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Friday, April 3, 2015

How to Create the Perfect Employee

Before I opened a training company, I worked on the front lines of customer service. I have had positions with direct face-to-face customer service in hospitality, retail, and food & beverage positions. There was a period where I answered phones in a call center. This real world experience, coupled with my formal training, enables me to offer you a few tips on acquiring the perfect customer service representative.

Hire the Perfect Person
This is the number one requirement for any position, but it is easily overlooked in the service world because of the volume of service professionals needed.

After preliminary screenings and a basic behavioral interview, look for the candidate who engages in some way with your product or industry. It does not have to be your company; a competitor works as well.


For example, for a position in a hotel: ask the candidate if they go on vacation. What has been their experience when dealing with employees at a hotel? This helps you understand if they can define excellent hospitality service. If they know it, they more than likely have the skills to deliver it.

If you need to hire a utilities call center representative, ask the candidate if they currently have a utility company they call for service. Can they describe a positive and negative experience they have had engaging with the organization? For a negative experience, ask the follow-up question, “What would have turned it from a bad experience to a good experience for you?” This reveals problem solving capabilities.

If a candidate does not have specific experience with your company or a competitor, it does not necessarily make them a poor hire. But you will need to concentrate more on our next topic: training.

Training the Perfect Person
After you have hired the perfect candidate, it’s now time to give them the knowledge and develop the skills they need to serve your customers. This is a balance. The new employee needs to be functional as soon as possible, but if you put them with customers too early, they become a liability to your organization.

Whether hiring a group of people or individuals, creating a detailed training plan is a must. The first week must be planned hour-by-hour, including meal breaks. The purpose of training is not only to up-skill the employee, but to assure the best candidates that they chose to work for a successful company. Share the training plan with the new employee, and with anyone who is responsible for the training function.

Day one should be pleasant, warm, and welcoming, with time to introduce them to their fellow employees. Do not make the insensitive mistake that has the new employee only complete personal paper work, and then throw the new person directly on the job. This is overwhelming, and highly ineffective.

A successful detailed training plan has entry and exit dates, and possible testing or milestone checkpoints. The complexity of the job does not matter. Adult learners need to know the plan of how they can expect to progress. This step alone can save your recruiting budget many dollars in new employees quitting during the training period. New employees will feel respected, welcomed, and know the company’s expectations for their success.

Once they have been on the job for a given time, the final step is to not forget the new employee. Continuous education and development turns a solid new employee into a respected long-term service professional.

Keeping the Best
The world rapidly changes. Technology now evolves at an exponential speed. New policies can adjust service procedures overnight. Companies do a decent job educating employees on new procedures or technologies, but they forget to give employees time to practice the skills they currently possess. Like a professional athlete, employees need to practice challenging situations, or a specific skill that challenges them, in a safe environment.

This is somewhat coaching, but coaching can have a punitive tone. This is simply a practice time to be away from customers, and work on skills that will help the good develop into the best. This is not the time to introduce new materials, but to review, clarify, and polish existing techniques or policies.

Perfection is the Goal
Perfection is a lofty, and perhaps unrealistic, goal. But what should be the goal if not perfection? No one wants to engage with a service organization with a mission statement, “We aim for mediocrity.”

Perfection is difficult, but if you hire the best candidate, implement a detailed training plan that begins their first few minutes of employment, and continue to develop this employee, you just may get very, very, close.

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