In managing customer service departments for over 15 years, I have seen every technological gadget and heard every consultant’s pitch regarding the subject of how to provide exceptional customer service. Each one of these companies enters the discussion with promises and stories of gigantic gains which rarely materialize.
Through experience, I have found that the largest gains in a company’s ability to provide exceptional customer experience are directly related to their ability to hire the right person for their customer service position. It is based on an 80/20 split; 80% is contingent on the employee and 20% is contingent on technology and training.
In most cases a great employee can compensate for bad processes – technology and/or training – and create a positive outcome no matter what obstacles they have to overcome. An underperforming employee, on the other hand, will often destroy the reputation of a company, even when they have the best technology and training processes to work with.
Obviously, hiring great people is not easy. Although many noted “experts” base much of their hiring decisions on experience or education, I only use these to screen into the interview. From my perspective, hiring the best employee requires that I understand their motivation. I am much less concerned with what someone has done, than with why they did it. For instance, if an interviewee is explaining that they left their most recent employer after eight years of service because they found a better job, it is of utmost importance to get to the motivation behind why they were looking for another job. An answer such as, “I was frustrated dealing with a difficult boss” needs much more probing to find out what difficulties would motivate a long term employee to leave.
With this in mind, here are the positive motivators that I specifically look for during the interview process:
- Honesty and integrity. Honesty is the ability to answer a question truthfully if asked. Integrity is the strength to walk into your boss’s office and say you screwed something up before being asked. Both are important but exceptional service comes from an employee with integrity.
- Need to succeed and a stick-to-it attitude. This is the internal wiring within the employee that demands that they not accept anything short of perfection. This is not an easy motivator to uncover but it will be present and easier to spot with an exceptional candidate.
In addition to these motivators here are some additional attributes that are necessary for an exceptional customer service employee:
- Outstanding communication skills. The ability to communicate effectively is critical for an exceptional employee. Exceptional writing and verbal skills are necessary.
- Strong work ethic. As they say, 90% of the battle is showing up, and the exceptional employee will always have a strong work ethic.
At ShiftWise, we are constantly on the lookout for those exceptional customer service employees because we know that they can make or break our reputation and impact our bottom line.