Hiring for Soft Skills: Benefits and Tips

Today, hiring for soft skills is critical for your organization’s success. By looking beyond a job’s requisite hard skills, such as those needed for cloud computing or customer service, you can attract and retain top talent by focusing on soft skill recruitment.

According to a recent LinkedIn Global Talent Trends survey, 92 percent of hiring and talent professionals stated that it’s “increasingly important” to hire candidates with well-developed soft skills, especially in today’s changing workplace. In the same survey, 89 percent stated that bad hires “typically have poor soft skills.”

Unlike hard skills, however, soft skills are often trickier to assess during the hiring process. It’s hard to tell from a resume what soft skills someone possesses. And traditional interview questions don’t typically focus on these competencies.

In this article, we’ll explore some benefits of hiring for soft skills for organizations. And we will offer tips for switching to a soft skills-focused hiring process.

Benefits of Hiring for Soft Skills

Broaden and diversify your hiring pipeline

Increased workplace productivity, employee retention, and improved customer service experiences aren’t the only benefits of hiring for soft skills. Additionally, hiring for soft skills allows you to broaden and diversify your hiring pipeline since you’re shifting your focus away from credentials.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies with robust talent pipelines focus on “potential, not credentials.” For example, instead of focusing on technical skills, which have a shelf life of a couple of years, soft skills can last a lifetime. Notably, those employers all valued soft skills as much as they did hard ones.

Increase workplace productivity and retention

In a frequently cited study by Harvard University, University of Michigan, and Boston University, researchers found that soft skills training increases productivity and retention by 12 percent, overall netting a 256 percent return on investment. That would make any CFO happy.

Further, as the workplace quickly evolves, upskilling and reskilling are at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Training for soft skills is no different. In a 2019 Consumer Technology Association study, 66 percent of tech industry leaders stated that “professional development programs to hone soft skills” are important or very important to retaining qualified employees over the next five years.

Improve customer satisfaction and experience

Soft skills are also essential when delivering superior customer experiences. After all, most customer service skills are soft skills, such as active listening, communication, and empathy.

And, of course, when customers have better experiences, this leads to increased sales. Forrester recently reported that companies focused on customer experience increased revenue 1.4 times faster while increasing customer lifetime value 1.6 times more than companies without a customer experience focus.

Ease upskilling

Additionally, soft skills are more challenging to teach than hard skills. Why are soft skills harder to learn? For one, they are rooted in personality, unlike hard skills. For example, empathy may be rooted in one’s life experience.

Because soft skills are tied to an employee’s personality, improvement of these skills requires continual learning and self-reflection. It’s just not the same for hard skills like accounting. When you hire for soft skills first, you’ll find it easier to upskill employees. This is because you’ll be focused on easier-to-train hard skills.

Tips for Switching to a Soft Skills Focused Recruiting Process

Focus on your job descriptions

Review your current job descriptions. Do they focus on soft skills such as communication or teamwork? If not, it’s time to step back. Review the competencies needed for the job opening and refine your job ad accordingly. Refocusing your job requirements with soft skills in mind not only helps you find the best candidate but also strengthens your talent pipeline by broadening your pool of qualified applicants.

Structure your interviews

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “hard skills can be trained; soft skills can’t.” Because of this, it’s critical to structure your job interviews in a way to solicit insight into soft skills competencies. However, when refining your interviewing process, be sure to standardize your questions, helping to keep potential bias in check.

Screen for soft skills efficacy

Pre-hire assessment tools allow you to pinpoint soft skills at the top of the funnel. By incorporating these tools into your hiring process, you can hire up to 10 times more accurately. This saves money, time, and, yes, frustration, while creating a better recruitment experience for candidates.

With AI-driven tools such as Cangrade’s pre-hire assessments and job description decoder, you can start narrowing your talent pool quickly, making the right hire the first time. You can learn more about how these tools help you identify the specific soft skills required for success in your organization with this demo.

Driving Employee Engagement Will Drive Your Client Engagement

Happy employees lead to happy clients. Knowing that, why do so few companies focus on employee engagement?

At my company, we prioritize employee engagement for two reasons: First, disengaged employees are less productive at work, lowering the quality of deliverables and harming the company’s culture and reputation; and second, disengaged employees present themselves poorly to clients, creating negative impressions and reducing conversions.

To avoid a destructive company culture and disappointed clients, leaders should focus more on engaging their employees. Not only will this lead to greater efficacy and efficiency in the workplace, but it will also bolster client engagement and, by default, company success.

The Perks of an Engaged Workforce

A company that wants to foster employee engagement — and benefit from it — must engage all its people, not just the client-facing ones.

Engaged employees bring energy and innovation to the office — working harder, thinking differently, and investing more in their jobs as result of this stimulation. As a result, they’re able to solve complex problems with creative solutions, producing more revenue and outpacing their disengaged competitors.

Simply put, an engaged workforce renders a more successful company. There’s a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and client satisfaction. When employees are more positive and helpful in their interactions, this positivity translates to clients, driving stronger service and building better relationships. And clients reward this good service with repeat business and by spreading brand awareness — through either word-of-mouth advertising or posting online reviews.

What Leaders Should Know About Engagement

Though compensation is a primary way to create engagement, money isn’t everything. According to Gallup, while 54 percent of disengaged employees would leave their jobs for a raise of less than 20 percent, only 37 percent of engaged employees would do the same.

By treating each employee as an individual rather than as a cog in a machine and listening to what they value, leaders can better understand their employees and their individual needs and preferences, creating engagement outside of compensation. Mangers can then customize ways to engage employees within the company or provide the resources that can bolster an employee’s own engagement practices.

My company, for instance, encourages employees to hone in on and maximize what makes them most happy and most productive. While for me that may be flexibility, for others that might be the ability to work in different locations around the world. Others value the ownership they have on specific projects, the educational support or wellness perks they receive, or the time off our company offers. It’s all about preference.

More than salary, leaders should focus on company culture as an effective engagement strategy, and they can do this by following these three strategies:

  1. Schedule Frequent, Transparent, and Direct Conversations with Employees

Transparent leaders discover and solve employee problems more quickly, with 70 percent of employees being more engaged when their leaders regularly update them on changes in company strategy or goals. What’s more, effective communication can also reduce the impact or pervasiveness of individual problems.

While many employees may be afraid to approach their managers and talk things through spontaneously, leaders who arrange opportunities to sit down with employees one-on-one often find these opportunities are a great way to understand and address any issues or needs. Don’t beat around the bush during these meetings, though. Get the answers you need by asking the right questions: What keeps your employees engaged? What do they love about their jobs? What would make them love their job more?

It all boils down to frequent and direct communication, because the more you talk openly with your people, the better you understand what’s going on with them.

