Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hire Smart to Start

After speaking to a customer service representative on the phone, I was reminded of one of my hiring tips. I know some of you reading this would love to be hiring right now and not shrinking your staff. But when hiring is back on your agenda, make certain you get the best possible employees. Here is my laundry list for hiring smart to start –

Hire the attitude. You can do that by the use of behavioral interviewing which I hope is pretty much the standard for your hiring practices. Ask questions to get at how this candidate will behave not just what they have done.
Pose specific customer situations and get their opinion on how they would handle it.

When you are down to the last few candidates, bring them in and have them observe the job. Give them real life experience of your specific job expectations. This will give other team members a chance to react to them. Use those team members in the final selection process. The more current team members are involved in hiring, better the chance that new employee will get on board faster.

Tell them the good, the bad and the ugly. Give the candidate the real story about working at your company. No surprises are a good thing and can minimize turnover. You don’t want a great new employee to have buyer’s remorse.

Do some of the interview on the phone. This is the hiring tip I referenced at the beginning of this. Most of your "customer facing" team members spend quite a bit of time on the phone. Test your candidate with a call to hear their “phone voice”.

When one on one you have the advantage of the entire package - the smile, eye contact, gestures and posture. Those can make a great difference in how this person is perceived. However none of that is available when on the phone. So call them, listen closely and think how that voice and tone would represent your organization. I find most companies do not practice this as a hiring technique. Use it and you will stand apart from your competitors.

Hiring is easy, getting the right person is not so easy. Take your time, involve others, get creative, use your gut and you might just “get lucky”..

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Final questions can build customer loyalty .

I recently stopped using a service that was getting $984 annually from me for the last 7 years. I called the local office to check on cancellation procedures and discovered it was amazingly simple. I was told just don’t pay the next monthly invoice.

Here is the really amazing part – the manager did not make any attempt to salvage my business. There was no inquiry of, “Can I ask what is causing you to….” or “What can we do to keep you as a customer?” After that first call, I stopped by the office to get my final bill to show the account was closed. Once again, the manager missed an opportunity to do an exit interview.

It would have been very simple to just ask – “Since we are always looking for ways to improve our service, what is the one thing we could have done differently to make that a better experience for you?” Or how about a polite, “Mrs. Ford, we do appreciate your business for these last 7 years. We will be happy to serve you again in the future if your needs change.”

It is easy to blame the economy as the reason customers are leaving. Stop assuming and find out the real reasons for customer loss. Your questions, show an interest and appreciation that may keep their loyalty. You may certainly gain valuable information to improve your business. My lifetime value was $6,888. Aren't a few questions worth that? Now is the time to start asking more questions. Prepare your final questions and you may create some new beginnings.