If you’ve had your hand in hiring for more than a minute, chances are, you’ve chosen the wrong candidate on at least one occasion. So, when I polled a group of managers about having recruiting regrets, I wasn’t surprised that everyone admitted to experiencing hirer’s remorse.
Finding the right fit for your team can be a real challenge — especially since the customer service role is often entry-level, where you hire more for personality and potential than you do for well-honed skills. To that end, I want to share five customer service hiring horror stories with you as told by those who lived through them*.
You may chuckle in understanding amusement or shed a tear in solidarity with the storyteller. But I can guarantee you’ll also cower in fear of these scenarios happening to you (perhaps again!).
*All names have been changed to protect the guilty!
We unwittingly hired a woman with a bad temper. Ava was sweet on the surface, but as soon as she experienced conflict, her attitude soured, and she got angry fast.
After about a week on the job, we overheard her screaming at a customer because they displayed frustration over a drawn-out problem. Rather than try to diffuse the situation, she escalated it instead. Unfortunately, Ava’s profanity-laden rant cost our company a major account, which also cost her her position.
We hired Courtney because she was so courteous and organized. For the first couple of weeks, everything went well. But then we started to get escalated complaints from our customers — and other customer service representatives.
Apparently, Courtney avoided contacting customers if she had bad news or knew they were already unhappy. That delay caused irritated customers to become irate, making everyone else’s job much harder. We tried to coach her so she could handle difficult situations calmly and confidently, but she ultimately quit days before we were going to fire her.
We loved Sam’s charming disposition. He could de-escalate any challenging conversation in minutes. However, after reviewing Sam’s output, we realized he was only taking half as many calls as the other customer service agents, putting more work on everyone else’s plate.
It turns out he was befriending many of the customers and having personal conversations with them. In fact, much of his time on the phone involved chit-chat and making social plans — not solving customer problems or selling products. When we called him out on it, he got defensive, saying his presence was boosting customer retention. We offered him one more shot, but he resigned effective immediately.
Bob had ten years of customer service experience in our industry and glowing references. So, hiring him seemed like a no-brainer. However, about a week after the initial training period, we started getting complaints that Bob’s service was less than stellar.
Apparently, he never took the time to learn about our products and services, so he kept giving customers the wrong information. His oversight sometimes led to customers making bad purchases (and always led to them getting angry!). We told Bob he needed to shape up fast and offered to help him learn the information. However, his mindset was that he knew the industry inside and out, so he didn’t need to invest more time studying. Ultimately, his poor attitude and work ethic cost him his job a few weeks later.
Laura’s resume checked all the boxes, and she interviewed like a champ. However, once she started fielding calls on her own, we noticed a major issue: she wasn’t entering notes into the system after each conversation. That meant customers had to repeat themselves when they called back because we didn’t have the history as a reference.
Laura’s failure to enter notes caused customer frustration, which often got taken out on other agents. We never figured out if Laura didn’t want to do that part of the job or if she consistently forgot about it. Either way, she didn’t last long at our company.
Are you shaking in your boots yet? I am just typing up these tales!
But there’s good news. You can reduce your chances of hiring an Ava, Courtney, Sam, Bob, Laura, or any other poor fit by having a thorough hiring process. Your hiring process should include a resume review, interviews, background and reference checks, and pre-employment testing. That last part is where we come in.
Omnia Group’s behavioral assessment can help you ensure your top candidate has the personality traits required to perform like an all-star. The assessment quickly measures their preferences, communication style, work approach, and more. The insight you gain will either confirm your hiring instincts or send you back to the resume pile. Either way, you’ll spend less time and money putting together a frighteningly effective team!
Since the very first business of starting cave fires in exchange for furs and hides, the transition from sales to service has plagued organizations. The early people had it right. Grog, the fire starter, sold the sticks and built the fire. His invoice was a grunt and a snort, and Accounts Receivable was immediately funded with a bundle of wheat. But, when it came time to stoke the flames, where was he? He needed a customer service team. Someone to tend to the fire, and when it got lower, build it back up with upselling opportunities. Grog’s 12-stick fire could have quickly become a bonfire capable of smoke signal advertising. “World’s Largest Cave Drawings, Next Exit!”