  1. Remove Barriers That Make Life Harder

While communication is the first step to understanding employee engagement, realize engagement largely hinges on giving people the tools and structures they need in order to flourish.

The larger an organization becomes, for example, the more convoluted workflows get, which can lead to worker frustration. To assess these workflows and how exactly your employees are affected, you can take inventory of the most necessary processes, break down unnecessary silos, or automate what can be automated. Making life easier for employees is a quick way to engage them.

If some employees don’t like a specific workflow or feel overworked given the way their roles operate, you should first discuss these barriers with them, then explore options that can make everyone work smarter and, finally, budget to accommodate that change.

  1. Acknowledge and Support Personal Goals

A company culture of engagement should account for both today and tomorrow, as few employees want to stay in the same role forever. Many of today’s workers aren’t wedded to a particular company, with only 13 percent of Millennials believing that they should stay at a job for at least five years before leaving. Acknowledging personal development goals and providing educational opportunities to help employees grow is essential to not only engagement, but also retention.

You must recognize that turnover is inevitable, but employees who feel valued and respected, achieve good work-life balances, and are more engaged in their jobs are more likely to stay. Not to mention that at an average hiring cost of $4,000 for a new employee, it’s far more expensive to hire than it is to retain top talent.

Employees want to perform at high levels, but companies don’t always make it easy for them to stay engaged. Opening up communication, building stronger interpersonal relationships, giving workers the tools they need to succeed, and creating opportunities for satisfaction inside and outside the office are great ways for leaders to promote engagement. Your devoted workforce will reward your efforts with higher client satisfaction, stronger revenue, and a happier culture. Who wouldn’t want to work at a place like that?

Photo Credit: Dr Carr at ISU Flickr via Compfight cc

Caveat Emptor

When it comes to the world of business, there is much that goes on behind the scenes that would scare consumers. As someone who has seen firsthand what goes on in a restaurant’s kitchen, I can tell you, it’s not a place people would find particularly appetizing. This is an example of how sometimes keeping the buying public in the dark is in the best interest of everyone. By contrast, this doesn’t work for all buying decisions, and it’s not uncommon for people to be victims of backroom deals that often turn into situations where consumers are convinced to buy products that benefit the vendor more than the consumer. For example, when you bring your car in for a simple fix, but are, instead, sold a new transmission.

When it comes to HR Technology, especially considering current market conditions, every potential customer should vet service providers thoroughly.  Asking, “Can I trust you to do what is in the best interest of my company?” is a start, but you need to dig deeper. It’s important to understand what business model the prospective service provider follows and whether this model serves customers and users or investors and shareholders.

The best companies integrate with other brands to form partnerships which provide a fuller array of products and services to their customers that make the purchased product more comprehensive and of greater benefit. In an ideal world, product manufacturers should select product integrations or alliances based on functionality, price and service… the things that benefit their consumer directly. It’s important to note, there’s a distinguishable difference between companies that offer integrations with third-party products without a financial relationship versus those companies that benefit financially from their recommendations.  Unfortunately, there’ll be always be vendors that succumb to the pressure of predatory venture capitalists and/or shareholders to maximize short-term cashflow as their number one priority. This can result in the organization only referring vendors that pay them the highest referral fees versus vendors that serve the best needs of the customer with functional products that are backed with good service and fair pricing. Given this, it’s always fair to ask these two questions, “Do you have outside financiers or shareholders?” and “Do you benefit financially by referring third-party products to me?” The best vendors will always consider the customer their primary business partner and work exclusively on their behalf. For consumers, understanding what is and is not good, honest customer service can be a tough thing to decipher at times, but you should have peace of mind in knowing you can trust your supplier to serve your best interests.

And You Need This, Too

As an example, imagine purchasing a large ticket item such as a company-wide HR technology upgrade. After purchase, you’re presented with an array of complementary third-party solutions that are integrated with your supplier’s product.  Once presented, the benefit is obvious, such as job postings or background checking… but do you know why your vendor is recommending this product? If you find that your vendor is pushing a lot of third-party products, and you later discover they’re getting paid to refer these third-party vendors, this should raise an eyebrow and a doubt about whether this vendor’s business model can deliver good customer service.

When It Goes Sideways

As an example, Facebook started as an innovative social media product designed to bring people together into communities of friends, relatives and like-minded enthusiasts. Unfortunately, due to pressure from predatory shareholders demanding more immediate cashflow, Facebook changed their business model from providing a valuable social product into a marketing platform where they make money by selling your information, browsing proclivities and preferences off to the highest bidder, and diverged from the original business model which indelibly changed the customer experience for the worse.


Keep in mind, there are legitimate and valuable reasons why someone should purchase products from a supplier’s list of vendor integrations. Understanding the motivation and underlying relationship between the supplier/company and its vendors is important, as this may give you valuable clues you can expect to experience over the years.

Photo Credit: anneperry855 Flickr via Compfight cc

Motivate Your Team to Deliver Excellent Customer Service 

It’s one thing to declare that providing top notch service is your strategy to outdo the competition, but it’s quite another to actually do it and do it consistently.

These 5 steps will help achieve your goal.

  1. Create your service strategy. Effective and remarkable service delivery requires a strategic context that everyone understands at an intimate level.

The service strategy defines how people and systems will “behave” in front of the customer. Without a strategy, inconsistency occurs as employees define “excellent service” their own way.

In addition, your service strategy must differentiate your organization from your competitors in some way; a “me too” plan effectively executed will provide few benefits.

  1. Determine no more than 3 service performance metrics to track on your strategy. If you select too many statistics to try and manage, employees won’t be able to separate the critical results from those that are less important.

Use external customer perception as the basis for deciding what measures to focus on as opposed to internal measures which the customer may not feel are important.

What are the top 3 aspects of service THEY think are critical?

Also ask your frontline what measures to pay attention to. They deal with customers all day and know what’s important to them.

  1. Post service performance results boldly throughout the workplace. Employees must be aware of how well the service strategy is being executed.

Celebrate achievements and recognize service heroes. Coach individuals when results are underperforming.

  1. Incorporate the service objectives into everyone’s annual performance plan. If service results don’t impact how individuals are rated and paid, they are not treated as an important aspect of the job.

They don’t get attention; service results fall short of expectations.

And review results with each employee on a quarterly basis to keep the service priority “alive”.

  1. Morph your managers into servant leaders whose top priority is to help make service delivery easier for employees.

“How can I help?” should be the mantra of the leadership team who make it THE priority to look for ways to reduce job complexity and to eliminate the grunge that prevents service delivery personnel from performing their role flawlessly.

