Recruiting and training customer-service professionals
Recruiting and training are huge topics right now in the service industry.
As technicians become harder to find, most companies have adopted a single-minded focus on finding and keeping the good ones. This is exactly what should be happening, but I want you to make sure it’s not to the detriment of other aspects of your business. And selfishly, I want you to pay close attention to the customer-service team you are trying to build.
Your technicians are vital to your company’s success, but I will argue that without calls to run every day those talented people will not stay with you for long. And this brings me to the point of this article, which is cleverly hidden in the title. Recruiting and training customer-service professionals is more than just throwing an ad out somewhere. Your recruitment efforts should begin with a long, hard look at how you want to be perceived by every customer who calls your company.
This will take work. Right now, off the top of your head, write down two or three descriptive words you want your customers to feel when they call. Things such as: Professional, friendly or experts. If you need some help, look to all that advertising you do. What is your branding asking your customers to believe? If you have descriptive words right in your tagline, those better be included in your vision for how your team will be answering the phones.
Hire top talent
Now that you know what you want to sound like, the question is: What now? Call your company from a blocked number and book a call. Take a look at the words you wrote down earlier and see if things are matching up. If they don’t, you’ll need to figure out why not. In most cases I see, this is because very little attention is paid to the behavior of the call-center team and how they operate.
Turn your attention to that team. Are these the lowest-paid, least-trained and least-respected people in your organization? If so, you are not alone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to change. Before you dismiss this notion as just some know-it-all in a magazine asking you to spend more money, I want you to consider your spending. How much money flows out of your business with the purpose of making your phones ring? Advertising, truck wraps, equipment stickers, uniforms, home shows, etc. All that money and yet you’re having those calls answered for as little investment as possible. And you wonder why your customers don’t respond the way you want when they call.
A better plan would be to try and hire top talent with top pay. This might scare some of you, but when you pay more, you can demand more from your team. If they don’t meet your expectations you should have a line of people trying to get in the door because you are one of the premier customer-service employers in your market. This has to make sense financially for your company, but when you are adding up the costs, remember to factor in the expense of recruiting and hiring in a turnover-rich environment.
If you do decide to pay at the top end of the market, make sure you explain your reasoning during the interview process: “You might have noticed we pay more than the typical customer-service employer around here and that is because we demand more. If you get the job, you will be expected to handle all the basics, as well as maintaining a great attitude from the moment you walk in the building until the time you leave. Any day you don’t show up in an outstanding mood you should know your job is in jeopardy.” This might seem harsh, but it’s no worse than spending all that money to make the phone ring only to have it answered by someone in a dreadful mood.
Interview and train
I want to talk for a second about interviewing. Your first contact with any applicant should be over the phone. This is the job you are hiring them to do and if they aren’t friendly and articulate don’t you dare waste your time bringing them in. If they make you want to meet the human behind the voice, then by all means schedule an interview. When they come in, have a workplace completely set up and ready to go. Don’t forget, you’re selling your company just as much as they’re selling themselves. Telling them you will clean the office junkyard before they start is unacceptable.
The one trait I would recommend you hire for is attitude. A smile and a good mood are almost impossible to “train” someone in. Resumes are overrated and in today’s climate no one will verify much past “is the employee eligible for rehire?” Hire a great attitude and let them know you will expect it every day. This will reduce your problems dramatically.
Finally, a couple notes on training. The first is you need to completely plan out at least their first two weeks with your organization. Then, you need to have a set of standards in place that make sure you are enforcing the job requirements described earlier. Make sure you are not just sitting them behind someone else who does their job and giving them instructions such as: “In a few days you’ll get the hang of it.” Your plan should include everything from multiple building tours to planned reintroductions with every member of your staff.
In addition to your plan, clear policies and procedures relating to the job are essential. Everyone hates the word script and there are a lot of buzzwords out there that hide the fact we need a professional plan for communicating. The fact is: There is no better way for an employee to learn and become competent at something. Every movie and television series you have ever watched started with a script.
I hope these tips have helped you in some small way and I’d like to leave you with one final thought. The more work you put in before someone is hired, the better the entire experience will be. Trust me.