Picture it, if you will. Your customer team is fielding customer requests, providing that excellent service your clients have come to know and love. Throughout each and every day, some of your clients are dropping hints left and right about their expanding needs and how just one small added service could drastically change their operations. Other customers are being vague, they are shielding their true needs behind what they think your customer service team can offer. After all, the sales process can sometimes be an arduous one. They may not want to go through that whole process again.
You need your front-line service team to not only recognize both scenarios as opportunities but also act on those opportunities, to either capitalize on them or send them to the people who can.
Customer service team members have a big role in your organization. They must deal with challenging situations with absolute confidence while still maintaining proper communications and fostering relationship growth. They must command respect while always showing it to others. But the best customer service team members are ones that are trained in the art of sales. Just like the situations above, customer service representatives that can ease the customer burden (and the sales team’s reselling and upselling burden) excel in their positions and streamline company operations.
How can you identify the inner salesperson in your customer service team? Shameless plug: give them the Omnia Assessment and discover key traits that may lead to the discovery of great sales skills.
The perfect customer service relationship consists of three main aspects that allow the growth of service to clients: organization, communication, and passion. These three, working together, build stronger relationships and lead to the trust needed in upselling opportunities.
Using the Omnia behavioral assessment, customer service team leaders can identify ways to develop their talent’s sales skills. Omnia’s user-friendly 8-column bar graph shows leaders exactly what traits a CSR has so they can tailor their coaching sessions to each rep’s specific needs. Even better, sessions can tap into the rep’s learning style and motivators. One size does not fit all!
Most successful salespeople have a strong column 1 in their Omnia results. This shows them to be naturally assertive. Individuals with a tall column 1 are driven, competitive, and goal-oriented, perfect for sales. With quotas to meet, they are going to do whatever it takes to close deals. However, most service personalities are the opposite, a tall column 2, which means they are naturally supportive, cautious, and eager to help. It makes sense that they are the people who can assist your clients, solve problems, make account changes, and answer questions. It’s a perfect fit. But with that, comes a reluctance to sell. Let’s face it, if they wanted to sell, they would be in sales. Coaching a customer service representative to sell means shifting your definition of selling. It’s important for them to position additional products or services in a way that does not make them feel like they are demanding or pushy. They need to see it as a service, a concrete way to improve the life or business of their customer.
Additionally, salespeople tend to be energized by social interaction, as characterized by a column 3 on the Omnia Assessment. Give them a zoom meeting or a microphone and watch out! Those with a taller column 4 tend to be more reserved. While you want your customer service team to be diplomatic and friendly (no one likes a grump on a service call), column 4 analytics are often better listeners, needs assessors, and problem solvers. They tend to be factual, direct communicators, so coaching on social awareness and rapport building will go a long way towards helping that service rep connect with the customer and thereby make it a little easier to make product suggestions.
Encourage your analytical CSRs to take the first bits of their service interactions to build personal connections with their clients. Doing so builds rapport and trust. If your client knows you care, they are more likely to care about their relationship with your organization.
Both. Definitely both. In looking at the third personality dimension, pace, people with an Omnia column 5 are fast-paced. “Call now!” “Book today!” Everything is urgent. The sale must close, the deadline is always approaching. Ever noticed how salespeople always ask for dates in the decision process? They are time-driven. Conversely, those with an Omnia column 6 are more systematically inclined. “What’s the process?” “How do we move from point A to point B?” Your CSR team is most likely more systematic. CSRs love processes and procedures. So, train your CSRs to act with some urgency when it comes to upselling opportunities. If they hear an opportunity to sell, put a timeline in place at the first start. Train to ask the question, “And when are you looking to make a decision on this?” That helps set the pace while remaining procedural.
Lastly, the final personality dimension is linked to rules and guidelines. Salespeople are comfortable with ambiguity and like more leeway in how they handle sales. While it is important they maintain some sort of respect for the rules of the organization, they are often weaving around and through the rules to try to close the deal. Therefore, salespeople are often an Omnia column 7, where most customer service team members are, you guessed it, the exact opposite with an Omnia column 8. They have a greater reliance on the rules and guidelines. Rules provide comfort and increase confidence in column 8 personalities, plus it’s why your service team is detailed and accurate, which we can all agree is pretty important in service. Especially since the sales team has little to no time to pay attention to the details! Still, empower your CSRs to be a bit bolder when faced with decisions. They will want to take action within the rules, of course, but coaching them to ask questions that might open new opportunities, both with customers and within their respective organizations, is a win for everyone.
