Archive for September, 2013

Building a Company Customer Service Culture through Hiring

September 24th, 2013

customer service cultureIs your company doing everything possible to maximize the level of customer service you provide?

As a human resources professional, you have a lot to do with building your company’s customer service culture because of the decisions you make about whether to hire each job candidate. That’s the contention of a recent post by Micah Solomon at Forbes, who notes that there are two primary reasons that determine how your hiring decisions will affect customer service.

The first  is the fact each worker interacts with customers on a face-to-face basis, and the second point has to do with how your employees influence one another through peer pressure to give good (or bad) customer service.

Customer Service on the Front Lines

It may seem obvious on the face of it, but it’s important for you to keep in mind that every person you hire will have a big impact on the customer service your organization provides. The people on your front lines interact with customers the most, and each encounter can lead to increased customer loyalty or drive people to leave if they are ignored or treated rudely.

For example, the Forbes piece notes that at the Mayo Clinic, the needs of patients come first, and this attitude is reflected in the behavior of everyone in the organization, including the people who do the hiring and those who mentor new hires.

At Apple, fanatically devoted employees not only enjoy creating new products and showing other people how they work, they also are driven to protect intellectual property.

Southwest Airlines employees are well-known for going above and beyond the call of duty for their customers, including agents at the gate moving luggage and pilots assisting disabled people moving about in their wheelchairs. This is the result of a corporate culture that embraces a “can-do” attitude at every level of employee, and customers are taking notice.

In a hiring environment like Silicon Valleys that his chock full of competitive start ups – customer service for a new app or website can make the difference between failing and succeeding.  The first few hiring decisions will likely determine the ongoing customer service pathway for a start up.

Peer Pressure Affects Customer Service Too

Peer pressure is a major influence on the level of customer service an organization offers, the Forbes piece notes. Basically, if a new employee sees how well his fellow workers treat each customer, he will be more inclined to treat them well too, because of his desire to fit in with the other employees.

At Disneyland, people marvel at how janitors rush in to pick up trash nearly as soon as it hits the ground. This is not because Walt Disney would legendarily fire people on the spot for failing to pick up litter, but because so many old-timers modeled this behavior to their fellow workers.

When you see a successful employee doing something like leaping to pick up discarded popcorn boxes, you will be inclined to do the same when you see a guest drop trash. The same principle applies to providing excellent customer service. If those around you habitually go out of their way to help each customer, you will find yourself behaving the same way. On the other hand, if employees slack off when it comes to customer service, they could infect their colleagues with their negative attitude, and we all know how bad that can be for business.

The next time you are evaluating a group of candidates to fill a position, you should remember to consider the customer service ramifications of each new hire. The hiring choices you make will have a long-lasting effect on the quality of your organization’s customer service.

Looking for Talent: Inside or Outside Your Organization?

September 6th, 2013

hire internally or externallyMichael Ducy’s article “Hire Goats, Not Outside DevOps Engineers” on InformationWeek.com advocates sourcing candidates from within an organization rather than externally. He compares DevOps, with their unique blend of bridge-building and multi-disciplinary skills, to goats, which constantly test limits and boundaries when they are fenced in.

Goat analogy aside, Ducy hits home in the crux of the matter: can an outsider really make effective cultural changes in an organization? In making the decision to re-position employees or hire externally, you must consider organizational health and culture as well as the specific job requirements.

Sourcing from Within the Organization

Promoting from within saves costs and time just in terms of the recruiting process. Other advantages are:

  • Candidate knows the organization and its structure
  • Connections and relationships already exist
  • Candidate is a proven asset
  • Improved employee morale as peers recognize career opportunities; retention tool
  • Better acceptance of new ideas within existing team

On the negative side, you’re drawing from a smaller talent pool. There is also the risk of stagnancy, training and learning curve time.

A well-developed and strategic succession plan will help identify candidates for open positions. Besides experience and technical expertise, the plan should include soft skills like leadership and teamwork strengths as well as the ability to negotiate and build bridges.

Hiring Externally

An external candidate can be a catalyst for change in processes, and can also:

  • Bring more experience and education to the job, as well as up-to-date technical knowledge
  • Have a fresh outlook with new energy and new ideas
  • Reduce your training needs

However, external searches are costly and time-consuming. The incumbent will need to learn the organization’s culture and structure. Morale could dwindle as other employees see fewer promotional opportunities and resist new ideas. Dealing with an unknown may be risky in terms of experience and performance.

Is there a middle ground? Perhaps an employee referral of an external candidate would be the best of both worlds. Your employee could judge the fit as he knows the candidate as well as the organization and its culture.  In addition, employee referral programs often provide good incentives to those employees that the referral stems from, which can also improve morale.

Is There Only One Answer?

Of course not. Each hiring decision must be made based on a position’s requirements and overall organizational health. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I concerned about retaining key leaders? Is our organizational culture very strong? Is employee morale and acceptance of new ideas important? Think about repositioning from within.
  • Is it a turnaround role? Do I want a catalyst for change? Do we need to invigorate the function with new competencies? Consider looking externally.

Whether you promote from within or hire externally, always seek the best candidate from the job, not only for experience and technical skills but also for organization and cultural fit.