You can have the best customer service policy ever, but if you don´t have the right employees interacting with prospects and customers, then that policy isn´t worth the computer its stored on.
In my last post, an interview with T. Scott Gross, he mentioned the importance of hiring "service naturals." If you´ve just started your business, or your hiring experience is limited to hiring your friends´ sons and daughters, then it´s time for a change of direction. If you can´t afford to hire an HR consultant, then sit down and determine what behaviors you need your employees to possess. (I´d suggest listing four or five.) For an outside sales position, initiative may be very important as that person may have to do a great deal of prospecting and cold-calling. Tenacity, motivation, and decision-making might be other behaviors that you want your employees to possess.
Next research "behavior-based interviewing." If you´re using "traditional" interviewing questions, it´s time you joined the 21st century and started incorporating behavior-based interviewing into your hiring process. (You will find a list of behaviors here.)
If you strive for legendary customer service, don´t stop with just an interview. If you deal in outside sales, have an applicant ride along for a day with a hardworking experienced employee. Make sure the applicant knows what a typical day in the life is like. Glossing over the negatives will only cause you to hire the wrong individuals, wasting your time and money.
If you work in a retail environment, have the applicant shadow an employee also. Ask the applicant to demonstrate how he or she would sell your product along with opportunities to cross and up sell. For clothiers, ask the applicant to demonstrate how she would match colors and accessories. (if you have two equally impressive applicants and one demonstrates superior skills in one or more key behaviors, then that´s the person you should hire. That additional behavior can save you a lot of time in training and get them started selling sooner.)
Finally, unless you know the candidate personally, check their references and do a criminal background check on them. The expense of a background check is a preventative investment. It may cost you X dollars, but it could save you thousands in lost income when you unknowingly hire a thief. The jewelry company I worked for believed background checks were too expensive. But our chain lost tens of thousands of dollars from employee theft because we failed to check their backgrounds. Penney wise, pound foolish!
“You lead people; you manage things.”
–General Omar Bradley