Using the Omnia Assessment for coaching your customer service team is an easy investment in the growth of your organization from the inside out. Learn your team’s Omnia personality numbers and use these coaching techniques to make sales interactions just a bit more comfortable for your fire-stokers. Grog is counting on them!
In organizations, we celebrate the sales team for bringing new business to the firm. After all, a company can’t survive for long without revenue. But, on the other side of many org charts sits the isolated, often forgotten, customer service team. This department is usually regarded as a cost center, rather than a company asset.
If you’re considering customer service as a money pit, think again. According to American Express, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether to do business with a company. Quality customer support is imperative for sales.
If your company sees service as a weight, you’re likely leaving revenue on the table and alienating customers. Invesp notes that investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. In fact, in 2019 nine percent of American consumers switched companies due to poor customer service, says New Voice Media.
For best results, both sales and service need to work in tandem to provide the best-in-class experience your customers deserve. Let’s explore how to foster a winning dynamic between the two teams.
Also Popular: Managing the Dynamics Between Your Sales and Service Teams
Before we dive into strategy, let’s examine the true significance of your company’s customer service department. Although the perception often is that this team exists solely to put out complaint fires and appease customers, the reality is that they do so much more. Did you know, 73% of customers fall in love with a brand and remain loyal because of friendly customer service reps, reports RightNow.
Customer service is the front line for your business. They make or break the customer experience. Want more proof? New Voice Media also reports that the #1 reason customers switch to a new brand is that they feel unappreciated, while 78% of customers have backed out of a purchase due to poor customer experience.
Starting to see how customer service impacts sales? If you need more convincing, consider that consumers are willing to spend 17% more on a company with outstanding customer service, reports American Express, and 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service, according to HubSpot Research.
When the customer service team is operating at peak efficiency, they do much more than resolve issues. They foster relationships with customers. They put smiles on their faces. And they leave a favorable lasting impression of your brand in their minds. All of this equals a high customer retention rate, which means higher revenues. Bain & Company quantified this in a recent report stating that increasing customer retention rates (i.e. keeping customers happy) by just 5% can increase profits between 25% and 95%!
And, if they have the right skill set, personality, and training, your customer service team can actually bring in new business, too. They’ll nimbly move from problem solver to cross-seller or upseller, which increases customer satisfaction -- and your profits. Essentially, they’ll become an extension of your sales team.
In short, the department is absolutely vital to your company’s longevity and growth.
It’s tough for customer service to shine when they’re in conflict with the sales department. And you want them to shine, because as many as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience, according to a Segment Survey. Often selling on commission, your sales team is typically concerned with one thing and one thing only: closing the deal. This revenue-oriented drive can lead them to over-promise things to your customers. And, when the company can’t deliver, customer service is left holding the bag.
Over promising and under delivering comes with a whole host of problems for your customer service department. Those issues include:
And -- the detrimental impact to your customers can’t be overstated. When your company fails to serve them as promised, they’ll rightfully become angry and distrustful. Even worse, you’re likely to lose repeat business and, according to American Express, angry American customers are likely to share their negative experiences with about 15 people.
So, when sales and service are at odds, interdepartmental communication will be poor, job satisfaction will plummet, customer retention will worsen, and the company’s bottom line will suffer. If you can get them in sync, though, you’ll have a happy, tight-knit workforce that closes more deals and delights customers. So, how can you get the two departments on the same page?
As a leader, there are four key things you need to do to improve the interdepartmental dynamic:
Let’s look at each in turn.
The first place to look is your scorecard and your company metrics for success. Do sales and service match up? Are they working towards the same established goals? And, more importantly, do employee behaviors align with those stated success indicators?
For example, if customer service has a goal of responding to all inquiries within two business days, the sales team shouldn’t promise a same-day response. The two teams must act as one and present a clear and consistent message to customers. After all, they are both working towards the same ultimate goal of making the company successful.
