does. By identifying who these candidates are, and where to find them, you’re better placed to recruit and retain the top talent to drive your customer-centric business forward.