When I was doing consulting work and helping businesses improve their service levels, one of the things I would look at was their hiring and recruitment strategies. Some companies didn’t have well-thought out or planned strategies; some did.
A common feature between many companies, regardless of how structured their hiring and recruitment plans were, was the desire to hire people with specific experience in order to reduce training time. I completely understand that desire. What we didn’t always agree on was how important previous experience was.
Hiring someone who has worked in a similar role elsewhere may mean less time is needed before tasks can be completed independently. But as we all know, from a customer service perspective, the ability to complete a task in a timely manner is only one part of the customer experience.
Efficiency is good. Genuinely friendly, empathetic, willing to go beyond what I have to do to what I can do make my customer feel valued,efficiency is great.
In front-facing, customer service roles, here is a short list of attributes I believe are much more important than years of experience:
- Can-do attitude: This is someone who looks way beyond the bulleted list on their job description. They would not dream of saying “That’s not my job”. If they can’t help, they will make it their personal mission to find someone who can.
- Confidence: Confidence in self inspires confidence in others, including co-workers and customers.
- Empathetic: There is no quick jumping to judgement or pre-conceived notions. Instead, this person has the ability to step back and understand or identify the emotion, even if they don’t understand or identify with the way the emotion is being shared.
- Positive energy: People who choose to find the positive in any given situation are a joy to be around and that joy and enthusiasm spreads to others.
Every once in a while (and I believe more frequently to companies with a great reputation) the candidate sitting in front of you has tons of experience, plus all of the above. Sometimes the reason a candidate has lots of experience is because they have mastered both the technical and the inter-personal sides of their job. Wonderful. But if you have to choose between experience and fair-to-middling attitude or limited experience and great attitude, go with the attitude!
What are your thoughts? What other inter-personal skills would you add to the list above?