Excellent service doesn’t happen by serendipity; it results from a meticulous and well crafted plan, focused effort and a servant leadership culture built on helping people do their job.

Anything short of this will, at best, deliver spotty service and disengaged employees.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

Just Because I Like You Doesn’t Mean I’ll Stay

When we associate ourselves with brands, we are associating ourselves with a feeling.

Maybe it’s the way it makes you feel or the way it makes your niece or nephew feel that in turn makes you feel a certain way. Good or bad, you know the feeling.

Getting It Right

There are a few brands that you can identify with that truly “nailed it” when it came to their first impression with you.

One brand that has directly impacted my life positively is something I do not even use anymore. However, I simply associate positive feelings with the brand.

I was new to audiobooks and quite frankly I have to admit I am not an early adopter to any new tech for the most part. The only way to haggle me into potentially paying for your service is to give me a deal I can’t refuse: free trial.

My favorite part? You get (1) free book upon signing up AND you get to keep it. Cool right? I know.

I instantly got excited because I was going on a road trip and seeing as I had plenty of expenses ahead of me — I wasn’t looking to spend any on books.

I searched a subject that I had been studying and instantly came across, “Pitch Anything” by Oren Klaff. I read the comments and synopsis and proceeded to fall in love. I knew I needed to have this book.

I downloaded and listened to the entire book in one day. It was like I found the perfect bottle of wine. I could consume it over and over again — much like my unhealthy obsession with soup. ;)

I had associated Audible now with — excited, comfortable, dependable, worth it’s value — type of feelings. The feelings were so strong I went and bought the physical book later.

Now, I no longer need Audible and Audible lost the immediate opportunity to steer me back onto their site to continue my trial. After my trial, I haven’t been back and it’s not entirely a bad thing.

I associate the brand with positive feelings. It would be hard to sway my brand loyalty to any other audiobook site/company — unless it was somehow tremendously easier to use/have greater access to.

If someone were to ask me where they can access audiobooks, Audible would be the first and only choice I would recommend.

To make things more interesting, my laziness for downloading excessive apps/books has led me to my most recent discovery:

Medium articles read via Pocket.

How does this work?

  • Download Medium app + Pocket app
  • Enable “Pocket App” on activities
  • Save Medium articles on Pocket
  • Go to Pocket
  • Click “Listen (TTS)”

TTS = Text-to-speech

The voice over reminds me of a feminine anonymous voice.

Wait, So I thought They “Nailed It”?

Well, yes, they did. They nailed the feeling I should associate with the brand. However, the organic engagement and customer experience part? Yes, that was absent. It seemed like the extent they went was reaching back out via email. It was so disappointing.

I am a regular Barnes & Nobles loiterer. Yes, loiterer — that person that reads 1–2 books while i’m there and leaves empty handed.

Is this a bad thing? Not really, I probably spend most (if any) disposable income at B & N. They aren’t missing out on any potential $$ opportunity with me. Instead, they are providing a positive and welcoming customer experience that allows me to purchase on my own accord.

If you’ve been the occasional loiterer, you can attest to the joy of not being pressured to buy something you aren’t sure about.

Humans like to use all senses to make a decision:

  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Smell

I’d tack on pressure as another in my opinion. If I feel too much pressure, I get a bad taste in my mouth and immediately refuse to buy. If I don’t have enough, I am reluctant to act. There should be some type of pressure and just enough. I see those “helpful” employees that wander around saying, “Can I help you look for something?”, as that pressure. It’s healthy. But, no i’m good…thanks for asking.

How Do You Know When To Engage?

This is where data analysis comes into play. If your company has not batted an eye at how it can use its own data to make more informed decisions for the customer experience (CX), well — that is a shame. No data analysis, no data advantage — it’s simple. You need it and if you don’t have it, you are behind.

In the world we live in today, data collection and analysis is a necessity. If you don’t do it, your competitor will and they will ultimately dip from your honey jar.

You may have manifested the honey from your bees but the honey can be taken if left in plain sight — think bears.

The external factors will always and should always keep you on your toes.

You or your brand/company will fight an uphill battle unless you beat down the path and make it literally impossible to want to seek another trail.

As long as you are staying ahead, listening, and engaging when it matters most to your customers — the better feelings you/your brand/company is associated with.

Keep it simplebuild relationships and care about them.

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5 Ways to Earn Trust: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Are you looking for that leadership silver bullet that will propel you past the competition? You can take public speaking courses and enroll in an MBA program or you can attempt the single easiest feat for which an individual can strive, trustworthiness.

Leadership is built on one core concept—trust. Without it, you can forgo every other attribute espoused by management experts. Confidence without trust is an egomaniac. Charisma without trust is a charlatan. And vision without trust is a hypocrite. This was supported by a meta-analysis study from leading trust researcher and Georgetown University professor Daniel McAllister.

Published in the Academy of Management Journal, McAllister concluded that leaders viewed as trustworthy generate a culture where team members:

  • display greater innovation, agility, and responsiveness to changing conditions;
  • take risks because they believe they will not be taken advantage of;
  • do not expend needless time, effort, and resources on self preservation; and
  • go above and beyond to exhibit higher performing customer service, brand loyalty, and problem solving.

This leads to a competitive advantage through significantly higher commitment, satisfaction, retention, and performance. Similarly, research from the Ken Blanchard Companies found a strong correlation between trust and the behaviors associated with highly productive employees—discretionary effort, willingness to endorse the organization, performance, and a desire to be a “good organizational citizen.”

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”—Stephen Covey

Before you get insulted that I’m explaining something as elementary as the benefits of trust, have you heard of the Edelman Trust Barometer? The ETB has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and nongovernmental organizations. In its 17th year, this is the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four institutions in all 28 countries surveyed.

For leaders, one of the more disturbing findings of the ETB is the shocking lack of confidence in leadership—63% of participants said corporate CEOs are either not at all or somewhat credible. That means only 37% maintained the credibility of CEOs, a 12-point drop from last year, and this is consistent around the world. CEOs are more trusted than government leaders (29%), but that’s setting a pretty low bar. Plus, with this “trust void,” only 52% said they trust business to do what is right.

