Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hiring to the Culture

             Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
                                                                            -     Kate Zabriskie

To quote Jack Mitchell, author of “Hug Your Customer” and one of the owners of a 65 million dollar retail clothing business in a Connecticut town of 28,000 people, hiring to the culture is “the big secret.” Hire well; surround yourself with good people who take ownership and everything else becomes incredibly easier. The attributes they look for at Mitchells and Richards in prospective employees are the following:

2         Confidence
3        Positive attitude
4         Passion to be the best
5        Integrity

Another company known for its service and hiring practices is Enterprise Car Rental. There are some similarities between Enterprise offices and golf facilities in that Enterprise keeps their management pipeline, as well as their counters, manned by hiring college interns who are then, when deemed qualified, offered positions with the company as seniors. Many of these offers are accepted because the Enterprise entry on a resume says all the right things about customer care. They ask open –ended questions at the interview that require applicants to directly relate examples of how they have helped people in the past. They look for the following skills:

  1. A passion for taking care of customers.
  2. A willingness to be flexible. (Taking care of customers isn’t about reciting policy, it requires listening.)
  3. A work ethic based on dedication to the company and it’s mission.
  4. An eagerness to learn and work their way up.
  5. Self- motivation and goal orientation.
  6. Persuasive sales skills.
  7. Excellent communication skills.
  8. Leadership ability.

 The attributes I feel are most important to gauge during the hiring, interviewing process are the following:

-          ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE – Is it crystal clear that this candidate is bursting at the seams to get this job? Body language is sometimes as revealing as their answer in that everyone is trying to land the job or they wouldn’t be there. If they are not super enthusiastic now they may be totally disinterested six months from now. Do they look the part and seem like someone your customers will enjoy getting to know? Most importantly, does their personality seem as though it will mesh with and not perch itself above or fall below the culture. If the prospective employee does not get along with the rest of the team they will produce contention that will eventually become a priority that you as a Leader do not need. The candidate will only improve your team by becoming an accepted part of it.

-          ABILITY TO THINK ON YOUR FEET – This is easy to determine if you include one or two open-ended questions in the interview that can only be answered with a story that couldn’t be rehearsed. When I first interviewed to be a golf rep 100 years ago I was asked “What have you done in your life that you are most proud of.” That was it, one question. I guess they liked my answer. I still use that question and at times other than interviews. Another one I like is to ask the candidate to sell me the pad I’m using to take notes. 

EMPATHY – Empathy is an important team value but more importantly if you believe in the maxim that “people do business with people they like” then the genuinely empathetic candidate is the only one to consider. Empathetic people are curious and good listeners. They look you in the eye when speaking to you. They are creative because it is part of their nature to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and direct the conversation accordingly instead of reciting the script. Those candidates who don’t convey this quality are usually doomed to shallow relationships and are complainers and blamers rather than problem solvers. During the interview ask them to describe the most empathetic thing they have done lately either at the last job or with family or friends. If they don’t know the definition of empathy help them with a synonym they understand but if, at that point, they are still stuck for an answer – move on.

Any golf facility can hire a great staff with some hard work, patience and a little luck doesn’t hurt. Set the bar high from the first meeting not only about the service culture but what will be expected from them as they fit themselves into the team. Educate often, evaluate those sessions and empower when the time is right.

Reward employees for good service and for salesmanship. Cash incentives and spiffs work well but are not the only way to say “job well done”. Awards, time-off and recognition in a 
newsletter or at staff meetings are powerful culture builders. Treat your salesman of the month to dinner and a movie for them and a significant other.

In order for a culture dedicated to customer service excellence to thrive and survive the Leader must have a burning desire that spreads to all staff members on a daily basis. Everyone from day one needs to understand that they work for the customer. You cannot have a great golf facility without having a great staff.

 In Summary, hiring good people is the most important part of creating a winning culture.

Specific actions to improve the hiring process:

  • Realize that resumes and references alone do not make all-stars and an all-star team is our goal.
  • Structure the interview process to include the following:

1.      More than one interview. We are not in a hurry. Think of it more as due diligence.

2.      Have sessions with key staff present as well as yourself.

3.      Ask open-ended questions that allow you to determine the customer friendliness and team spirit of the candidate.

4.      Lay the groundwork of an understanding of what will be expected in terms of service and sales effort.