Recently one of our subscribers asked me, what traits a person must possess to deliver a good customer service experience. I asked if this was for a customer support rep, and he said no. He was hiring for his IT department. We went back and forth via email, and I thought that a summary of my answer might be worth sharing.
First, as you think of traits, you should consider both attitudes and skills. Skills are obvious. If you’re hiring someone that is going to do a lot of written correspondence with customers you need someone with good communication skills – a command of the English language, as in punctuation, spelling and grammar. That’s a skill. Attitude is the way you would describe someone. For example, he or she is funny, outgoing and helpful.
There is an exercise we occasionally do in our workshops. We have a large whiteboard or flipchart in front of the audience. We ask the audience to shout out the traits of someone who would be good at customer service. As you can imagine, we get lots of answers. A few of them are:
Friendly, outgoing, funny, engaging, poised, empathetic, sympathetic, helpful, knowledgeable, good communicator, happy, confident, kind, good people skills, responsive, positive, passionate, nice, honest, polite – and the list went on.
What’s interesting about the list is that most of the traits are attitudes versus just a few being skills. A “good communicator” and “good people skills” are obviously skills. You can argue that “knowledgeable” is also a skill. So, out of the nineteen traits mentioned, only three of them are skills. Yes, we could add a few more skills to the list but for every skill you add, there are probably three or four more attitudinal traits you can add as well.
I’m not suggesting that skills aren’t important. They absolutely are. If a medical center needs to hire a skilled nurse, they are going to be looking at more than just an attitude. Nurses have to go to school, pass exams, get a degree and be licensed. Without that, all of the attitude in the world won’t land someone a job as a nurse.
This isn’t meant to be about the old saying that advocates hiring for attitude and training to skill. That may work for some jobs, but for many jobs, a person needs skills to get the job, such as that of a nurse. And, those peeps in IT are uber smart. They understand things the average human doesn’t easily comprehend. However, regardless of how strong someone’s skills are, without the right personality, as in many of the aforementioned attitudes, one employee can potentially bring down a customer-focused culture.
So what are the traits of a good employee, capable of delivering a good customer service experience? All of the above and more. My suggestion is to have a group of employees go through the exercise of listing all of the traits they can think of, both attitudes and skills. Hone the list down to the top ten core traits needed to be customer-focused for your organization. Then add to the list the specific skills needed for the specific job. The accountant needs accounting skills. The doctor needs doctor skills. And, of course the IT department needs people with IT skills. And, when you add the ten traits to the needed skills, you may have found that next AMAZING person to work with!
A few weeks ago I had breakfast at one of my favorite places, First Watch. On that particular day I wasn’t that hungry so I ordered just one pancake. Typically, when I add a pancake they charge a dollar. When the server left the check on the table I noticed they charged me five dollars for the pancake. I asked about the high-priced pancake and learned there was as difference between adding a pancake and ordering just one for breakfast. He was very nice about it, and I was happy to accept the reason. He then jokingly told me the next time I came in he was going to give me a pancake for a dollar. I thanked him and left him a nice tip for his great service and his outstanding attitude.
Two weeks later we went back to First Watch for breakfast. That day we had a different server. I ordered my usual big breakfast. A few minutes later the server came back with a pancake. She said that it was compliments of Tomas, the gentleman who took care of us the last time we were in for breakfast. I looked over and he gave me a wave and a smile.
I was impressed. First, you should know why I like First Watch. They consistently have great food and great service. Nobody is perfect, but they have their system down and they seldom miss. The servers are always friendly. That’s why I’ve been a customer of theirs since they opened their stores in St. Louis more than a dozen years ago. I always know what I’m going to get.
But, now I have another reason. They remember me. Actually, they didn’t remember. Tomas remembered me. But, for me Tomas, represents the restaurant and all of the other employees. Remembering your customers is huge. Why? Here are four good reasons.
It makes your customers feel special. Who doesn’t like to be remembered and appreciated?
It makes the experience personal. I was remembered, but more important, I was given a special experience based on Tomas remembering the pancake.
It creates a connection with your customers. People like being around people they feel they know. Recognizing and remembering someone is the first step toward that.
It increases the likelihood of a return visit. Remember the show Cheers? It was a popular sitcom that first ran in 1982 and was popular for over ten years. The theme song, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” was also the theme of the entire show. People like going to – and like going back to – places where they are remembered. It’s simply part of good customer service.