So if trust is important and society is not feeling it, what can we do? Good news: you can (re)build trust. Here are five techniques to consider:

  1. Recognition, Recognition, Recognition. To increases trust between leaders and employees, nothing does it faster than acknowledging their achievements. It indicates you are paying attention and reinforces positive behaviors.
  2. Show Compassion. Did I say recognition is the fasted way to build trust? It won’t mean anything if you don’t already have a foundation of respect. Just try influencing someone who doesn’t respect you; see how engaged they are in your ideas. Treat your team like real-life people—listen to their ideas, care about their feelings, and empathize with their concerns.
  3. Keep to Your Word. You can’t build trust without following through on promises. Your team needs to believe that what you say is sincere, so follow through on commitments.
  4. Don’t Hide Your Humanity. Being human means showing your imperfections. Your ability to discuss your mistakes and share what you have learned from it makes you more relatable. No one is concerned with transparency for the good stuff; they need you to fess up to faults, so show your vulnerable side.
  5. Smile. If you don’t want to do something substantive to build your trust and would prefer a gimmick, consider a recent study published in Psychological Science where convicted murders with trustworthy faces received more lenient sentences then their peers with untrustworthy faces. The key, it seems, is that a gentle smile increases how trustworthy others perceive you. Keep in mind, that it needs to be gentle—too big can be seen as duplicitous or insincere, while too small may be seen as sarcastic or leering.

“I doubt that we can ever successfully impose values or attitudes or behaviors on our children certainly not by threat, guilt, or punishment. But I do believe they can be induced through relationships where parents and children are growing together. Such relationships are, I believe, build on trust, example, talk, and caring.”—Fred Rogers

We live in untrustworthy times, but that does not mean we have to lead in an untrustworthy manner. Generate a culture where honesty, transparency, and truth are the basis of your organization. This must start at the top of the organizational hierarchy with you. The team will trust you once you establish that you trust the team. It may take time, but as Seth Godin says, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”

6 Things To Make Your Customer Service Standout

Have you ever heard the saying, “The moment you win a new customer, you begin to lose them?” There’s definite truth to this, but there are simple ways to keep your customers engaged with you, your product and company that can make them long-term partners.

Build a Personal Relationship

One of the biggest engagement factors with clients is how they feel they are perceived and treated by their service provider. So how much do you know about your clients, not only their product issues and concerns, but them personally? Ultimately, people want to deal with people, preferably people they actually like because they have a personal connection. Companies that overly automate their service communications may do this for expedience and in some instances it makes sense, but with this, some of the personalization from a human voice is lost. It doesn’t really give customers a chance to feel appreciated or understood by a fellow human being. Even though we live in a very technology-driven world, most people still prefer to hear the voice of a customer service person on the other end of the phone or to have an attentive live chat on a website.

Additionally, an inviting and friendly voice asking someone about their day shows interest and an effort to connect on the human level, and this is not only always welcome but also helps build a relationship. Also something as small as asking about their day can increase customer satisfaction and all with little effort.

Setting and Managing Expectations

Service reps often fall prey to setting unrealistic expectations because they want to tell customers what they believe they want to hear. But setting unrealistic expectations creates a false stage for what people can expect and if you don’t deliver on what was promised, you can expect to meet with resistance and hostility the next time you speak with your customer. Articulating this in clear terms is a very important responsibility for anyone working in a service capacity. Good communication and timely feedback can give your customers peace of mind, even in the instance when the solution to their problem cannot be fixed in a timely fashion. People prefer to know upfront what can and what cannot be done, but more than that, they want to know they can rely on the expertise, follow-through and sincere interest by the service provider to make inroads on the resolution… this means honest communication about the limitations of what you can do, explaining what resources you will need to bring in to fix the problem, how much time it will take, what might potentially make the resolution stall, and the timing of the subsequent communications they can expect to receive. Also, put yourself in their shoes. Think about the last time you had to call someone to help you with a product or service. Did you get off the phone feeling confident that your problem would be resolved, or that you’re just a voice on the phone with a complaint? Was the explanation of how to solve the problem reasonable or just words to end the call more quickly?

Keep in mind, following up with customers is another essential aspect of setting expectations. No one wants to feel snubbed and that their issue has fallen through a crack. Even under circumstances when the service rep assumes a problem is solved, they need to regroup with the customer to ensure that the problem has, indeed, been solved and the customer is satisfied. This is where good communication skills are called into play. When working with clients, gaining their trust and confidence can work in your favor as you assist them during the service experience. Some problems are a quick fix and others will take time to investigate and resolve. Communicating this to customers helps them to better understand what to expect and doesn’t leave them feeling in the dark.

Own Your Mistakes

One of the worse things any business can do is not accept responsibility for errors, or worse misdirect the error back to the client as something they did wrong. Customers don’t like mistakes… no one does, but when people know there is a human being on the other end who is taking ownership of the problem, it becomes a much more tolerable situation. Taking the time to forge relationships with customers means you are much more likely to be dealing with an understanding customer when inevitable issues arise. Knowing this, companies need to take the necessary steps to ensure their frontline service providers are empowered with the authority to take responsibility. For these employees that are customer-facing, being able to solve problems empathetically, and with swift and confident determination not only assures your customers that they are in competent hands, but also empowers your employees to go the extra mile… and this includes having the confidence to say, “I don’t know, but will find out,” as part of the resolution process. This response, also, requires confidence and faith in your employees to know they can do this if the problem cannot be corrected at the moment they are interacting with the customer.

Bending Over Backwards

Have you ever experienced working with a customer service rep that pulled out all the stops to help you? If you’ve been lucky, you can say, “yes,” to this. Those of us who have, know we’ve been considered a priority and our problem is the only thing that is in the spotlight to receive attention. It’s abundantly obvious when customers are made to feel important and it’s also obvious when customer service representatives are bothered or annoyed by the interruption of a customer’s request for help. Getting the brush-off when the interaction is face-to-face or being rushed off the phone is not an effective way to engender oneself with a customer. In a survey conducted by help desk software developer Help Scout, they found poor service delivery not only affects a company’s ability to satisfy their customers’ needs, but not surprisingly affects a company’s bottom line.

Respect Their Time

Time is a commodity of which we all wish we had more. In today’s world we are all called upon to do more with less and with that want our time observed and respected. In regards to service delivery, this means giving customers your undivided attention and listening to understand and not just to respond in some obligatory way. If your company is organized to deliver service via the phone, you need to be attentive to the customer on the other end of the phone and not scanning emails, or preoccupied with other work sitting on your desk. People can “sense” when their time is being wasted and may either get angry at the lack of concern or worse, the customer ends the call before their issue has been addressed and resolved. With this later action, some form of retribution may be sought out by the customer, so be prepared to deal with backlash.

Loyalty is a Two-way Street

Most consumers will stay with a brand or service provider for the long-term, if they have received the service they expect, and are consistently shown the value of their patronage with honest, personal and timely service and follow-up. (Further, they may in turn express their satisfaction by acting as a referral source for your company.) Keep in mind, it takes more than treating people as you wish to be treated, it means treating them as they wish to be treated. There is no one size fits all when it comes to working with people, but certain skills like listening to understand, remaining focused on the customer in front of you or with you via the phone, and even remaining attentive when your company website provides a chat option for service, will help you to gain the customers’ confidence in helping them resolve a problem.

