Keep Your Eye on the 'Customer-Service Ball'

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

No offense to you cat lovers, but I prefer dogs. I am particularly impressed with how they give their undivided attention to whatever matters to them. Take fetching a tennis ball.

My childhood pet, a (black lab named Rufus), loved to play fetch. When I'd pick up a tennis ball he'd assume a position somewhat like a sprinter's four-point crouch start. With front legs splayed and hind end in the air, he’d keep his eye on that ball ready to spring in whatever direction I tossed it.

He could play this game for hours if only I would play with him. But as a teenager “with more important things on my mind,” I rarely lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes.

What brings this to mind now, you ask? Of all things, news reports that consumer spending, which just two months ago had slowly inched upward, has once again fallen off.

To make a convoluted story simple, the report led to my thinking about how, in our halting recovery, businesses need to focus on their customers. Looking for a relevant analogy, I thought about how closely dogs focus on a thrown ball.

The point is this: Even though you’re eager to raise prices, recoup some of the losses you’ve sustained and start to grow again, you must first take time to focus on who’s buying from you and why. Do your customers buy for convenience? Price? Brand loyalty? Great customer service?

If your customers or clients feel more confident financially and choose to spend more, will they spend it with you or take their business elsewhere?

Now this is where Rufus comes in. Just as he kept his eye on his tennis ball, you must keep your eye on your clients. Follow their attitudes and actions closely and you’re sure to fetch - pun intended - their business. Lose sight of them, and you’ll miss opportunities and sales.

Here’s something you can do now for little cost and minimal effort but which, potentially, can give you a huge payoff: talk to your employees about your customers. Remind them just how important your buyers are. Also, make clear what you expect of them.

And here’s a bonus tip. While you’re defining what you expect of your employees, show them what’s in it for them.

Because though your company vision ranks uppermost in importance to you, it rarely achieves the same importance for your employees. Therefore, if you want to motivate your staff to the customer-service vision you are aiming to achieve, you need to show them how that vision will help them reach their own, personal vision.

Tips: Six Core Traits That Help Make Customer-Facing Employees Successful

We all have that one customer or client we can count on. He comes in on a regular basis to buy our products, or he frequently calls to engage our services. Nice, isn't it, to have a reliable customer like this?

Unfortunately, just one bad service experience can cost us this customer.

Further, in this current social networking era, just one negative tweet or Facebook posting can quickly and seriously damage our company’s reputation.

To avoid such a blemish on your good name, take time to pinpoint possible holes in your customer service.

Further, hire or promote friendly, helpful employees when filling customer-facing roles in the first place. With them, good customer service most likely will fall into place. Look for people who are…

People who trust tend to believe that another’s motives are honorable. We describe them as unquestioning, uncritical or optimistic.

We describe people with low trust levels as wary, vigilant or skeptical.

A particularly untrusting employee will focus on the problem's validity, while one more trusting will seek a solution amenable to all parties involved.

Tactful people state their positions without offending others. We describe them as discreet, diplomatic or restrained.

We describe less tactful people as direct, obvious or forthright.

How an employee says something to a customer is just as important as what he says, especially in an emotionally charged situation.

People with a high level of empathy understand others’ feelings. We describe them as understanding, compassionate or sensitive.

We describe people with low levels of empathy as detached, indifferent or distant.

Frequent, honest communication displays empathy.

Employees with high levels of conformity have a strong tendency to comply with company rules and with those in authority. We describe them as traditional, compliant or conventional.

We describe people with low levels of conformity as inventive, free-spirited or independent.

So wouldn’t you want your customer-facing employees to be independent, to feel free to make decisions on the spot?

The answer, of course, is yes. But the decisions they make not only must deliver exceptional value to your customers or clients, they must benefit your company. Therefore it’s important that your customer-service employees know and comply with your company's ground rules.

Highly focused people tend to stay on task regardless of distractions. We describe them as attentive, purposeful or efficient.

We describe people with little ability to focus as distractible, preoccupied or inefficient.

Want an example? How about a teenaged clerk more focused on texting her friends than on helping you find a shirt that fits? What's more annoying than that?

Customer service requires relentless focus.

Highly flexible people tend to explore new ways of doing things. We describe them as adaptable, accepting and open minded.

We describe less flexible people as uncompromising, rigid or cautious.

Because customers have different requests or issues, customer-service people must have the flexibility and presence of mind to deal dynamically with them. This requires confidence and, of course, a keen understanding of your products or service.

Match traits and capabilities with job requirements
After reviewing these six core competencies, it may seem obvious that when considering a potential candidate for any given customer-facing position, you should look first at what traits and capabilities the job requires and then select your employee accordingly.

Because even if an employee has the right skills and experience, his odds of success and remaining on the job are low if his core behaviors and tendencies do not line up with those needed for success in his role.

Here's the bottom line. Customer-facing employees act as extensions of your brand. They heavily influence the customer's experience. They are essential in maintaining your existing customers as well as winning new ones.

If your customer-facing employees lack the core competencies listed here, however, they could do more damage than good to your company.

Your Solution Toolbox: How to Identify People Who Match Your Customer-Service Policies and Attitudes

Measuring What Matters

So if these core competencies are so important, how can you identify people who possess them? How can you know who has high potential for being an effective customer-facing employee?

By using customer-service assessments. Specifically, let me suggest Profile International's assessment tool Customer-service Profile™ (CSP).

CSP measures the six employee behaviors necessary for extraordinary customer service that I've outlined here: trust, tact, empathy, conformity, focus and flexibility. It also analyzes how closely a candidate's perspective matches your company's customer-service policies and attitudes.

Additionally, I suggest Profile International's ProfileXT® (PXT). The PXT can help you determine job fit, a key indicator of how well an employee will perform and how long he will stay on the job. It also uses a job match pattern that you develop by examining employees who are most and least successful in a given position. Their scores provide benchmarks for new job candidates in the same position. PXT can also help determine the best candidates for internal promotions.

To put Profile International's Customer Service Profile™ and ProfileXT® to work in your organization, call me today at 952-322-3330 or send an email to

HR Consulting
Call me, too, if you are looking for professional assistance with your personnel questions. We'll help you learn how to:

Let’s Talk! We offer a no obligation consultation to informally assess your current policies, procedures, and practices. This may help determine what’s missing in your current programs to meet the above recommendations. Call 952-322-3330 or send an email to

Finally check out MG assessments on the Web at

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