The foundation of excellent customer service is great employees. You want customers to walk away from interactions with your staff feeling supported and satisfied enough to want to come back for more – and to send their friends and colleagues your way. So one great customer service skill is to hone your hiring process to find genuinely friendly and helpful people.
That all starts with a hiring process that focuses on both skillset and how well a prospective candidate’s personality aligns with your company’s customer-centric focus. To build a winning team, you need people who are both talented and can demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile for your customers.
Know Excellent Customer Service Aptitude When You See It
There are many interview questions and even personality tests you can use to determine if a candidate is going to make an excellent customer service employee. Forbes customer service columnist Michah Solomon recommends looking for five personality traits: warmth, empathy, teamwork, conscientiousness, and optimism.
Rather than asking them directly if they have these characteristics, ask them specific questions about their experiences and philosophy, about people they admire and why, times they've faced challenges and what they did. Then, pay attention to whether they exhibit these characteristics as they give their answers, and in other parts of the interview.
Also, make sure you have a structured and fairly lengthy trial or evaluation period so that if they turn out not to have what it takes to provide excellent customer service, you can move on to another hire relatively easily, and they can find another job that's a better fit for their strengths.
Look for Authenticity
Restaurant magnate Danny Meyer, founder of more than a dozen top-rated restaurants and the global Shake Shack chain, prefers the word “hospitality” over customer service, and he maintains that authenticity is what makes true hospitality: He wants customers to feel that his staff is genuinely on their side. And that only comes through hiring genuine, kind and thoughtful people who enjoy helping others.
Meyer, whose restaurants have all been in the the top 40 of Zagat’s ratings of customer preference, also values creativity in his staff and encourages them to embrace the principle “ABCD”: “Always be collecting dots.” Those “dots” are pieces of information about customers that staff can use to create a special and unique experience for guests and anticipate their needs.
Staff at Meyer’s restaurants may seat different diners who they know are in the same industry next to each other so that they can network across tables, they’ve been known to track down the missing purse of a frantic customer who left it in a cab, and they’ve given their own cigars to out-of-towners who were looking to track them down.
Promote From Within
The ABCD concept is a way for Meyer to build upon the strengths of his already outstanding teams. You’ll also want to treat great customer service as an ongoing journey within your staff. Offer refresher courses on customer care or dedicate at least one team meeting per quarter to discussing your customer service philosophy, customer-facing situations that have gone well and those you can all learn from. A collaborative approach to customer service will ensure that you’re all on the same page moving forward.