Put yourself in the shoes of the customer and image your reaction to how you were last treated by a service provider. Providing great customer service is a skill that not everyone has, but is one that a willing and determined person can learn.

Here’s to your next great customer interaction.

photo credit: d_t_vos Week 6 via photopin (license)

The Real Partner Is Your Customer

Venture Capitalism. Vulture Capitalism. When I hear those words, I immediately envision business owners whose top priorities are their investors exit plans, and subsequently are serving their investors rather than their customers. I’ve been a business owner long enough to see the effects of vulture capitalism within my industry. The landscape is littered with our competitors’ corpses and lingering bad business practices. And what’s left to show for it? Customers picking up the broken pieces of a defunct service agreement. It’s sad and very recognizable to see customer service go by the wayside… and even more disheartening to see how the customer becomes the ultimate victim of it all.

What’s the Real Cost of Doing Business?

I won’t deny that making money is a good thing… actually it’s a great thing. However, with the acquisition of new customers comes a reality beyond the money. The company and consumer should fully understand the benefits of partnering and look forward to a long relationship. You both have, in a sense, invested your time, money and energy into each other so making the most of your partnership should be the goal. There’s a responsibility to onboard customers truthfully, realistically and with respect. Desired client acquisitions should be viewed as relationships that are forged for the long haul, not a one and done that satisfies the immediate need to look profitable for your investors’ exit plans.

All this said, there are times when investment money can be a savior to your business. Necessary and ongoing software development, sales and marketing, and operations can be what is desperately needed to help your business not only survive, but also endure. In these situations, investigate your options thoroughly and don’t leap before you know the extent of your potential partners’ involvement and understanding of your industry, competition, business and long-term goals. The more aligned you are with the investors, the more likely you’ll find a harmonious and successful working relationship.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Research tools are available for consumers to investigate a product or service prior to purchasing, but many people fail to use these to their advantage. It’s important to dig deep to uncover any hype or misrepresentation. As human nature goes, people will be dazzled by the shiny object. The perception being that what appears to be a duck and presumably quacks like a duck must be a duck, even if we’re not totally sure what it is. This mentality can easily happen in the minds of consumers, because they believe what is large, expensive looking, flashy, and presumably the next best thing, must be what they should have.

Peeling back the layers and looking deeper into our perceptions often reveals the truth and accuracy of what we believe to be real, and with that a clearer picture of what is actually in front of us, is revealed. Consumers don’t want to be misled and certainly don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on a bill of goods, but when companies invest large amounts of money on marketing that causes misdirection, consumers can be made to believe in brands that will not or cannot deliver on their claims.

It’s important to vet out all brands and fully investigate their worth. Look beyond the pretty pictures. Ask tough questions. Dig for the truth and do not settle for being misdirected. It’s easy to settle, but ultimately when you do that, you have conceded control of your money and fate, along with opening yourself up to the disappointment of poor service, payment for an over-rated product and years of frustration trying to divest yourself of the albatross around your neck.

Reputation Management

In today’s world where nothing and no one can hide, apathetic interests are quickly identified and exposed. Companies that continue to practice a narcissistic philosophy, are myopic at best. To live today without worry of tomorrow is tantamount to extinction. This form of self-centered thinking holds customers in low regard with businesses believing buyers are not the reason the doors stay open and lights remain on… after all, they have millions from their investors for that purpose.

Areas that should never be overlooked or neglected are customer referrals and authenticated product reviews. Both of these speak fathoms about your business’s reputation and matter to any organization that is consumer-oriented. Further, they’re likely a critical part of the customer pipeline. When consumers review sites such as Angie’s List, Home Advisor, TrustRadius and Capterra they should be looking for feedback from other people’s experience to guide their decision making.

And most importantly, take time to think about the type of pipeline you’re developing. Attempting to bring on new clients by whatever means necessary, especially when done to satisfy investors, is a house of cards that will eventually collapse with calamitous results for the customer.  If you’re paying your customers to refer business to you or to write unsubstantiated reviews, you’re building a pipeline of business under false pretenses; this is a dishonest practice and a conflict of interest, and it will backfire with negative results. Having brand ambassadors who have a vested interest in the success of your organization because they realize the mutual benefit of using your product or service is more valuable to you, in the long run, than false reviews or paid referrals for new customers.

Take a Lesson

There are a lot of great business leaders in this country. Some of which conduct business with the highest of moral standards. They see the value in a win-win situation and recognize the long-term benefits of ensuring everyone with a seat at the table is well served.

Ben and Jerry’s is a fine example of this. The core mission of their business aims to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to their business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers, and neighbors alike. They know that when these stakeholders win, they win too. This philosophy creates enduring and satisfying results for everyone involved. Partnerships that are structured in this manner make doing business with each other a joy, and less likely to dissolve due to unfair or deceitful business practices.

When it comes time to consider your potential partners’ business philosophies, consider their history of doing business with other companies. Do they have a reputation to churn and burn? Yes, this partnership may infuse money into your business, but keep this in mind, their exit plan is the end goal and always top of mind in a churn and burn situation.

At the End of the Day

I like to believe that “good guys” can finish first in business. Good business people are those who are not self-serving, but are people who understand who it is that they serve, and they serve them well. This understanding is important because it puts motivation into context and gets priorities straight. Everybody wins in this situation. Companies make money. Customers get what they want and hopefully, return to buy more. Companies that conduct business with their customers in mind, will in turn, be top-of-mind to their customers.

I don’t profess to tell other companies how to conduct business, however for my company inviting in capital investors has never been an option. I choose to work with people who believe in the mission, vision and values we’ve set forth as a company. Capital investors are more concerned with how their exit plan will manifest and are not focused on the endurance and critical needs of the organization as a customer satisfaction machine. This should not be where your attention is focused. Your customer is the true partner.

Photo Credit: ratingbet2 Flickr via Compfight cc

#WorkTrends Recap: Be Your Customer’s Hero

Too many organizational leaders are scared of employee empowerment, often coming from cultures of command and control; fearing what can happen if they give up that control.

However, the greatest customer experience companies empower their teams to solve issues in real-time, resulting in more satisfied customers and fewer escalated issues.

On this week’s #WorkTrends show, our special guest, author and customer service expert, Adam Toporek spoke about customer service examples from Starbucks, Ritz Carlton and his own experience as a small business owner.

Here are a few key tips Adam shared:

  • It is crucial for employees to remove the hassle from customer service
  • Empowered employees are more dedicated to their jobs and more satisfied with their work
  • Empowered employees are more confident and it shows in their customer interactions

Missed the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here.

