|Article republished with management tips!
The Secrets of the Well Trained Service Professional and How to Identify Those Behaviors During the Interview Process or Through Coaching
1, A Well Trained Service Representative ENJOYS working with people and solving problems. (Their secret: they are comfortable with and enjoy interacting with people.) Management tip: During the interview process, take into account the person's outgoing nature. Ask questions about their hobbies and activities they enjoy. If you make a light-hearted joke, judge whether the candidate responds appropriately. Also, simply be direct and ask behavioral interview questions that surround the topic of people. An example may be: Give me an example of how you have collaborated with co-workers in other positions. Tell me about a time when you weren't in a good mood but still needed to interact with people.
2. A well Trained Service Representative is comfortable dealing with emotions and understands that the angry, upset, and emotional customer is angered by their situation, and not at them. (Their secret, the representative does not take it personally! They have a high Emotional Intelligence IQ.) Management tip: A potential interview question to identify the representative's emotional intelligence may be: Tell me about a time when your awareness of your own emotions caused you to change the way you were interacting with an upset, angry customer? What happens if you let yourself become involved in the emotion? How do you control your own emotions when dealing with the angry customer?
If you have existing staff members who struggle with the angry, emotional or upset customer, and tend to pass the "issue" on to someone else (usually the manager or supervisor), this can be a strong indicator of low Emotional Intelligence. People with low emotional intelligence tend to "fight or flight" during stressful situations. Our studies indicate that emotional intelligence training is useful and can help develop a deeper understanding and self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses.
3. A well trained service representative acknowledges that every customer has the right to their feelings... and understands the power of projecting EMPATHY. (For this article, let's identify Empathy as the ability and the desire to help others, to put oneself in theplace of the customer.) Management tip: Empathy goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence. However, empathy is not a learned technique or skill. You cannot tell a person how to feel or how to care about another human being. You can only tell them why they should care. (We have all experienced an insincere or indifferent "I'm sorry", right?)
During the interview process ask questions to identify the depth of the candidate's ability to express empathy. A few example questions may be: Tell me about a time that you helped a confused, disgruntled customer who was at their wits end. Why were they upset? What steps did you take to help calm the customer? Why do you think the customer responded positively to you and allowed you to help them? How did it make you feel? Why?
If you have staff members who simply cannot or will not project empathy to the customer, you may want to move them out of the service or support environment. These folks will always come across as rude, uncaring and indifferent and have a negative impact on your department, the team and the organization. It does not mean they are rude and uncaring, but that is how they are perceived in these situations. The service environment is not a good match for them, and the lack of empathy comes through loud and clear.
4. The Service Professional projects a "can do" attitude with a smile! (Their secret - they project a positive attitude" versus the "I can't help you - negative attitude.") We all have heard the quote from Denis Waitley: "If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won't, you most assuredly won't. Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad.") When visiting an organization, I can usually spot the "can-do people" from just walking around the department. They are the ones who are confident and resourceful in the face of challenges and yes, they tend to smile and projectoptimism and a can-do spirit. Management tip: The can-do attitude is a behavior and can be easily identified during the interview process. Questions you may ask to discover their depth of resourcefulness: How do you handle a situation where your workload has gotten out of hand but you have several priority "cases" that must be completed that day or the service level agreements with the customer will be missed? How did you come to your solution on how to handle the multiple priorities? When you think about the roadblocks in front of you when you are trying to reach a goal or meet a deadline, what steps do you take? Note: As managers, many times we inherit staff members and do not have the opportunity make a personal choice. Signs of the uninspired employee are: listless, disinterested, unengaged, passive and desensitized. These behaviors have a negative impact on you, your staff and the organization. Even though it can be a challenge and time consuming, it is still the managers responsibility to coach the "no can-do" employee and try to turn them around.
Start with yourself. Make sure you are not exhibiting signs of an uninspired manager around the uninspired employee (it's easy to fall into the habit when you are interacting with the no can-do employee.) Stay focused on their strengths and talents. Find out what inspires them and provide development and cross training opportunities in the areas they show an interest. Encourage employee involvement and ownership of their behaviors.
Understand the importance and difference between coaching and counseling. I strongly recommend that you reward behavior not just the numbers (the numbers will fall into place if they improve behavior.) Establish a timeline and set clear expectations on what behaviors you want to see improve and make sure your expectations are clearly understood (ask the employee to repeat the behaviors you want improved). To shift responsibility and ownership to the employee, remember the employee is responsible for their behavior, development and attitude, not you. The manager provides the clear expectations, identifies the behaviors issues and provides the resources. The employee should identify a plan of action (not you) and make them accountable for the timeline. Also, know when to move from coaching to counseling. Like the old Kenny Rodger's song goes- Know when to hold them and know when to fold them...
5. The well trained service professional knows that every situation is unique to that specific customer. (Their secret - they may have heard the same question or issue 100 times that day, but they always project interest and they don't interrupt the customer.) Management tip: This goes back to points #1, 2, 3 and 4. Uncover the candidate's understanding of the specific soft skills and behaviors required of a service professional. (Specific question samples are mentioned in points 1-4). Remember, most of these skills can be learned, but overall it is a personal decision and willingness to employ the behavior when in a specific situation.
