How Hiring the Right People Leads to Profit

managers resource handbook

How Do You Hire?

Many organizations make hiring decisions in very practical terms: Are they willing to relocate? Do they have the required education? Do they possess the minimum number of years of experience per the job requirements? These are all valid questions to ask yourself and are certainly variables to consider when making hiring decisions.

But few organizations, in contrast, take hiring further and look at job candidates in terms of their personalities and their ability to relate to customers. It is no secret that customers value a positive experience, and will likely to return in the future regardless of price when the customer experience is reliable and dependable.

Need data? Consider how many times you hear a friend describe their recent purchase, saying something like “They may be a little more expensive, but I never have issues when I have a problem with their products.” And of course, we’ve all heard someone say “you get what you pay for.”

RELATED: What Your Customers REALLY Want

So when it comes to selecting job applicants for my team, I am an advocate for adding another question to the above list: Can they relate to our customers? Consider the following example of a not-so-good experience.

Bad Customer Experience = Lost Customer

Though it was more than 10 years ago, I still remember the experience. I called my back to cancel a credit card. I had a few in my wallet, and had recently gotten a card that better suited my needs. As a result, I wanted to cancel a card I never used and one that was effectively redundant. When I called to cancel the card, though, the agent spent the entire time trying to convince me not to cancel the card – even though I had not used it in 18 months. When I got past the first person, he passed me off to a supervisor, who was ‘concerned’ by my desire to cancel the card. After being passed to a third agent, they wore me down I ended the call. I called back 5 minutes later, and told the first agent about my experience and that I simply wanted to cancel my card without any more hassle – my life had changed and so did my banking needs, end of story. He promptly processed my request.

I remember making a vow to never use that bank again. Even though the account closure process was clearly a reflection of a company initiative to keep account open, I wondered how these customer service reps could be such poor listeners. Were they hired because they were receptive to customer needs and knew that cancelling cards was important to people from time to time, or because they could talk well and ‘meet the job requirements’ of convincing people not to cancel cards?

In reality, the best candidates for your organization are those who can relate well to your customer needs, not just those who can meet a job description. We will look at the impact of such hiring decisions, with three examples:

Example 1: The Delta Airlines Reservations Line

I love to travel, and I have been a loyal Delta customer for many years. We have all at one point or another called an airline to book a ticket, or to talk to customer service for some reason. Often times, we’ll get a person who is helpful, does their job efficiently and who is generally courteous. But that’s the end of the experience. Several months ago, I called Delta to book a ticket to Southeast Asia to cash in a bunch of frequent flyer miles. I knew I wanted to head to Asia, but had strict limitations on my travel dates, and wanted to get most from my many-nights-away-from-home frequent flyer miles. So when I called, I told the customer service agent what it was I was looking to do, and that he should settle in until I found booking arrangements that worked for my destination: somewhere in Asia.

As we began, it was the typical experience. He repeated the dates I requested, and asked me to confirm which times were best. But as he continued to look for tickets, he asked if I had been to Hong Kong, as he had taken a trip there a couple years prior and loved it. As he pulled up more routes and connections for me to consider, we began to swap stories and offer tips on our respective travels. I was on the phone with him for over an hour, until we finally settled on Manila as the destination.

What made the experience especially nice, from the customer’s perspective, was talking to an agent who clearly liked to travel and could relate to my needs and interests. He knew the stress of having short connections, and recognized that getting the right seat on a long haul flight could make the flight go by faster. In doing so, his enthusiasm and his own passion for travel clearly motivated him to do a good job, on my behalf.

Example 2: The Plumbing Department at Home Depot

A second interest of mine is home renovation and remodeling. Several years ago, when I bought my first home, I had bought it with the intent of renovating it to make some money on my investment. And I did a lot – finished the basement, stripped old wallpaper, installed new light fixtures, to name a few things. When it came to remodeling the master bathroom, though, I had met my match. I struggled to tie into the existing plumbing supply and drain lines due to limited access and the abundance of pipes that needed to be rerouted.

I then proceeded to my local Home Depot, where I already spent much of my time buying supplies for my various projects. At this Home Depot, a store employee named Fred was always working. He was extremely friendly and was always saying hello when I’d walk in. When I walked in this time and told Fred of my challenge, he smiled and told me he knew exactly what I was dealing with. It turned out that Fred had worked as a plumber for over 20 years, but decided to leave the trade to try something different. Naturally, Fred worked in the plumbing department. Over the course of my bathroom project, every time I went into the store to get a special fitting for joining PVC pipes, or for even the simplest piece of pipe that I needed, Fred was there to check on me and would offer tips and advice, free of charge.

Again, it was the employee’s interest and enthusiasm that enabled him to provide a great service. And it was because of this experience as a customer, that I was willing to drive further to talk to Fred, rather than hit other stores in the area that were closer to my house.

Example 3: FrontPoint Security Customer Service

A few months ago, we had an issue with our FrontPoint home security system. One of the door sensors was not working properly, preventing us from turning the system on when my wife and I left the house. I was not sure if the sensor broke during recent renovations that were done at the house, or if wind from a recent storm had caused some damage.

Though my wife had expressed how pleasant her experiences had been calling FrontPoint, I still called with the expectation that I would have to wait on hold for 20 minutes to talk to someone and ultimately pay an expensive fee for a replacement sensor. Such is common with so many utilities and services these days that I couldn’t imagine anything but the usual treatment.

Much to my surprise, my call went through almost instantly. Further the agent I talked to was extremely pleasant and said he would have a replacement sensor sent to us overnight, for no charge. There was no hassle, or difficulty, and the call lasted just a few short minutes. The customer service rep at FrontPoint stated simply that he wanted to make sure our system worked properly, just as he wanted his own system at home to do the same.

A small package arrived the next day and the system was back to normal. When we left for dinner that night and the system was back on, my wife and I remarked how happy we were with the company. The main contributor to our satisfaction was based on the fact that the customer service agents were always responsive to our requests and clearly understood our desire for security as homeowners.

RELATED: Hire for Will, Train for Skill

When it comes to your hiring of staff, particularly those who will interact with customers, look for people who will relate well to your clients. Maybe this is a person like Fred, who has done the work himself, or the customer service agent who owns a home and shares the same concerns about home security. Or perhaps it is the customer service agent who enjoys swapping travel stories with customers while they’re processing a payment for an international flight.

Regardless, hiring staff who can relate to your customers goes a long way towards attracting and retaining customers because customers will value a positive interaction they have with the company. Such employees do not just fulfill job requirements, but rather, they leave a lasting customer impression on customers that bring them back time and time again. The next time you hire someone, look beyond on-paper credentials and take into account things like personal interest and experiences that mirror those of your customers. Great hiring leads to great business.

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