Your company needs to make collaboration a normal, celebrated part of doing business that gets prioritized. Ideas and data should flow freely between the two departments. And everyone in the firm, including the sales team, should adopt the mantra that customer service is a mindset, not just a department. Bottom line: the lines of communication must stay open, and the once near-adversarial relationship should become more team-oriented.
To promote unity between the two groups, offer ample opportunities for team building. When sales and service get together in an informal but planned way, they’ll get to know each other as people and gain empathy for one another’s perspective. Sales may think twice about promising the moon to a customer just to make a sale when they know service could have to deal with customer disappointment down the line.
In addition, seeing each other perform their respective roles can be eye-opening. They’ll understand the other department’s challenges and gain respect for everything that goes into being successful in that position. Consider arranging cross-department job shadowing between sales and service at the time of hire - and on an ongoing basis to cement these new perspectives.
And, if appropriate, consider job swapping. An extroverted customer service representative with a competitive streak might enjoy being in sales for a day or two. And a detail-oriented sales associate may benefit from taking on a temporary customer service role. Just be sure you’re not setting your employees up to fail. If their personality doesn’t lend itself to the opposite role, this strategy isn’t a good fit for them - or your unsuspecting customers.
The best philosophies and attitudes don’t mean a thing if the actual company structure and business processes don’t support them. As a leader, you must provide the structure, tools, and resources your teams require to perform at their best. That could mean ensuring adequate communication systems exist (think interoffice messaging) or physically situating the departments closer together in the office to facilitate more face-to-face conversations. The key is to make collaboration as easy as possible.
If you want to better understand your team members and discover ways to help them function as a cohesive group, a Team Dynamic Report can help. Based on the results of our signature behavioral assessment, this report shows how likely each team member is to communicate with each other and reveals deeper insight into their individual strengths and weaknesses. The report will give you an action plan to facilitate collaboration, improve communication, and unify your team.
The report can be customized to fit your firm’s unique circumstances. Getting one is easy. Simply fill out a questionnaire and hop on a quick call with us, and we’ll do the rest!
Sales and service have long been at odds. But, the truth is -- they’re both playing for the same team! Sometimes, employees just need to be reminded of that. As a leader, you have the power and responsibility to foster a winning dynamic between the two groups. When you do, you’ll have an unstoppable, connected workforce that wows your customers and positions your company for long-term success.
We can all think of a time when we have received horrible customer service, right? Unfortunately, poor customer service experiences are usually easier to recall than good examples. For instance, I once had a waiter spill water on me four times...during the same meal. My mother, a teacher, once had to retake an entire series of end-of-year student pictures because the photo printing company refused to send her prints. The reason given? She had not yet paid for her slide-show disk. One problem: the disk was included for free as part of the picture package!
A surprisingly bad customer service moment can do more damage than a history of mediocrity. Those terrible moments stand out in people’s minds and are readily shared with others. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the average dissatisfied customer shares their bad experience with 9 to 15 people, and 13 percent of them tell more than 20 people. Research estimates that companies could be losing as much as $62 billion each year due to poor customer services.
Thankfully, though, other stories are told and retold, the ones about surprisingly GOOD customer service. Recent research has found that while 30 percent of customers report being likely to share their bad experiences, 49 percent of those same customers would be willing to share examples of good customer service situations. Truly going above and beyond can make the difference between a satisfied customer and an intensely loyal customer who gives you repeat business and sends other people your way.
Of course, everyone has bad days (including service providers and customers), and you can’t please everyone. Here are a few tips to avoid creating outrageously bad customer service experiences that are likely to get you called out on social media (you know, the ones that get nearly 20 million YouTube views)
So what is bad customer service, and why is it so damaging to your organization? Perhaps the best way of understanding what poor customer service looks like is to stress how it takes any situation and makes it worse. Making a mistake is one thing; even people with good customer service skills will occasionally fail to meet expectations. What distinguishes poor customer service is the way people (and organizations) respond to those situations.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is failing to be professional in the heat of the moment. This should go without saying, but there should be a zero-tolerance policy against any foul language or insults toward a customer, no matter how rude or insulting the customer is being. Remember that while customers speak for themselves, you (or your customer service employee) represent your entire company.
