Are you being served?

Watching Michael Roux’s ‘Service’ on BBC2 and Mary Portas’ ‘Secret Shopper’ on Channel 4 has been making me think about customer service in the UK and how organisations attract, develop and retain the best staff for these roles. For those of you who haven’t seen the shows Roux took eight young people and trained them up to become front of house superstars and Portas focused on the retail environment, going undercover to see what service is really like and then helping a business provide a better customer experience.
Roux has made some interesting points about how we view service roles in this country and this made me reflect about the standard recruitment procedures for many customer facing roles. Organisations are now spending so much time and money on selecting their senior hires but the people who represent a business to its customers every day are often selected through a process that is about getting headcount in place rather than ensuring the right people are being ambassadors for their organisation. With turnover in customer facing roles estimated to be in the region of 30% (double the national average) is it time we started thinking about who we select and how we retain our best representatives?
So how can you improve your selection process without compromising on quality of hire or substantially increasing resources required?
  1. Streamline the process: Make sure your application process is fit for purpose. Do you really need a CV that takes time to pick out the most relevant facts? Standardise your forms asking the most relevant questions.
  2. Sift using assessments that use realistic tasks and situations: Situational Judgement Tests use scenarios that are similar to those that will be encountered on a daily basis. They are designed to be used early in the selection process, prior to interview, so that mass applications can be screened quickly and cost effectively.
  3. Interview only those that meet a strict criteria: At this stage use personality assessments to understand key traits and motivation – hire for attitude, train for skills. Make sure your business knows the value of having a strict criteria for those representing it and don’t settle for anything less, the cost of recruiting and training a new person for these roles is estimated to be at least £1500 – better to make the right decision first time round. 
Don’t forget about those already in role; how do we ensure they are giving our customers good service? Don’t be one of the 65% of businesses saying their employees lack the necessary customer service.  Invest time in all of your potential advocates, make sure your frontline staff know what is expected of them. At Getfeedback we’ve had great success working with customer representatives over just one day, rather than the eight weeks Michael Roux has to make a difference; using experiential exercises designed to illustrate the delegates’ current and desired values, attitudes and skills, and enable these learning points to be related back in specific, actionable ways to their day to day work. Of course retaining and developing the best staff takes more than just a one off, one day course but it’s a great start. 
For a comprehensive review of your strategy and advice on how to select, develop and retain the best staff to represent your organisation get in touch.

Do you have a comment about this article? What’s your opinion on the eight weeks of preparation Michael Roux is giving his trainees? Does Mary Portas do enough to get staff on board with her methods? Are you doing something really special in your business to provide excellence in customer experience? I’d love to hear about it your views and experiences. Contact me by email ( or on Twitter (@AlanaInness).