Last month, at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2017, we partnered with lululemon’s Guest Education Centre director Dave Pitsch to present “Lessons Learned from 2016 Holiday Shopping.” As Dave offered his tips for holiday success, he stressed the importance of customer service hiring – specifically, the importance of hiring not only the right number of seasonal associates, but also the right kind of associate—someone who will resonate with the brand’s customer base and best represent the brand’s positioning and core values.
Normally, customers don’t have a say in how this person is defined. Most retailers look for people who reflect the company’s desired brand image. HR teams tell operations teams: “We’re trying to project this brand image. Hire this personality type.”
While this top-down approach is standard practice for many brands today, it may not be for long.
More and more of our clients are using customer data from the front line (customer feedback, quality assurance, and objective metrics) not just to measure and improve performance, but also to develop personas of their ideal candidates for future hiring. And, in turn, to help shape the brand itself.
4 Reasons Data-Driven Customer Service Hiring Is Mission-Critical
If you’re already collecting and analyzing real-time customer data, you understand its value. The data can tell you how your front-line teams are performing on a daily basis, and you can address any discrepancies on the spot. If an individual is consistently getting poor marks for lack of product knowledge, for example, you can pull him off the floor and give him customized training.
This feedback loop is a powerful tool for developing and motivating existing employees. Here’s why data-driven hiring is equally important.
1. It Ensures Customer Expectations Are Met
In your customers’ eyes, your people are your brand. Your customers expect every associate and customer service agent to deliver an experience that reflects your brand personality and promise.
Maybe you have in mind a bubbly, fun, outgoing individual for your call center or sales floor “vibe.” If your associates who match this profile are consistently getting poor marks from customers, there’s a disconnect. The cultural DNA of your front line is misaligned with how customers think about your brand.
If you begin to look at your customer data in this light, you might be surprised to find that:
- Certain types of personalities receive more positive feedback because they empathize most effectively with your particular customer base.
- Your long-held assumption is correct: your customers do, in fact, respond most favorably to extroverted, friendly characters.
- Your customers actually prefer to deal with introverted people. This is often the case when the product is a more considered purchase and customers want a more serious, measured person guiding them through a fairly complex or technical buying process.
Without insights like these, you’ll continue hiring based on your own assumptions rather than the customer’s point of view. And the disconnect will worsen as you scale your teams.
2. It Makes Onboarding Easier
Brand personality training is as much a part of the onboarding process as are company policies and procedures (not to mention suggestive selling and other revenue-driving practices). If you use customer data for your customer service hiring to bring on people who reflect the brand personality, you’ll simplify the onboarding process.
You’ll also ensure your new associates fit with the cultural DNA of your front line. From day one, they’ll feel comfortable and confident in their new environment. Employee morale will be much stronger. And they’ll be naturally equipped to serve your customers well.
3. It Lowers Churn and Increases Employee Morale
Employee churn continues to be a costly, vexing problem for the retail industry. But data-driven hiring helps combat it.
If you hire the right people for your brand, they’ll likely be more enthusiastic and engaged. And, as the positive customer feedback continues to roll in—a powerful employee morale and performance boost when delivered right away—your new team members will be more inclined to stay with your company long term.
4. It Strengthens the Brand
Your customer service hiring personas don’t just benefit operations. They have tremendous value for the marketing and branding teams as well.
Day after day, your store ops and contact center teams are emotionally connecting with your customers. This makes them (or should make them) an integral, valued part of the branding mix. Indeed, the data they collect from customer interactions hold the very insights marketing and branding teams need to give customers exactly what they want.
Think of it as a virtuous cycle. By putting front-line teams in the driver’s seat, you’re ensuring the brand message and brand experience resonate with customers and align with each other. The marketing department tests brand values through ad campaigns, PR, and content, and the service team tests it through front-line performance—with customer feedback driving improvements for both.
Your Customer’s Point of View Is All That Matters
Great customer experiences are rooted in a customer-centric culture. When a company relegates its front-line teams to the sidelines, it remains out of touch with the customers it’s trying to reach. And it forfeits the opportunity to distinguish itself in emotionally resonant ways.
If you use customer data for your customer service hiring to improve performance, hire the right people, and refine your messaging, your customers will see it. They’ll know you care enough to understand them and serve them well. And they’ll show their appreciation in the form of greater loyalty, greater spend, and glowing praise for your brand.