The process of obtaining services should never be more painful than the problem. Nobody likes long hold times, tons of complicated rules, multiple phone transfers, and/or untrained service people. If customers deal with this enough (and once might be “enough” for some), they’ll think twice about doing business with that company in the future. Good customer service makes dealing with your company as easy and frictionless as possible.
As an organization, you should never go back on your word or try to duck responsibility. It’s important to think beyond the short-term incentives of standing your ground on an issue. When companies use loopholes to avoid honoring return policies/guarantees or flat-out choose not to honor them, they may keep that one sale, but they damage their reputation and lose future sales.
When things go wrong, there is often a temptation to throw someone under the bus to absolve the rest of the organization of wrongdoing. However, in most cases, the customer doesn’t care who made the mistake; they want to know who will fix it. Good customer service skips the blame game. If a mistake was made, apologize, fix it, and move on.
To provide the kind of customer service that gets people talking in a good way, every organization should take to heart a few features of good customer service.
Now more than ever, customers want to feel acknowledged, respected, and valued. Ensure everyone from reception to IT to sales knows how to get your customers the help they need. Cultivating good customer service skills is critical to delivering a positive consumer experience.
Delivering on all promises and being unerringly reliable are core features of good customer service. If you say you are going to do it, do it.
If you cater to busy business people, help them without wasting their time. If you provide technical products to people who are not technically savvy, focus on patience, and attentive training. The same information you used to win the prospect can be used to keep the customer.
Can you get them the product sooner than expected? Can you solve a problem they didn’t know they had? Train your service people to head off issues at the pass and build a positive experience from the beginning.
Make it your goal to shock people with amazing service. Give them more than they expect, surprise them with contests or prizes, send thank you cards, follow-up, and endear them with personal touches.
Any time there is a chance to build a one-on-one relationship with a customer, take it. If someone tells you their situation, take notes. Being remembered is a big deal to people (and having to repeat the same info over and over is annoying).
Not everyone is so nice, and not every customer who complains will be satisfied with your response. Always have a plan in place to deal with the one who wants something for nothing and who will be unhappy no matter what you do.
As good customer service increasingly becomes a competitive differentiator, there’s no excuse for failing to instill good customer service skills throughout your organization. Addressing your customer’s needs, pain points, and complaints quickly and effectively will help you to create the kind of lifelong advocates who are so essential to growing your business.
What to do when you want your customer service team to make sales?
There is a push to get service people to sell. It makes sense: They have a captive audience and constant contact with potential buyers. Since sales generally come with financial incentives, why don't more service people naturally take advantage of selling opportunities? Here are some things to ponder when considering having your service or operations try their hand at selling.
I have what could be considered a typical service personality (cautious, reserved, systematic, detail-oriented), and when faced with the possibility of selling, my thoughts take a very rational course. I think, "If I hide under my desk, maybe they'll think I am invisible, and I won't have to do this." Yes, it's that hard for me to contemplate. Once in my rash youth, I took a job going door to door soliciting donations for a nonprofit. I needed the job desperately, and the pay was pretty good. I lasted one day. (Technically, you couldn't even call it one day since I spent much of the time shuffling around my assigned neighborhood, wishing I could sprain my ankle so I'd have an excuse for my miserable results.)
Possibly, it comes down to fight or flight. When faced with a potential competitor, natural-born salespeople do whatever they can to win (fight). Natural service people tend to back away (flight). I turn tail and run like a small rodent from an angry badger (super-flight).
If you ask me why it's so scary, I can't really tell you. Of course, there is the fear of rejection, fear of hostility, fear of disappointing my manager, and losing my job! Well, ok. That's plenty. The thing is, I know intellectually I am in no actual danger, but that doesn't stop me from having the kind of visceral, physical reaction one would expect to see in someone facing (possibly for the first time) a battle against a horde of the walking undead.
If I evaluate myself honestly, I think I could sell if I had to. I believe most people could do any job for a while. However, the incentives would have to be right, and the pressure would have to be low. (Trust me; people like me put enough internal pressure on themselves without needing much pushing from the outside.)
Also Popular: How to Foster a Winning Dynamic Between Sales and ServiceSo, what can you do to help your customer service team make sales?
The plus side is the very thing that makes service people terrified of sales makes them great at service. They need to be helpful, work well with other people, put customers' needs first, listen patiently, take feedback to heart, and do what is necessary to exceed expectations. These people can make your customers happy you hired them.
