Casting the Staff for Your Service Department

Jan 24, 2019

By Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke

Hiring out your service department with people who can star in their roles is the key to success in customer service. But “casting” customer service staff is more involved and difficult than hiring “somebody—anybody” to sit in a chair and answer a phone or stand at a counter and take orders. Consider the following three key differences between merely filling a slot and finding someone capable of playing a part.

1.       Great service performers must be able to create a relationship with the audience. From the customer’s standpoint, every performance is “live” and hence unique. It earns the best reviews when it appears genuine, perhaps even spontaneous. And it should never be rigidly scripted—certainly not canned.

Implication: Customer service cast members must have good person-to-person skills; their speaking, listening, and interacting styles should seem natural and friendly and appropriate to Fbased Von Maur department stores, says of his own company’s hiring philosophy, “My dad had a theory: We can train them to sell. We can’t train them to be nice—that was their parents’ job.”

2.       Great service performers must be able to handle pressure. There are many kinds of pressure—pressure of the clock, pressure from customers, pressure from other plays in the service cast and pressure from the desire to do a good job for both customer and company even though these may conflict.

Implication: Members of the customer service “cast” should be good at handling their own emotions, be calm under fire and not be susceptible to “catching the stress virus” from upset customers. At the same time, they have to acknowledge and support their customers’ upsets and problems and demonstrate a desire to help resolve the situation in the best way possible.

3.       Great service performers must be able to learn new scripts. They have to be flexible enough to adjust to changes in the cast and conditions surrounding them, make changes in their own performance as conditions warrant and still seem natural and knowledgeable.

Implication: Customer service and cast members need to be lifelong learners—curious enough to learn from the environment, comfortable enough to be constantly looking for new ways to enhance their performance and confident enough to indulge the natural curiosity to ask, “Why is that?” and poke around the organization with change and handle it well can be the most helpful to customers and need minimal hand holding from their managers.          

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service (Third Edition) by Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke. Copyright 2013, Chip R. Bell and Performance Research Associates.

About the Author(s)

Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke are authors of Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service (Third Edition). Chip R. Bell is a popular keynote speaker and the author of 19 books, including Wired and Dangerous and is the senior partner and founder of The Chip Bell Group, a consulting firm specializing in customer loyalty. Ron Zemke is the founder of Performance Research Associates and a world-renowned leader of the service equality revolution. He is author or coauthor of thousands of articles and more than 40 books, including the bestselling Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service.