Hiring and Onboarding Customer-Obsessed Agents in eCommerce

Building customer obsession into your company starts from the ground up, and that begins with your hiring decisions and onboarding procedures. In this article, you'll discover expert tips for ensuring total customer obsession in your new hires.

Customer obsession requires creativity, flexibility, and the ability to think outside the box. More traditional contact centre recruitment and onboarding, on the other hand, would concentrate on the potential recruits’ experience and skills, and then train for speed and cost-cutting measures.

Let’s take a look at some ways you can adjust your hiring and onboarding process to create a truly customer-obsessed team.

Hire for experience and personality

While technical skills are important -- from a candidate’s WPM to their knowledge of medical evacuation procedures -- they do not indicate whether or not this person has the qualities of customer obsession.

Technical skills can be taught, but personality is something you’re stuck with; so make sure that’s what you focus on in the interview.

For that, it’s necessary to ask them to speak about their past experiences utilising these skills, and pay attention to the part of their personality that shines through as they recount these stories.

Here are some qualities to keep an eye out for when hiring new recruits to your customer-obsessed team:

  • Ability to work quickly. Customers demand rapid service, so ensuring your employees can keep up with the lightning fast pace they demand will keep your customers smiling.
  • Attention to detail. If you want to create a customer obsessed team, it’s necessary to hire employees with an eye for the finer details, where customer obsession really counts.
  • Get involved. Look for employees who talk about getting up from their desk and get onto the front lines of customer interaction.
  • Value quality over quantity. Though contact centres demand a rapid pace, an employee who takes the time to offer quality service rather than rushing off the phone, is the employee who will fit best into your customer-obsessed team.

You may even want to consider taking a leaf from Zappos’ book and conducting a multi-stage interview process. According to the company’s Culture Advisor and Director of Insights Christa Foley:

Early on at Zappos, we recognized the need for two distinctly different interviews. The first is to assess the candidate's technical capabilities, making sure he or she can actually do the work the position calls for. The second is to assess a candidate's cultural alignment. We have specially trained recruiters who conduct cultural alignment interviews, and if they sense a red flag -- if they sense the candidate doesn't care about customer service the way we do -- we will not move forward with said candidate.

Creative job titles

Attract high-quality employees with inventive job titles that indicate customer obsession makes agents feel even more empowered and motivated, and more importantly -- gives them a focus.

Zendesk calls its customer service agents Customer Advocates, while they’re called Community Operations Associates at Uber.

The concept is actually backed by science. One study in the Journal of Applied Psychology showed that giving someone a job title that indicates a higher level of status has a similar effect to giving them a raise. Another study in the Journal of Business and Psychology showed that changing someone’s job title had the effect of causing observers to evaluate their performance differently.

Get to know your new employees

Take a special interest in your new employees’ lives outside of work. Learn the names of their kids. Find out what sports they play. Ask questions. And more importantly, listen carefully to their responses. Take notes that you can refer back to later.

Be as candid with them as you ask them to be with you. Relay some personal details about your own life that will make them feel closer to you.

When you get a full picture of your employees, both in and outside of work, you’ll be able to better relate to them and understand them.

An employee who you’ve allowed to leave early to pick up their kid from soccer, or to whom you sent flowers after the death of a relative, will be much more likely to go the extra mile for you and your customers without you even asking.

Customer-obsessed onboarding

It can be a huge challenge to get your new hires completely aligned with your team, and establish their commitment to delivering an amazing customer service experience.

But it’s not impossible.

Here are some ways you can ensure customer obsession is ingrained into your onboarding process, and your new employees’ mindsets from the very start.

Include customer obsession as one of your core company values

Make it a focus in your SOPs, your training videos and guides, and anywhere else it makes sense. Employees are guaranteed to be more customer obsessed when the terminology follows them everywhere.

Set clear expectations surrounding customer obsession for new hires, and trust them to deliver it. Encourage them to constantly innovate with customer obsession in mind.

You may even consider capitalising the term -- Customer Obsession -- in all internal and external company communication. This will truly highlight the importance of the concept to your company culture.

Get the whole company involved in customer obsession

Sure, you may lead or manage your company’s customer service department, but it’s great practice to give all new hires -- company-wide -- a crash course in your customer-obsessed policies and practices.

Zappos, for example, has all its employees take at least 10 hours of customer service calls during the holiday season -- even high-level team members.

Forget gargantuan customer service manuals

Asking your new hires to learn your company’s SOPs and policies is one thing, but forcing them to memorise a 500-page manual that covers every single possible customer service scenario is madness. This approach will only make your customer service responses seem scripted and stringent.

Instead, you want your team to be creative and flexible. So, get creative with the onboarding process itself. Rather than a long, boring manual, for example, why not try training videos, mixed with interactive scenarios that allow your new hire to use their own best judgement based on a customer-obsessed mindset?

Emphasise personal emotional connections and soft skills

Place primary importance on creating personal emotional connections with customers. Empower your employees to make important decisions from the get-go (once they’ve undergone the proper training, of course), and give them agency to go with their gut to do what’s best for the customer in a given scenario.

Incorporate further “soft skills” training into your onboarding process. Here are some examples of soft skills you can teach your new hires:

  • Greet customers by name
  • Introduce themselves and give their name
  • Smile when speaking
  • Keep customers in the loop about what they’re doing and how long it might take
  • Be honest about deadlines and manage customer expectations
  • Avoid placing customer on hold unless necessary
  • Ask the customer if there’s anything else they can help with before hanging up
  • Thank the customer for calling before disconnecting

It’s easy to talk about customer obsession without implementing it. All too quickly, tasks pile up and the concept of customer obsession gets forgotten.

But if you follow the customer obsession-based hiring and onboarding procedures and suggestions we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll get your customer obsessed team off to the right start. Hire for personality and experience, experiment with creative job titles, and get to know your employees outside of work. Make customer obsession a company-wide core value, and encourage soft skill development amongst your team.

By building customer obsession into your hiring and onboarding SOPs, it’ll be impossible to forget, and quickly become a deeply ingrained company value -- and that, my friend, is what makes a good company great.

Want to learn more about how you can futureproof your eCommerce brand, while boosting customer happiness and lowering your bottom line? Download the Director’s Guide to Customer-Obsessed Support Teams in eCommerce here.


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Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

 

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