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). Next week, on Aug. 31, host Meghan M. Biro will be joined by Mike Lindstrom to discuss the impact of meaningful communication.

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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#WorkTrends Preview: Be Your Customer’s Hero

Too many organizational leaders are scared of employee empowerment, often coming from cultures of command and control and fear what can happen if they give up that control.

However, the greatest customer experience companies empower their teams to solve issues in real-time, resulting in more satisfied customers and fewer escalated issues. Our special #WorkTrends guest Adam Toporek will speak about customer service examples from Starbucks, Ritz Carlton and his own experience as a small business owner.

Come learn these tips about how to Be Your Customer’s Hero:

  • How smart empowerment does not mean giving a blank check or giving up all control. It is a business decision based on analyzing risks and rewards.
  • Why empowered employees are more dedicated to their jobs and more satisfied with their work.
  • Why employee empowerment is one of the most powerful techniques for preventing poor customer experiences from occurring or escalating.

This one-hour live podcast and Twitter chat between Host Meghan M. Biro and Guest Adam Toporek on August 24 at 1pm ET is not one to be missed

Be Your Customer’s Hero

#WorkTrends Logo Design

Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, Aug 24 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro and guest Adam Toporek as they discuss how to be your customer’s hero.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, Aug 24 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1. How can empowered employees provide better customer service? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2. What are the keys to great customer service? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3. What can make you a loyal customer forever?  #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. We invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community any time. See you there!

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!


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Entrepreneurship 101

In The Beginning

There are many reasons why someone desires to be an entrepreneur. There is, however, a commonality most often found among entrepreneurs… the entrepreneurial spirit. This trait is the driving force behind why people start their own business. It is a strong desire to create, coupled with a vision to succeed.

Various life experiences combined with someone’s own personal drive and vision can set the wheels in motion when considering livelihood as an entrepreneur. Undeniably, some of the biggest and best companies started in garages and basements by people with a vision to create. So what happens once the vision becomes a reality and you have a bona fide business? Hopefully, you have done all the preparation needed to get to this point and have a plan of action to keep your business heading in the right direction.

All too often, people with great ideas begin their entrepreneurial journey without having performed the due diligence needed on the front end. The business plan needs to be rock solid, your finances stable to sustain you, and your determination and endurance to keep moving the needle forward, fully charged. Understanding that a flexible mindset will help you make adjustments, as needed, is important and they shouldn’t be looked upon as setbacks.

In regards to finances, it’s important to consider options for your business throughout its lifespan. What does your business plan outline for the present, near and far future in regards to growth and what are the finances you’ll need to keep your business buoyant? When will you need to hire people, if at all? What type of capital purchases will be needed and is it better to buy versus lease? How will you anticipate and off-set your operating costs? There are many more questions you need to consider, but inevitably it will always come back to finances. For business owners seeking financial options, there are outside sources that may be beneficial, but understand these sources come with other types of “hidden costs” that may not be appealing, and I’ll address that later in this article.

Playing The Money Game

You need to be aware that obtaining investor money is not an easy task and one that many entrepreneurs will be denied due to the number of available investment opportunities. Generally, early start-ups are considered the least desirable by capital investors but can be attractive to an angel investor, who generally invests smaller amounts of money knowing there is a greater risk. Capital investors prefer to invest in businesses that have a track record of success and longevity thus increasing the odds of a big payout on their investment.

Is it wrong to seek out venture capital investments? Some people might say, it’s just the good ole’ American way of doing business. In reality, it provides opportunities for investors seeking great ideas, products and services that have come from the sweat equity of entrepreneurs. On the other-hand there are individuals who enter into entrepreneurship and start businesses with the intention of being invested in or purchased outright.

Serial entrepreneurs like Reid Hoffman make starting, quickly growing and acquiring large infusions of capital investments, their actual business model. I liken them to people who buy and flip houses. The emotional attachment to the property is in knowing there is no attachment beyond how attractive it appears to outside investors or buyers. This doesn’t mean the serial entrepreneur doesn’t care about his business; it simply means the end-goal is not for longevity.

For some entrepreneurs, an infusion of money from an outside source comes with a side of other, more significant changes. With venture capital comes the attractive infusion of money that not only helps relieve entrepreneurs of the financial burden of managing a business, but also helps divest them from the emotional attachment and control of the business they started.

These business owners have in essence agreed to take on partners with a lot of power and influence over how the business will be managed. The investors will assume the position of stakeholder and to whom the business owner will report. Since the goal of capital investors is to purchase at a price that leaves a great margin for profitability and opportunity to sell at a higher price down the road, the actions and decisions may not align between the investors and the business owner. This is a mindset business owners need to understand and adjust to quickly if they want the money. If relinquishing control of one’s business is something a person can mentally manage, then the transaction shouldn’t present any problems with the repositioning of authority. However, it will, likely, change many things about the company’s business model. Rest assured, venture capitalism is always this: self-serving to the investors.

At The End Of The Day

I don’t profess to tell other companies how to conduct business, however for my company inviting in outside investors has never been an option. I choose to work with people who believe in the mission, vision, values and culture we’ve set forth as a company. Capital investors are more concerned with how their exit plan will manifest and not focused on the efficacy of the organization as a customer engagement machine.

I like to believe that “good guys” can finish first in business. Good business people are those who are not self-serving, but are people who understand who it is that they serve, and they serve them well. This understanding is important for any business owner to know, because it puts motivation into context and gets priorities straight. Everybody wins in this situation. Companies make money. Consumers get what they want, and hopefully return to buy more. Companies that conduct business with their customers in mind, will in turn, be top-of-mind to their customers.

Knowing yourself and what motivates you, understanding what it will take to build your business and who you want to help make your organization successful are considerations never to be taken lightly.

Image credit:

How Evolved Are Your Customer Relationships?

“Customer experience is the perception that customers have of all their interactions with an organization. Customer engagement is something different, its a behavior and attitude, an outcome of customer experience.” ~ Bruce Temkin

I came across an article in my archives about customer relations that got me considering my own business relationships. The article discussed the differences between customer experience and customer engagement. I forgot what an excellent article this is and how well it explains the difference between the two.

Often times, I find companies proclaim a devout loyalty to customers, which can be unfounded. Customer loyalty is when a strong, and often times, symbiotic relationship exists between the service / product provider and the end-user / customer. There’s an emotional connection… one which goes beyond superficial platitudes, or an acquiesce to continue interacting. What it means is that both parties are invested in each other and gaining an advantage through the relationship. This is positive engagement and that is the mark of an astute and usually successful company.

