June 28, 2012
Rule #1 of the four step practice to dazzle customers is to hire people with the innate desire and ability to serve and please others.
Why is it that we run into service people who obviously hate their job and would rather be working with technology than real people? Why is it that frontline positions are filled with people who have a lot of seniority in an organizations but don’t like humans? Ever been in a restaurant and have been afraid that the server would either throw something at you or subject your underdone steak to the population residing on the floor of the kitchen? Oh ya, we have all been there!
First of all, I can’t think of a more important position in any organization that one that deals directly with the public. These people should be called, as Tom Peters once called them, Supreme Commanders. They literally control all aspects of an organization that involves its brand: honesty, integrity, caring attitude, responsiveness and overall service quality. In the Telecom world, the telephone Operators handled well over 250,000 Moments of Truth every single day! Do you think they could influence customer perception toward the Company and subsequent decisions to buy a product or service. No question.
Second, why would the leadership of the organization put anyone into such an important job if they didn’t have the requisite skills and attitude to serve other people? Beats me but they do. I believe this dysfunctional behavior is due to the fact that they look at these positions as entry level junior jobs rather than a career destination, responsible for influencing customer loyalty and long terms profitability.
So, there are a few things you can do to make sure you get people obsessed with serving people in frontline positions:
- make sure the recruitment guide asks the right questions to expose this virtue. I find that there are many of what I would call hygiene questions asked, but rarely do I find that the ‘love’ questions are absent to any sigfnificant degree.
- Ask direct questions and see what the response is. I use to have fun with this and come right out and ask the candidate ‘Do you love people?’ and then ask them to describe 3 situations that proved it. You can tell quickly if the person is suitable to turn loose on your most valuable assets (customers) or not.
- get a senior person in the organization to participate in the panel interview process. This does three things: first it shows people in the organization that hiring frontliners is a critically important matter; second, it shows the candidate how serious the organization is about getting ‘people lovers’ in these positions and third, it enhances the richness of the interview around the interpersonal need in the job.
Can you train people to like people? My experience is a resounding NO! You either have a natural inclination to like humans or you don’t; no amount of training will change that. Training might influence how you behave and as long as the customer interaction is scripted you might get away with it. The reality is, however that customers can’t always be scripted and sooner or later the trained frontliner will have to rely on their innate abilities to handle the customer in an elegant and memorable way. The trained facade goes and exposes the real person who really would rather be on Facebook where only pictures and text messages exist.
So where do you find them? You should always have a frontline recruitment program underway to ensure that you are gathering the best peopple lovers you can to fuel the funnel created by employee turnover. Tag ‘em early by going to schools at all levels and spotting (through your people loving due diligence) the chosen ones.