As a customer service consultant, I’ll help a business transform in just about any positive way. And I will work with you starting with whatever you bring me. But boy-oh-boy, it helps to start with good raw human material.
Here’s a lovely passage on what makes a great customer service employee. It’s from Alain de Botton, discussing British Airways:
The airline’s survival depended upon…the loving atmosphere
that had reigned a quarter of a century earlier in a house in
Cheshire, where two parents had brought up a future staff member
with benevolence and humour—all so that today, without any
thanks being given to those parents . . . he would have both the will
and the wherewithal to reassure an anxious student on her way to
the gate to catch BA048 to Philadelphia. [ref. 1]
Now, before you object to my parent-centric determinism, let me beat you to it by objecting myself: I know people with wonderful attitudes who have come from terrible family backgrounds. So in spite of the preceding passage, and the comment by Nordstrom’s Bruce Nordstrom, who, when asked ‘‘Who really trains the salespeople?’’ [ref. 2] quipped ‘‘Their parents do,’’ I don’t literally mean to only hire people from great family backgrounds.
What I do mean is to hire people who, by the time they reach the age of employment, have come through childhood unscathed, retaining pro-customer, pro-team traits, the innate stuff that more or less can’t be taught. ‘‘Most companies hire for experience and appearance, how the applicants fit the company image,’’ Isadore Sharp of Four Seasons says. ‘‘We hire for attitude. We want people who like other people and are, therefore, more motivated to
serve them. Competence we can teach. Attitude is ingrained.’’
Zappos puts prospective employees through interviews and challenges
that fall into two disparate categories: one for basic technical
competency and the other for the softer attitude traits the company is
looking for. Each of the two is given equal weight.
(My suggestion: If you take this dual approach, do the ‘‘soft’’ part first so you don’t get overly swayed, or dismayed, by what you find in the technical part of
the prospect’s review. You don’t want to get pumped up about hiring
someone for her mad technical skills and then have to muster all manner
of willpower to decline that candidate for not being an attitude fit.)
Hire the right people, attitudinally. Train them, technologically.
[ref. 1] From Alain de Botton, A Week at the Airport.
[ref. 2] From Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, Who’s Your Gladys.
Micah Solomon is the business keynote speaker, author, and customer service consultant termed by the Financial Post ”a new guru of customer service excellence.” Solomon offers keynote speaking and consulting on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture — and how they fit into today’s marketing and technology landscape. See Micah in action — including video and free resources — at https://micahsolomon.com. Or, click here for your own free chapter of Micah’s latest bestseller, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service (AMACOM Books).———————————————————–
© 2013 Micah Solomon. Portions of this post may also have appeared in Micah’s previously published work.