Creating Winning Customer Service -

Creating Winning Customer Service

Building and sustaining a true world-class customer service organization starts with leadership. That means owners and managers must be actively involved in the customer service effort, lead by example and continuously demonstrate high customer service standards and proper behaviors.

In my January/February 2016 article “A Winning Workplace,” I wrote about the importance of employee engagement and creating an organization of which top talent wants to be a part. In this article, we’ll focus on the people in your business and how to hire properly to support a world-class customer service organization.

Start at the Top

Building and sustaining a true world-class customer service organization starts with leadership. That means owners and managers must be actively involved in the customer service effort, lead by example and continuously demonstrate high customer service standards and proper behaviors.iStock_000073184533_Large

Unfortunately, many owners and managers take the position that they have “people for that” when, in fact, they set the tone of the organization. Everyone in the business is in customer service and plays an important role in each customer’s experience. Leadership should never be an exception to this. Fittingly, a CEO of a world-class customer service organization should also be considered the chief Customer Experience Officer.

Equally important as customer relations, managers should always treat their employees in a manner that is consistent with the way they want them to treat customers. Average managers do not engage employees this way, yet they expect their personnel to excel when it comes to positive customer interactions.

As J. W. “Bill” Marriott Jr., chairman of the board of Marriott International Inc., said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.”

Hire People Who Fit Your “World-Class” Model

Workplace culture is a major driver of a world-class customer service; so, it’s critical you hire people who best fit the model you’re seeking to achieve.

Excellent insight can be found in Jim Collins’ best-selling book, Good to Great, in the chapter titled “First Who…Then What.” There, Jim wrote how research revealed that great companies “start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

This methodology is in direct opposition to what an average repair business does. Confronted with a demanding workload stressing out existing staff members, an average repair shop will often hire anybody to help ease the strain. While a less-than-desirable hire may provide a Band-Aid and the appearance of relief, the business usually suffers where it matters most — results.

Remember, every employee represents your brand. Your best employees are fully engaged and motivated, improving workplace morale and productivity. They consistently do the right things the right way without being tightly managed. As your brand ambassadors, they typically do a great job interacting with customers, strengthening existing relationships and winning new customers.iStock_000041685508_Large

A bad hire typically has the opposite effect, harming workplace morale and productivity while simultaneously putting customer relationships at risk — costing the business lost sales and profits.

As Collins wrote, “When in doubt, don’t hire — keep looking. If you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction — you still won’t have a great company.”

So, if you want your business to be great, you must have the right people on your business bus, and that begins with how they get on your bus in the first place, which is your hiring process.

Consistent with the hiring habits of many of the world’s best customer service organizations, here are a couple essential elements:

1) Hire For Personality

Auto service businesses, as well as any other type of service business, are inherently people-driven. To maximize your chances of success, you must hire people with the right character and personality to connect with and engage customers.

Who are these people? In this case, past performance is a great predictor of future results. High-achievers in customer service and sales are typically outgoing, friendly, articulate and upbeat with a “can do” attitude. Look at your current top performers and it’s very likely that they possess these same traits. Therefore, these personality characteristics should serve as the template for your recruiting efforts.

This “hire for attitude, train for skill” philosophy is not new. Nordstrom, The Apple Store and Southwest Airlines- — to name a few — have long adopted this as the core of their hiring practices.

You might be thinking, “Can we just hire an experienced individual and then train him on these social ‘soft’ skills?” You could, but I urge you to keep in mind that you could triple your training investment and likely still end up far behind where you would have been if you hired the right person in the first place.

While you can teach someone the auto service business, it is really hard to teach someone personality.

As Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, said, “We don’t care much about education and expertise, because we can train people. We hire attitudes.”

Like Southwest, previous auto industry experience has little to do with the future success of a candidate. I have personally trained numerous novice employees with less than a year of tire/auto service industry experience who are routinely outperforming their veteran counterparts mainly because they had the right personality from the start.

2) Hire For Passion

You must hire people with passion to build a world-class organization. Passion powers performance and is a key trait of high-achievers.

World-class companies know that passionate, enthusiastic employees are the best kind to hire and retain. They typically work harder and seek to improve themselves and their performance on the job. And, from a sales standpoint, enthusiastic employees naturally have far greater customer engagement than those who are dispassionate.

When interviewing candidates for your shop, how many times has this happened?

You: “So, tell me, John, what is it that attracted you to the auto repair business?”

John: “Oh, I just love 12-year-old domestic cars! They are my passion! I love the look of them and the sound of the engine. Ever since I was a kid my dream has been to work in this business!”

Zero. I bet that’s how many times that’s happened in an interview. And that’s absolutely acceptable.

However, they must have a passion for customer service, a passion to serve, a passion to help others, and, above all, a passion to succeed.

Tying these two hiring recommendations together, Sir Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Group published, How I Hire: Focus On Personality on LinkedIn writing, “If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are onto a winner. Personality is the key.”

If just getting by is your goal, then you’ll probably be OK hiring anybody and training them on your business. But, if you want to be great, then you’ll be far better off hiring the right people from the start!

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