You’ve likely heard the newest workplace buzz around strengths-based cultures. But what exactly is that? It's not how physically fit your employees are, but an atmosphere that relies less on the hierarchy of function and more on flexible and goal-driven teams. These teams can continually change, adapt, form, or reform based on a specific assignment or project. It’s a way to tap into the individual's strengths for maximum impact and productivity to the group as a whole.
A strengths-based culture capitalizes on strengths rather than focusing solely on improving weaknesses. This doesn’t mean people can skip the parts of the job they don’t like or that they should give up trying to become competent with tasks they aren’t great at. It simply means you can exercise more flexibility in how you assign tasks, projects, and levels of authority for those tasks or projects. It’s thinking outside the job description!
When functioning optimally, a strengths-based culture boasts an environment in which employees contribute by working primarily in roles that play to their talents. For example, if your top sales rep is terrible with details, don’t make them responsible for servicing the account post-sale. But…don’t let them off the hook for turning in incorrect information to the customer support team! You want each team member to function as the go-to resource for whatever they excel at, and collectively, all aspects of the business are covered expertly. This type of culture also places a high value on professional development so that the powerhouse of talent continues to strengthen as skills are further honed. Your company, in turn, experiences growth and an increased competitive advantage.
As if that doesn’t sound amazing enough, here are four more benefits of a strengths-based culture:
Let’s look at each in turn.
When an organization exhibits a strengths-based culture, they are sure to appeal to workers looking for an opportunity to showcase their talents and continually refine their skills. Your company will get to select workers from a pool of motivated candidates who are eager to perform at a high level and join a team committed to doing the same. Additionally, hiring processes can be tailored to entice and identify candidates with specific strong suits, making them more efficient. Finally, current employees, who are satisfied with and good at their jobs, will likely refer to high-quality candidates that can help the company, resulting in lower recruitment costs.
Individually, employees that leverage their strengths will carry out their responsibilities more effectively, exceed goals, and strive for continuous improvement. Collectively, their efforts will bring about increased competitive advantage and, ultimately, profitability. Moreover, customers will enjoy doing business with your strengths-based organization because they will receive service from employees that are uniquely suited to help them. Customers receiving superior care will remain loyal and may even refer to new businesses. The bottom line is that companies fostering a strengths-based culture will find that each part and the business's collective whole perform better as a result.
It’s no secret—people enjoy doing what they’re good at. When they can work in their strength areas, they’re happier, experience less frustration, and enjoy praise for a job well done. They experience a high level of engagement with their work and with the organization. Moreover, when employees can exercise their talents, they become energized and give off positive vibes. That elevates the office's overall mood, making it a place where employees want to be every day. They will do their best to keep everything operating at that level—or better—so that the good times continue.
The turnover rate is an excellent barometer of an organization’s health. When employees are happy and feel that they contribute at a high level, they are less likely to leave an organization. As mentioned, a strengths-based culture promotes both contentment and high performance. Therefore, organizations employing this type of culture enjoy a lower turnover rate that results in more satisfied customers, lower recruiting costs, a stronger human capital pool, and a more positive workplace environment.
Tapping into Strengths
So how can your company discover the strengths of candidates or employees? While interviewing certainly is a critical component of the employment process, it often fails to capture the interviewee’s personality and psyche's nuances. Consider using a behavioral assessment in your hiring and talent management process to get a more holistic picture.
Behavioral assessments provide an organization with deep insight into a candidate’s potential by uncovering their natural behaviors, strengths, and motivators. Obtaining this information before hiring will help fill roles with the right people without wasting time on those who prove not to fit down the line. This saves you both time and money; poor hires are a costly misstep.
Using these assessments with your existing workforce ensures that in-house strengths are appropriately leveraged. The assessment data will also guide employee development and succession planning. Overall, behavioral assessments have the power to help build and fortify a high performing and engaged workforce, which is the crux of a strengths-based culture.
Putting it Together
It’s easy to see why cultivating a strengths-based culture should be top of mind for any organization. At the end of the day, companies are comprised of people. When they can spend their time playing to their strengths, they will be happy; they will produce, stay, and, most importantly, tout the culture to whoever will listen, attracting more people like them to your company.