Why You Need to Hire People With the Customer Service Mindset

“We hire happy people and teach them to make sandwiches.” “To maintain a connection between the front lines and the back office, every manager is required to spend four days a year on the shop floor.” (Pret a Manager).

“We hire ‘customer service people’ and teach them all about coffee.” (Starbucks).

This week, I ordered some merchandise from Amazon and an audible books. Problem was that I made a mistake and downloaded a Kindle book when I meant to order an audible book. I also ordered toner for my printer and when it arrived, it was the wrong toner.

Dreading that call to customer service

As these problems piled up, I dreaded calling contacting customer service. Long waits, transferring the call, retelling the story multiple times; I just hated the idea of contacting them.

My wife and daughter think nothing of buying shoes or clothes, bringing them home to try on, and simply returning them. I dread returning anything. I hate “bothering” customer service.

Well, was I in for a surprise when I contacted Amazon by email. I thoroughly explained my problem in both cases and within a matter of 10 minutes, I received a reply. Because the tenor of my email was apologetic, their tone was basically, “hey don’t worry — we will be more than glad to care of it.”

After another exchange of emails the problem was solved, and the tone of their emails caused me to go back and reread them. Wow, talk about customer service!

At the end of the call they made sure that I acknowledged satisfaction. “Mr. Thomas, does that take care of your problem? Mr. Thomas can I help you with anything else today?” By then I was in love with customer service.

Confirming satisfaction also accomplishes a smooth, subtle shift in “ownership” of the issue. When the customer says in his or her own words, “Yes, I’m satisfied,” the transaction is complete and successful — in the customer’s mind as well as in yours

Now I get Starbucks and Pret a Manager‘s talent acquisition strategy.

But will this work if the job is more technical in scope? By that, I think of the recruiter as a generalist.

Customer service is rewarding profession. The people who understand this fact are the ones who excel and who help to distinguish their company from its competitors.

Attitude comes from within

I’ve heard countless professionals say that when hiring employees they value a candidate’s service-oriented attitude far more than technical skills or even product/industry knowledge. This is because they have learned from experience that the skills and the procedures can be taught, but attitude has to come from within.

Here are my take aways from my customer service experience this week. It taught me that we could all learn from some of the key skills of a professional customer service rep.

Article Continues Below

  • Listening — Customers need to feel that they’ve been heard and understood, and that doesn’t happen without good listening on the part of the customer service representative. Do we really listen, or are we listening for that pause to get our 2 cents in? Whether you are an executive, manager, or line employee, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to improve your listening skills. People who listen effectively are seen as more helpful, more “in tune” with what is going on. People who are good listeners are listened to more than those who are poor listeners.
  • Positive language — This means using words and phrases to create a positive image in the customer’s mind, with an emphasis on solving your dilemma. Using positive language shows a willingness to serve and a commitment to building brand loyalty.
  • Confirming satisfaction — Before we end the transaction, you must confirm satisfaction. This skill demonstrates to the other person that you care about getting it right. It shows that you are willing to go the extra mile to get it right. Lastly, it shows the customer that they determine what right is.

Let me repeat: THE CUSTOMER DETERMINES WHAT RIGHT IS..

This is a important step because during this process it transforms ownership of the issue. When I said, “thank you so much for taking care of this issue,” the transaction was complete.

So next time you are looking to hire your next HR professional, especially recruiters, think about the customer service mind-set. Everything else being equal, err on the side of hiring customer service skills.

Yes, remember that they are the brand!

About the Author

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

  • John Prpich

    Great article Ron, couldn’t agree with you more.  I’ve been in the hospitality business for my entire life and I still have clients who believe that with some service training, they can make unfriendly people friendly, and of course, that’s just not possible.

    I couldn’t begin to describe on how many occasions I’ve observed unfriendly people being hired to work in customer service areas, it’s very sad.  What I would like to add to your article is this;  hire for passion and attitude, train for skill.  Too many individuals in the service industry still haven’t figured out that service is a very high relationship business.  Service is less about what you are doing and more about how you are doing it for the person that needs it.