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The Importance of Respect

BritishAirways.com
Jeanne Bliss

Customers like to be treated well. This is obvious, but not every company understands how critical it is for the customer to always feel respected. Those companies that do understand the importance of respecting every customer tend to thrive.

At Headsets.com, 52 phone reps work with customers, guiding them through the maze of selecting the products that are right for them. “;At the core of that call is respect”; says founder and CEO Mike Faith. “The customer deserves our respect. Sometimes they could be wrong. But they always deserve our respect.” And that’s why if any one of those reps rolls his or her eyes, acts exasperated, or does not give customers the respect they deserve, that is likely the end of that rep’s job at Headsets.com.

To ensure that disrespect is a rarity, Headsets.com is extremely rigorous in how they screen and hire candidates. Before they are hired, candidates go through what Mike Faith calls a day of customer service tryouts. This includes up to eight interviews. They talk to a voice coach (to check for warmth, tone, and empathy) and also to a business psychologist, to understand how they react to pressure and how they might, for example, keep their exasperation in check when customer calls get unwieldy. They are tested for memory and English usage and grammar. They sit in on calls. After these initial screens, multiple interviews inside the company determine if they are a “fit” for the Headsets.com customer commitment. The company is a success because of their ability to sustain service passion.

Only one in 30 applicants who go through their customer service tryouts make it into the company as a Headsets.com rep. Rigorous? Absolutely. But effective? Something must be working. The company has turned a $40,000 investment in 1998 to $30 million in revenue in recent years.

There’s a reason Headsets.com reps are screened so carefully. All of their training notwithstanding, the reps are encouraged to trust their gut in how they interact with customers. And respect is paramount to these improvised responses. Customers might often have similar complaints, but you can never entirely predict customer behavior. One customer might be furious about something that is entirely outside of the company’s control. The ability to stay calm and respectful in the face of real anger—and often offensive language—is a skill that not everyone can achieve.

So, ask yourself this: How do you hire the people who will deliver your special blend of service, support, and personal connection to your customers? Is your interview process as unique as your business? Should you give applicants a “customer service tryout” like Headsets.com does? A long, careful hiring process can be daunting—and sometimes expensive. But, as the Headsets.com experience shows, it usually pays off many times over.

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