Customer relationships are so important — no matter what the role or organisation.
When selecting staff, we may think that the technical skills they possess, their experience and their qualifications are most important in our decision-making process. We may pay less attention to the so-called ‘soft’ skills, and often this is where we see it all fall apart further down the track.
What should we look for when we’re hiring?
‘Nice’ is the enemy of excellence when it comes to choosing staff with the right traits to deliver the highest expected standards of service to your customers and their own peers and managers.
While we naturally gravitate towards people who are nice, you want your staff to be more than just polite.
Excellent customer service in any role requires:
- Empathy – The ability to identify with another person and to express that empathy when dealing with customers and co-workers.
- Optimism – A positive outlook and an expectation that there can be a favourable outcome to any customer interaction, including complaints.
- Self–motivation – A natural tendency to take the initiative to help a client and to be enthusiastic about helping them — and a willingness to take on new challenges.
- Helpfulness – A natural inclination to put others’ needs first, so that the customer will always feel that they and their needs are important.
- Diplomacy – The ability to be tactful and communicate effectively in even the most stressful situations.
- Outgoing – Happy and comfortable to meet new people. Even a naturally reserved person may be able to be outgoing when required, provided this is not their main job.
- Learning – A willingness to learn from mistakes will lead to continuous improvement with benefits for your organisation.
How do we identify employees with these traits?
At every stage of the recruitment and selection process, you can be on the lookout for signs of the characteristics above.
- Application letter – Do they demonstrate an enthusiasm for the role and the challenges it represents? Have they shown that they understand the role and your requirements?
- Resume – Does their work and study history show that they have a customer service orientation? Even if they haven’t worked in customer service, there will be indicators in the way they describe previous roles and in other aspects of their resume, such as voluntary work.
- Interview – While enthusiasm, politeness and a positive attitude are easily noticed, they are also sometimes easily faked. Make sure you dig deeper to get real examples of how the candidate has acted in the past to provide excellent customer service. When you do, be listening for evidence that they possess the traits we have listed above.
- Work preference testing – There are multiple psychometric assessments that are available which will give you detailed information about a person’s natural tendencies with regard to customer service success. Some will also flag any unhelpful behaviours that may appear when the person is feeling stressed.
- Reference checking – Make sure you ask about how the prospective employee usually interacted with customers and other staff. Have there been any instances where they have failed to provide the best service? What was the situation and how did they handle it? Did they learn from the experience?
It will never be possible to predict customer service success with 100 percent accuracy, but taking the steps above can help you identify and hire staff who have the best chances of delivering the levels of customer service you and your customers expect.
Remember, these steps are important for any person in any role that interacts with others.
What will you change next time you’re hiring?
READ: Coaching your staff in customer service