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Hiring for Good Customer Service

My first session for the show was Shayne Kohn's session, "Customer Service Basics - Hiring and Training and How They Affect Your Bottom Line." Kohn is president of Spachitects, which is a spa and fitness development company. She also works for a high-end club and spa as director.

Kohn started out her session by asking the room of about 30 people what they thought a brand was and whether their clubs had a brand. Not many people in the room seemed to know what their club's brand was. Kohn informed the crowd that a brand is not a logo, but it is what people think of when they see your logo. A brand is what your company is known for.

Taking that then to the hiring side, Kohn said that everything you do in hiring must come back to your brand. You must have a mission statement that speaks to your brand, and all your staff--from locker room attendant to the president--must know your mission statement and brand.

She then went into some details on the hiring process that her company uses. She said that the interview process begins before she even interviews someone. The human resource department at her spa uses a two-page questionnaire (a predictive index) to find out details about the person, such as will this person take up my time, will they gel with the other staff and will they gel with her management style.

Once the HR department weeds out certain people, Kohn then conducts interviews with the most promising candidates. She said it's important to be open and honest about the job description and hours in this interview. You don't want to take up your time or theirs if the job isn't something they are interested in or if the hours won't work for them. She said that if weekend hours or evening hours are required, be up front about it. Otherwise, it will cause problems later.

Providing exceptional customer service is part of the brand at Kohn's company, so she asks questions in the interview to see how service oriented the candidate is. She asks them open-ended questions, such as what their best customer service experience has been lately. The experience the person relates tells you what kind of customer service they expect and, therefore, what kind of customer service they think they should provide.

She also watches how attentive people are in the interview, which indicates how attentive they will be in their jobs. She asks them questions about how they dealt with difficult customer service situations in the past so she can see how poised they will be in handling difficult situations at her club.

After Kohn interviews candidates, she calls the finalists in for a third interview that she calls a "trial/demonstration." This interview is conducted with at least one other member of the staff. If she is hiring a trainer, she has the candidate train one of the trainers. That trainer may role play with them by giving them medical conditions to watch for to see how they handle the session. The staff member(s) then reports back to Kohn on how the person did and whether they think the person would fit with the staff.

Kohn said this third interview is important because it gives the rest of the staff a say in the hire, allowing them to have more of a buy-in. In addition, the staff can sometimes see things about the person that Kohn may have missed in the interview.

Once a new person is hired, Kohn said you should ensure the employee knows what is expected of them, something that is helped if you have set foundational standards. At her company, foundational standards are written policies that employees must adhere to, and they address items like facility appearance, employee appearance, acknowledgments and greetings, attentiveness, expertise and knowledge, and communication style.

Kohn also talked about how important it is to ensure that a staff member is in the right position. Instead of automatically firing someone, see if there is another position that might better suit them. If you must fire someone, make sure you have a paper trail to document why the firing was necessary.

Sounds like some good rules to follow regardless of the industry you work in. -Pam

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