Enter Technology

The digital age has changed many things, including the way companies and customers interact. When customers are engaged, they will provide (unsolicited) testimonials, tweet appreciation, post comments about positive interactions and gladly acknowledge the company / service provider. The venues are many and the dissemination of their acknowledgements are, often times, instantaneous. For the organizations that “walk the talk” for service, this immediate recognition is a blessing. However, for the companies that provide only lip service, these customer responses can be highly detrimental especially with social media amplifying these vitriolic messages with speed.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

To truly understand the customer experience, companies need to delve into understanding customer expectations and set them appropriately. Even if a customer is new to an organization, this person will come into the relationship with a subconscious expectation of how they want to be treated, what will be considered satisfaction with the end-result, how the quality of the service or product is delivered, the simplicity or difficulty of the interaction, and how this experience compares to that of equal or similar products and services. Of course these perceptions are based on each person’s individual history, but in general, many people will agree on what is a bad service experience versus a good one.

Is Price Really the Reason?

The one thing that many customers and companies easily confuse is mistaking price for value. Though price is a factor in the purchasing decision, it’s not the main reason why people buy. This is why online sites like eBay do so well. People are bidding for items they deem as valuable with the intention to purchase based on their reality of value. This reality of value is where companies have an opportunity to get aligned with the consumer. This understanding allows companies to position themselves and their products / services to an audience in the market for their wares. In this instance, the organization’s value proposition is congruous with the consumer’s view of value, which better allows the customer to believe the price is indicative of the value for the item they desire.

Keep in mind, there are consumers who believe they can always have the best quality for the lowest price. These individuals have not evolved in their understanding of what value and price mean and how they are two separate things. They are a tougher sell and will require more education, a more in-depth series of questions to understand their motivation, and they need time to comprehend why and how your product / service is of value, regardless of the cost. Customers who lose sight of why they want to purchase something and only focus on getting the lowest cost can become a service nightmare after the sale. They haven’t listened well as their focus was strictly on price, and subsequently they may require more time and energy after the sale, which can be costly. Keep in mind, your time is part of the equation and with that has a value associated with the transaction. Selling at any cost can be a losing proposition for the service provider, as profits can be negatively affected, as well as your brand reputation. Carefully weighing the pros and cons in this instance is highly recommended and don’t be afraid to walk away from prospects who maintain a myopic focus on one thing… the price.

Everyone Needs to Understand Value

It’s important for the company and those selling to fully understand and appreciate the value of the service and product being offered. Articulating the benefits is a must for successful comprehension to occur. When companies can explain the benefits of their products and services, a door opens to a more in-depth engagement. Likewise, the buyer is reassured in knowing this understanding exists so the reality of value is easier for them to understand and to move forward with a purchase. Companies that understand their value proposition and know how to position their products and services to trigger appeal have made the commitment to evolve their customers’ experiences to a higher level of engagement in the relationship. This is where the win-win situation happens.

Engagement Create Advocates

The multitude of advertising venues available today is endless. Yet all these venues cannot compare to one singular form of marketing… promotion by word-of-mouth. Testimonials and endorsements are by-and-large the bellwether of customer satisfaction and impending engagement. According to one source, 90% of consumers will look at reviews prior to interacting with a company. Testimonials and endorsements allow engaged customers to promote and advance the value of your product / service because they deem the value to be in direct relation to the price they paid. This sweet spot is when you know the company’s value proposition and customers’ reality of value meet at the center of the interlocking circles. This is, also, where engagement flourishes and the customer relationship needs continual nurturing. This attention will encourage customer engagement to endure and grow, all the while an infusion of new customers begin interacting with your product / service

Though both have value, customer experience and customer engagement are two separate interactions. Engagement is the by-product of a well-managed relationship and one that all companies strive to attain. It’s the win-win and the most beneficial to both parties. Elevating your customer interactions should be a goal and one that is part of your company’s value statement. Engagement will always beat out experience.

photo credit:  Consumers via photopin (license)

Learn to Love Your Customers

On its face, this is a ridiculously high standard, but in practice it’s the most rewarding and resilient way to build a business. Working with and for customers that love your company — rather than hate it or couldn’t care less — is simply a more satisfying way to spend the 60% of your adult life that is work.

When they’re crazy about you, they’re generous with ideas, perspectives, praise, and referrals. They’re resilient when you come up short (as you surely will) because one problem rarely empties a deep well of crazy love.

In the long haul, it isn’t harder to create this kind of engagement than it is to have mediocre relationships that don’t last, that can’t absorb the inevitable shortcoming, that require outright fire fighting or that inspire your customers to pit you against your competitors. However, It is a clear strategy and requires dedicated execution; it won’t happen by accident or luck.

My short list of values and behaviors that inspire crazy customer love is below — I’d love to here what’s on your list!

  1. Add genuine value in each engagement and touch point. Help people rather than sell to them. Leave out the self-congratulatory stuff; never thank or pat yourselves on the back and expect the customer to clap.
  2. Put customers first. Not second, never last. It is all about them, and even you are about them. They are your right to exist as a company and the return on that existence.
  3. They’re individual people — engage them that way. Connect to what they need, worry about and care about as humans. See that they have futures and pasts.
  4. Be authentic and human yourself, but make it your best self.
  5. Let compassion for users guide products, sales and messaging if you provide products for business customers. It’s work not vacation; you can’t really help customers without compassion.
  6. They’re your company’s family. That family doesn’t end at your employees — it ends at the customers that share their time, ideas, and intentions and that make career investments with you.
  7. Care about each customer. Celebrate when they decide to join the family and mourn each and every one if they leave. Bring everyone in the company into this celebration and mourning.
  8. Recognize that working with customers is pure joy, even when it’s not all rosy. It’s how you know you’re working on something worthy and it’s how you learn to grow your value to them and others. Let these thoughts nourish your soul and your company’s.
  9. Demonstrate and assume intelligence and integrity. With this platform for partnership, you will have a perfect relationship even when you or they are imperfect.
  10. You will fail and it will be problematic for your customers, but how you respond will define your relationship for years to come. Rise responsibly, quickly, and with even more integrity and compassion for their situation and you will be friends for life. Fail at failing, and you’ve lost a customer as soon as they can practically leave you.
  11. In my experience, every person at your company must act with this belief system. Crazy customer love comes when every facet of engagement — yes, even bill collecting — functions with the same commitment to customer.

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with amazing teams that embodied this belief system and of working with wonderful people as customers over many years as a result. (Sonia Cheng, Scott Cohen, Mike Meehan and Nicholas Tsang top the team list.) This is the strongest thread in the company’s fabric, weaving together your company’s financial success, your customers’ success and your cultural health.

What’s your experience when you’re the customer? the provider? an employee? What’s on your list?


