Let’s talk about positive peer pressure for a minute: the double significance of every hiring decision in how customer service is provided at great companies — including, I hope, yours.
One reason that your hiring decisions affect the treatment of customers is obvious: the direct interactions between those you hire and your customers, not to mention employee involvement in the creation of systems and processes that aid or hinder those customers.
But another reason multiplies the customer service value of hiring the right employees: the peer pressure each employee exerts on other staff members, whether this pressure is negative or positive. Paying attention to this dynamic is another secret of companies with strong cultures and great hiring practices.
Pulitzer Prize (and National Book Award)–winning writer Tina Rosenberg has shown the power that positive peer pressure has had around the world in varied contexts: to combat tobacco marketing (a new youth sensibility was created where the rebellion became against corporate ‘‘brainwashing’’ pushing them to smoke, rather than against parents who were pushing them to abstain), to improve poor math performance in African American students (peer study groups, similar to those already in use by Asian American students, served to make learning calculus a friend-building activity), and in many other areas.
A similar dynamic is at work at great customer-serving companies like Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Four Seasons, even though the specifics of what the positive peer pressure represents varies widely by company:
• Where the ‘‘cool kids’’ are the ones who love the products and love explaining them to create new converts while, paradoxically, obsessively protecting the company’s intellectual property and other advantages (Apple)
• Where everyone goes the extra mile to help customers—even to the point of gate agents slinging bags and pilots guiding wheelchairs—in a peer culture where not pitching in is unthinkable (Southwest)
• Where employees support each other in their support of their guests—whether that means bringing milk and cookies for kids or working together to rescue guests (including Jimmy Kimmel) during an impending Tsunami (Four Seasons)
If you hire people, and inspire people, in a way that aligns with your goals, the effect on future “generations” of hires allows the effect to snowball. Why do you think that everyone at Disney picks up trash when they see it? It’s not because it’s taught at orientation (although it is). It’s because the tradition is grounded enough among the old-timers that it affects the behavior of every new hire. They see the already-successful in-group picking up trash. And they realize pretty quickly that that’s way to fit in: whether you’re a VP or a janitor.
Micah Solomon, author of “High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service“, is the business keynote speaker, author, and customer service consultant termed by the Financial Post ”a new guru of customer service excellence.” Solomon offers speaking and consulting on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture — and how they fit into today’s marketing and technology landscape. An entrepreneur and business leader, he previously coauthored the bestselling “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit“.
See Micah in action — including video and free resources — at http://www.micahsolomon.com. Or, click here for your own free chapter of Micah’s new book, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service (AMACOM Books) and Micah’s #1 bestseller, Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization———————————————————–
Portions of this post may have appeared in an altered form in Micah’s previously published work.