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HIRING

One Trait to Look for in Every Hire

What type of people should you have on your team? Those with a great attitude or with unparallelled knowledge. I've made my decision.
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I just had the pleasure of spending a week on Royal Caribbean's  Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built. Carrying six thousand plus passengers, the boat is truly a modern marvel. But all of the boat's attractions its less apparent primary asset is the crew.

Comprised of two thousand plus members from over sixty-five countries the staff expertly orchestrates week-long escapes from our day-to-day lives set against the backdrop of this ship with smiles and festive attitudes 24/7. They sparked a thought in my head about the kind of people I want on my team and what I should look for in my next hire.

From the time you wake up in the morning until the wee hours of the evening never once do you see an unfriendly face on a Royal Caribbean staff member. They are happy, energetic, and making sure that you are enjoying yourself all of the time while on their boat. From the cabin stewards who quietly smile and move out of your way each morning so that you can get to your next destination onboard to the wait staff that engages you with some kind of miraculous friendly energy the entire crew creates a wonderful customer experience. Brochures, web sites, and commercials may get you there but it is the people who bring you back.

So if you run a customer-service based organization what can you learn from Royal Caribbean? Hire for attitude. Train for knowledge.

As I sat enjoying one of our last dinners on the boat I marveled at how the wait staff approached their work. Every customer interaction was performed with a smile. Every request satisfied. You can teach the knowledge of how to run your business, how to do a job. You cannot teach attitude. In the end, your marketing efforts may bring the customer in, but it is the customer service attitude of your employees that will, or will not, keep them coming back.

So how do you make sure you hire the right employees to keep your customers emphatically satisfied with your goods or services? Create a customer service screening test during the interview process and consider only those employees that pass the same. Here's how.

1.       Map

Map out the perfect elements of your sales and customer experience models. What should happen from the time the customer first contacts you until the time they purchase your goods or services?

2.       Identify

Identify either potential customer service issues or errors that have actually occurred in the past within your models or that could theoretically occur in the same.

3.       Create

Create screening questions for applicants based upon these identified issues with suggested proper responses based upon how your business should handle the same.

 4.       Test

Test potential applicants to see how they would handle these situations. This can either be done orally during the interview process or with an actual written test, as applicable to your model.

 5.       Screen

Use the results of the test to screen out any applicants who do not meet your standards of customer service you demand in the day-to-day operation of your business.

Does it work? Absolutely.

Just off of the top of my head I can recall our test screening out an applicant who, in response to a question asking her to tell us her worst customer service story, informed us that she loses her cool from time-to-time and once chased down a customer into a parking lot to throw their below-average tip back at them. She was screened out of our hiring process.

You can always train for knowledge on your specific duties and systems. But attitude is different. In our experience you cannot change a person's inherent nature.

So when looking for your next employee or employees use the system above to make sure their view of how to treat the customer is aligned with that of your business. Hire for attitude. Train for knowledge.

Last updated: Apr 10, 2012

MATTHEW SWYERS | Columnist | Founder, The Trademark Company

Matthew Swyers is the founder of The Trademark Company, a Web-based law firm specializing in protecting the trademark rights of small to medium-size businesses. The company is ranked No. 138 on the 2011 Inc. 500.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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