Author and speaker Shep Hyken: The best companies hire for customer service

March 4, 2014 0
Author and speaker Shep Hyken: The best companies hire for customer serviceCustomer service guru Shep Hyken

There’s an old saying that goes like this: Hire for attitude and train the skill.

The best companies hire right. But, more than for attitude and skill, they hire for personality and for synergy with the company’s core values.

Your Company’s Lifeblood
To survive, your company needs customers. They are the lifeblood of a company. They create revenue and cash flow, and pay for the lights to be turned on and pay the employees’ salaries.

So, I’m going to assume that as you’re hiring people, you want to hire people who are customer-focused. The first step to creating a customer-focused organization is to bring aboard the right people—and not just those on the front line. It’s the entire organization, from the top executive or owner to the employees on the front line, and everyone in between.

It’s not to say that skills don’t matter. There must be some reasonable level of skill, but if the behavior and values aren’t there, then you risk eroding your brand and destroying the morale inside your organization.

Ace Hardware

Ace Hardware stands out as an example of how to hire for customer service.

Ace Is the Place
In my latest book, “Amaze Every Customer Every Time,” I feature Ace Hardware as a role model for amazing customer service. Ace’s simple brand promise is that it wants to operate the most helpful stores on the planet.

However, it’s not the stores that are helpful—it’s the people.

Ace works hard to hire the right people who have the right personalities and attitudes, and who can deliver on the promise to be helpful. Sure, it helps if an applicant has some skill and background in various areas of hardware, but more important considerations are personality and attitude. Ace can train the skill. The company looks for employees who take initiative, will engage the customers and have a customer service mentality. Some store managers actually put applicants on the floor for 15 minutes to watch how they interact with customers as part of the hiring process.

The Fudgery’s Tune
In another one of my books, “The Amazement Revolution,” I feature The Fudgery as an example of how to hire for excellent customer service. The retailer’s employees actually sing for their customers, and their energy and enthusiasm creates a fun environment for both the customers and the employees. I interviewed a manager who explained the unique way potential employees are screened. Applicants must audition for the job. They actually have to sing before they’re interviewed.

“If they can’t hold a tune, do they not get the job?” I asked.

It turns out that it has nothing to do with singing ability. It’s simply about the willingness to sing. The Fudgery is looking for outgoing people, and if an applicant isn’t outgoing enough to sing, he or she doesn’t stand a chance of getting the job.

The Fudgery

Prospective employees at The Fudgery must go through an audition.

Getting to the Core
Both of these organizations share the common strategy of hiring people for more than their skills. They hire for attitudes and personalities. Then there are core values. These are every bit as important and should be considered in the hiring process. Will the applicants sync with the company’s core values?

Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos, understands core values and their importance. In his bestselling book “Delivering Happiness,” he talks about the 10 core values that he’ll hire for—and fire for. Here’s the bottom line: An employee may have ability, aptitude and even a customer service mentality, but that’s not enough. He or she must live and breathe the core values of the company. Anything less could erode the company’s culture and the customer’s experience.

In closing, here are five points to ponder:

  1. The old adage “Hire for attitude and train for skill” is appropriate, but also consider personality to ensure the applicant will fit in with your company’s culture.
  2. Speaking of culture, establish a clearly defined set of core values. That’s also an important part of the hiring process. Can an applicant potentially deliver on your core values?
  3. Audition the applicant. You may not ask the applicant to sing or watch how the applicant interacts with customers, but come up with another way to “audition” the applicant to see how he or she performs “in action.”
  4. What does your onboarding process look like? Once hired, how do you get a new hire indoctrinated into your culture? This is a key part of the process. It requires training—both technical and soft skills.
  5. Celebrate a new employee and any successes he or she has, especially early on. Recognizing successes will empower new hires—and any employees, for that matter—to achieve even more success.

Bestselling author and in-demand speaker Shep Hyken is chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations. As a customer service expert, he helps companies build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more information, visit

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