6. A well trained service representative takes OWNERSHIP. (Their secret, they own the problem they do not try to "pass" the customer off on another person. There are two types of ownership behavioral traits for this article. First, the representative who always has an excuse why they cannot help the customer. They tend to offer excuses, such as: "I don't handle your account." "You called the wrong department." "I don't know" or of my favorites "They didn't tell me that." The first example is the person who will not take ownership or responsibility and prefers to pass the customer off to others. This is a behavioral issue. The second type of ownership is about empowerment. Many times the representative would like to have helped the customer but was not able to do so because of management restrictions. Management tip: For the representative who tends to just "pass the problem off" to a supervisor or manager, the behavior needs to be addressed through coaching or counseling.
To identify ownership and responsibility behavior during the interview process you may ask questions such as: Tell me about a time that you went above the call of duty? Why did you feel it was necessary? Another question may be, Tell me about a time you were assigned a project where you did not have the proper skills or resources needed to complete the project. What steps did you take to complete the task?
And lastly, if your policies and procedures are too rigid and restrict the motivated employee who wants to help, then it is time to revisit your policies and procedures and empower your staff. When you hire a person, they are not just a warm body, they have a brain and most people want to do a good job. Take a look at how your employees can help you through providing them with specific "empowerment guidelines" (that you are comfortable with) and empower them to make decisions and offer solutions to the customer. It is a win/win/win. You, your customers and your employees will be happier!
7. A well trained service representative is aware how to actively listen and ask the right questions to solve problems. (Their secret - they know how to stay focused and not jump to conclusions.) Management tip: I believe that we choose to listen or not. So, to me, listening is both a learned skill and a behavior. To identify good listening skills during the interview processes, you may ask questions such as: Tell me, can you describe your listening skills? What is the most important skill to make you a good listener? (The best answer is, I stay engaged and participate in the conversation.) To identify questioning skills, a sample question may be; Can you tell me the four most common types of questions? (The best answer is open, closed, probing and leading questions.) Can you give me an example of each question type? When should you use each type and why? Of course these questions will only verify the candidate understands the listening processes - it does not guarantee they are actually good listeners.
8. A well trained service representative uses their communication skills (written, verbal, questioning techniques, listening skills and problem solving skills) to interact with customers over the telephone, face to face, email, and all social media interactions. (Their secret - they truly understand the power of excellent communication skills and use them to positively impact their interaction with all customers.) Management tip: To be competitive in the service and support industry today, excellent communication skills are imperative. And as we all know, good communication and soft skills are not defined as "just being nice" or "a smile in your voice". The lack of strong communications skills in the service department is just not acceptable, period. As I have discussed throughout this article - there are times when a manager has the opportunity to hire his or her own staff and times when your staff will be inherited.
When you have the opportunity to go through the interview process, a few questions you may want to ask to determine the interviewees good communication skills are: Tell me about the most difficult policy or procedure, marketing or service promotion you had to explain to a disgruntled customer? What made the policy so difficult to understand? Why were you able to explain the program when others had not? Tell me how do you keep your manager informed on the progress of a project? Have you ever been a part of a team where one of the team members did not like you or vice versa? How did you handle the situation? Tell me one positive communication skill that you possess that sets you apart from others? What kinds of communication situations cause you difficulty? Why? How do you overcome these situations?
9. A well trained service representative communicates and interacts well with their co-workers, other departments and management. (Their secret, they understand that we all are in this together. They partner with their managers and they do not involve themselves with gossip or negative vibes.) Management tip: Again, we either inherit staff or have the opportunity to bring in new hires. For those instances when you have the opportunity to go through the interview process, some questions are: Describe a team experience you found disappointing. What would you have done to prevent this? Describe a team experience you found rewarding. Describe the types of teams you've been involved with. What were your roles? At the end of the day, to ensure the project work plan timeline is met, how do you as an individual, make this happen? (what you are looking for in an answer is how they inspired or motivated their team members to move forward, etc... what they should not say is something like, I take the initiative and finish the work myself.)
10. A well trained service representative understands the importance of the delivery of good customer service and their impact on the organization. (Their secret, they understand the importance of a professional, friendly, knowledgeable, confident and empowered front line.) Management tip: Remember... It STARTS with YOU. Inspire yourself. Inspire your employees. Inspire the organization. Recognition and Praise is the Key! Make sure your management style focuses on what went right, NOT just what went wrong. And PLEASE Reward BEHAVIOR Not Just Numbers. And never forget as a leader you are only as good as your team. Monitor and coach and know when to move from coaching to counseling.
Bonus Tip for Management: A Simple Fact: A well trained service representative is equally IMPORTANT and has the same IMPACT on the organization as a great marketing campaign can have on the bottom line. Without a strong professional front line interacting with the customer ... well you know the negative impact, right? So make sure you promote your department (and your personal) successes as well. Get upper management involved in one of the most important departments in the organization, the service and support department. Become an advocate, start a culture change!