Great customer service employees are the product of


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As a customer service consultant, I’ll help a business transform in just about any positive way. But boy-oh-boy, it helps to start with good raw human material.

Here’s a lovely passage on what makes a great customer service employee. It’s from Alain de Botton, discussing British Airways:

The airline’s survival depended upon…the loving atmosphere
that had reigned a quarter of a century earlier in a house in
Cheshire, where two parents had brought up a future staff member
with benevolence and humour—all so that today, without any
thanks being given to those parents . . . he would have both the will
and the wherewithal to reassure an anxious student on her way to
the gate to catch BA048 to Philadelphia. [ref. 1]

Now, before you object to my parent-centric determinism, let me beat you to it by objecting myself: I know people with wonderful attitudes who have come from terrible family backgrounds. So in spite of the preceding passage, and the comment by Nordstrom’s Bruce Nordstrom, who, when asked ”Who really trains the salespeople?” [ref. 2] quipped ”Their parents do,” I don’t literally mean to only hire people from great family backgrounds.

What I do mean is to hire people who, by the time they reach the age of employment, have come through childhood unscathed, retaining pro-customer, pro-team traits, the innate stuff that more or less can’t be taught. ”Most companies hire for experience and appearance, how the applicants fit the company image,” Isadore Sharp of Four Seasons says. ”We hire for attitude. We want people who like other people and are, therefore, more motivated to

serve them. Competence we can teach. Attitude is ingrained.”

Zappos puts prospective employees through interviews and challenges

that fall into two disparate categories: one for basic technical

competency and the other for the softer attitude traits the company is

looking for. Each of the two is given equal weight.

(My suggestion: If you take this dual approach, do the ”soft” part first so you don’t get overly swayed, or dismayed, by what you find in the technical part of

the prospect’s review. You don’t want to get pumped up about hiring

someone for her mad technical skills and then have to muster all manner

of willpower to decline that candidate for not being an attitude fit.)

Hire the right people, attitudinally. Train them, technologically.

[ref. 1] From Alain de Botton, A Week at the Airport.

[ref. 2] From Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, Who’s Your Gladys.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Micah Solomon
Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant and trainer who works with companies to transform their level of customer service and customer experience. The author of five books, his expertise has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, NBC and ABC television programming, and elsewhere. "Micah Solomon conveys an up-to-the minute and deeply practical take on customer service, business success, and the twin importance of people and technology." –Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder.


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