Screening Front Line Staff for Their Patient Experience Impact
Preparing New and Existing Staff to be Chief Moment Officers
Sometimes businesses get distracted and forget the most basic principles to support a thriving business. Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony Corp. advised business leaders, “No matter how good or successful you are, or how clever or crafty, your business and its future are in the hands of the people you hire.” This key to success can be forgotten when the customer isn’t at the center of important decisions including hiring and ongoing training. Team members with customer contact positions often feel they don’t have much influence on company strategy but when front-line staff are given the opportunity to understand that each interaction with a customer is important and valued, happy staff and happy customers are on the way.
In my book, Unleashing the Chief Moment Officers, companies are encouraged to prepare and honor all staff members to make the most of even the smallest customer interactions that when woven together, a strong customer experience culture will thrive.
Ways to Screen and Train Front Line Staff
1 - Time to Audition
Effective customer experience strategies must be well integrated with operations decision-making and that includes the human resource department and hiring. One way to better screen candidates to insure exceptional customer experiences is to stop interviewing and start auditioning. Once the basic resume review and initial conversations establish which candidates are qualified for customer-facing jobs, bring 3-4 finalists together for a group audition either in person or on video meetings. This format allows hiring leaders to watch who shines among the group. Having them answer some similar questions and some unique questions will give a much better indication of how good they are with unexpected situations, if they maintain a positive attitude and how well-spoken they are in a small group. The ability to compare and contrast in real-time will make it easier for hiring leaders to recall who excelled vs individual meetings that may be weeks or months apart.
2 - Identify Important Characteristics
There may be specific behaviors tied to specific businesses and customers however the ability to recruit and retain highly effective customer professionals does involve some core traits that will increase the chances to delight customers and fend off the competition. The recruitment company Execu-Search published a blog that outlined key characteristics that staff members should have in order to support exceptional customer experiences including: being empathetic, proactive, good listeners and good observers of customer behaviors. You can learn more at this link:
Employee Profile: The Customer Service-Oriented Professional (execu-search.com)
If your customers require special skills or desired behaviors, be sure to identify that list by involving leaders, front-line staff and customer feedback so that characteristics that are likely to drive satisfaction are clear.
3 - Promptly Address A Bad Fit
Despite the best hiring and recruitment efforts, it’s common that someone is hired for a customer serving position they just aren’t well suited for. When this happens there can be a few paths to take.
First, check to see if they were ever properly notified of expectations and understand them, next, see if there has been a lapse in preparation or training so they can do their best for the company and the customer and if these two are not an issue, pursue a customer skill coaching program and set a finite timeframe for improvements.
If this approach to coach a team member up, it’s time to coach them out to another job. If someone who is a bad fit either due to skill or behaviors is allowed to remain on the job, it puts a strain on the high performing team members who often have to fill in for their poor performance which can fuel resentment. When incentives are team based, a staff member who isn’t a good fit can drag down the team performance negatively impacting the entire team.
As leaders it’s important promptly identify those who may be unable to delight customers and correct the situation. Your customers are counting on that.
All companies invest heavily in the systems to recruit, train and retain great contributors. The best efforts to fill positions with the right person in the right job may miss the mark if customer experience expectations aren’t clearly outlined from the beginning. Any positions that directly impact the customer experience should require ongoing input and training on ways to delight.
When staff members feel their influence and perspectives are valued, they become more strongly invested in the success of the company and the importance of all customer interactions. Staff at all levels have influence on a moment-by-moment basis and this should be valued throughout the company. Companies that screen prepare and celebrate staff to delight customers will achieve the desired happy people, happy customers goal which is a perfect foundation for sustainable growth.
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