Hire The Will, Train The Skill

If you scroll down, you’ll see a link to part two of my appearance on Jim Blasingame’s talk show, The Small Business Advocate. Among other things, in this segment, we talked about one of the keys to customer experience success: hiring the right employees.  

Hiring is one of the tools for creating a customer-centric culture that my co-author Kerry Bodine and I describe in our new book, Outside In. Although hiring is fundamental, it’s something that many hiring managers get wrong. That’s because they’re still looking primarily at what their candidates know — their job skills — and not focusing enough attention on to who their candidates are

Here’s why that’s a problem. You can teach people how to perform tasks, whether it’s stocking shelves or doing the books. And you can teach them enough about your products and services to be able to help your customers. But if they’re people who don’t want to help customers, you’re not going to teach them to be different people.

Are there really that many people out there who just don’t want to help customers? Yes. That’s a lesson Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America, learned several years ago.

Kevin asked all 22,500 store associates to take a personality assessment test designed to evaluate employees’ skills, behaviors, and aptitudes as they related to serving customers. To his surprise and disappointment, a significant percentage agreed with statements like, “If the job requires me to interface with customers, I’d rather not do the job.”

How do you avoid falling into the trap of hiring people who not only won’t help you deliver a great customer experience but also might even prevent you from delivering one? The advice we hear over and over again from customer-centric companies is to “hire the will, train the skill.” That starts with creating profiles of ideal candidates, profiles that emphasize customer-centric behavior and character traits. Then during the interview process, ask candidates to describe a time when they helped a customer. If they can’t come up with an example, or if their example sounds contrived, they’re probably not someone you want.


Don't forget to support great employees once you hire them

I completely agree with this article, but I also think it would be helpful to develop the point by explaining how to keep great employees great.
I've seen many great customer service people slowly become less and less enthused about customers due to many simple problems that companies should be resolving.

A few of the common problems I've experienced are:
Remunerating service employees based on age or time spent with the firm.
Poor communication between the levels of management and employees
Systems that don't support customer service

Such problems can quickly turn a customer-orientated people person into customer-hating, under-preforming zombie.

There is a lot of good research by Maxham III on managing employees to develop great customer experience.