A great customer experience depends on great employees. More than almost any other topic, as a customer service consultant and customer service trainer, I get asked for my thoughts on this key element of providing world-class customer service.
The secret is to hire your customer-facing team based on psychological traits, in addition to thinking about the specific skill set you’re looking for. (Of course, skills are essential, hiring someone to be a bank teller who can’t add and subtract doesn’t do anyone any good.)
But psychological traits can absolutely make or break success working with customers and, like all personality traits, these tend to be solidified one way or the other by the time your employee reached adulthood. (Yes, there are plenty of exceptions! But this is the way to bet.)
The best way to do this is to use a psychologically validated personality assessment. But for a quick rule of thumb, let me share my set of five crucial personality traits to hire for.
(Obviously, there is much more to great hiring for customer service, and I want to caveat all this with this very important reminder: There are essential EEOC-enforceable practices that you need to follow in relation to screening and selection that I am unable to cover here. Two of these principles, in very broad strokes, are to apply any screening equitably across all applicants and to ensure that the actual screening itself is equitable in nature; but even those two principles don’t come close to covering everything that needs to be covered. Addressing these issues is both essential and beyond the scope of the insights I am able to offer you here.)
Before I share these traits, I want you to…
…think of the superstore, Petco.
Now picture a big wet dog sitting outside of Petco.
Remember that wet dog and you’ll never forget these five traits, because they spell Wetco—W-E-T-C-O.
Warmth: Simple human kindness. This simply means a tendency to like and be thoughtful of other people
Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling even in the absence of very much information.
Teamwork: An inclination towards using teamwork to solve a customer’s problem, rather than having to go it alone.
Conscientiousness: This is detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion. You can have all the other traits in spades, but you’re not doing a customer any favors if you don’t follow through.
Optimism, specifically what’s called an optimistic explanatory style. Without an optimistic explanatory style if a customer has a bad day and takes it out on you, you’ll call in sick for the rest of the day, go home, crawl under the covers, and never come back in to work. But better is if you dust yourself off, think to yourself, “I think she’s having a bad day; I’ll check with my manager to see if there is anything I could do differently in my approach, but overall, i’m going to dust myself off and get back to work with the next customer I need to serve.
If you’d like a free, printable guide to hiring for customer service, including the WETCO framework, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my website, micahsolomon.com and please contact me as well if you’re interested in customer service consulting, customer service training, customer service eLearning, and improvement, and transformation initiatives.