The No BS Approach To Customer Service

As the owner of an HR software innovation company, I have experienced customer interactions of varying qualities over the past few decades. Some good, some less so, some surprising, but all interesting and all a learning experience.

When I consider my customers, current and past, I think about the stakeholders behind their own company brand and how unique and special they all are. I, also, think about the value they bring to my organization by being an ambassador for my company’s brand and for their feedback and inspiration over these many years. Without a doubt, my customers along with my employees impact the success of my organization.

The value derived from these stakeholders is immeasurable. It goes beyond the money and profits, it goes to the heart strings of an organization and I recognize this with every business decision I make. My organization is structured to develop software. My business was built around the human equation… a factor ever-present in my company’s culture.

I’m proud to say that we have phenomenal clients. We recognize that listening to them is the best gift we can give to ourselves. We also know that putting them first and doing what is in their best interest is always the first and best decision we make.

Value is as value does

Success is a two-way street, the relationship I want to have with my customers is symbiotic and with this, we all have a responsibility to support each other. Organizations walk a fine line every day when balancing the wants and needs of their stakeholders. So when considering the return on value, what is fair for organizations to expect in return? In short, the expectations should equate to the value given. This is true respect and recognition which comes in various shapes and forms.

One important question every person in a leadership role should ask him/herself every day is, “Who are we serving?” If the answer does not have consumers at the top of the list, an evaluation of the company mission may need to be revisited. Consumers who trust and believe in the validity of how a company conducts business, and interacts with its clients, is going to receive repeat dividends in the form of recurring business, client longevity, essential feedback for both product development and service delivery and brand ambassadorship.

We receive many new business referrals each year from our clients and all are appreciated. We don’t offer clients remuneration for their referrals, because we want real and legitimate new business leads that come to us from clients who believe we have a software product they are proud to discuss. Likewise, when our clients contact us to ask about a product or service, they know they will get the “real deal” from us. We only recommend products and services we believe to be great. Being vendor agnostic means we do not partner with brands that pay us to promote their products and services. From the perspective of my organization’s practices, we vet all potential integration partners and in doing so bring our clients only the best solutions. To do anything less is tantamount to making a profit without a sincere interest for another party. A prime example of poor service delivery.

Finding the sweet spot

At the end of the business day it comes down to this, when a service provider and client have a healthy, mutually respectful working relationship, benefits for both parties will abound with positive outcomes. Customer service when provided in the best interest of the customer will inevitably boomerang back around and satisfy the needs of the organization, too. Unfortunately, many companies try to live for today without regard for the future. The business you conduct today is building the foundation of trust needed to successfully thrive down the road. A point that needs to be top of mind with every transaction.

Photo credit: Big Stock Images


Be An HR Technology Software Myth-Buster

It’s amazing sometimes that we actually ever progress beyond wishful thinking and myths perpetuated by us. I’ve been in the HR technology space for almost 16 years now, and we never fail to fail. Meaning, we never fail to hypothesize and perpetuate that most HR and talent acquisition practitioners hate their tools and technologies are always looking for something better.

And that us, the HR technology vendors, are unethical and difficult to trust – i.e., it was the worst mistake every that we signed on with that vendor.

And yet, according to enlightening new research shared on the TalentCulture #TChat Show by KeyInterval Research co-founders William Tincup and John Sumser, almost 80 percent of HR buyers and nearly 90 percent of CEOs don’t think their software is lousy. And less than 10 percent of practitioners believe that more than half their software is lousy. Plus, the same research revealed that 87 percent of practitioners say that they enjoy their relationships with HR Tech Vendors. (This being from a survey size of well over 1K.)

The research also revealed that over 70 percent of respondents from larger organizations “Often” or “Always” felt that their HR software delivered what the vendor promised. And because in larger organizations software complexity is greatest, this is yet another positive sign that we’re (the vendors) are getting it right, no matter how much we want to say our competitors are getting it wrong.

What’s interesting to me is that John and William point out we (the vendors) are in constant improvement mode for customers – what’s the roadmap look like and what new features and functionality are coming, that we have to keep innovating or die. Forget the fact that, at least from KeyInterval’s data, HR buyers are pretty satisfied with their products and relationships, and why user data, adoption and satisfaction are so much more valuable than major software releases three times per year and other such updates.

There’s so much more counterintuitive and myth-busting data in the KeyInterval Research that I can’t wait for what’s coming the rest of 2015; this first report was only for January.

Of course there are those customers who wish they’d made a different software purchasing decision other than the train wreck they just invested in and deployed painfully. But if the KeyInterval Research is any indication, those are fewer than we’ve been led to believe. It doesn’t mean that my software company can’t beat up out your software company, because they can and will (of course, right?).

But we also should also continue to do what we do well, serve our customers’ needs while not only reinvesting in future innovative features with potential high adoption rates, but also reinvesting in our creative and collaborative relationships that will always deliver a higher return for all (and why we have customer advisory boards).

Because as I’ve written before, business thrives when customer communication and education are constant and engagement and retention are high. Your customers are a very special group of investors who count on some kind of return in short order – streamline their processes, save them time, money and more.

In the HR technology marketplace, customers want better hires, a smarter workforce, strong leadership, diversity of thought, agile innovation and so much more.

Deliver on that and you’re an HR technology software myth-buster.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: A modern hacker #1 via photopin (license)


HR Tech Solution Sans Bells & Whistles

Video interviewing shouldn’t be an enigma. As a recruiter, you don’t need complex accouterments to acquire candidates. You simply need a solution that fits your needs. Video interviewing uses webcams to conference with distance candidates without paying for the cost of flights to and from the candidate’s location. All you truly need is a robust platform and an inexpensive webcam. The only thing that requires the occasional assistance: troubleshooting the technology. Anything tacked onto what your company needs is just extraneous.

You Don’t Need The Knick Knacks

Over half of candidates prefer the convenience of video interviewing to the traditional face-to-face interview. Why? The real question is, why wouldn’t they? Travel isn’t required, they can use the technology they’ve become accustomed to, and video interviews help to ease the trepidation 92% of candidates have at some point during the interview process. Candidates can interview from the comfort of their own home with technology they already know.

The workforce has to be knowledgeable of current technologies, so using video to interview purveys the image of a tech-savvy organization. That in turn will attract more candidates to your company. With video interviews growing in popularity, you don’t need the useless additives some HR tech companies throw on to a subpar technology to make it more “marketable.”

Latest and Greatest Aren’t Always The Best

We are constantly barraged with advertisements for the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos through our phones, billboards, commercials, and even junk mail. However, just because every Tom, Dick, and Harry down the hall has the most hyped devices around, that doesn’t mean it will work for you. You need a solution that is going to solve your recruiting problems, not add to them. The video interviewing platform you choose needs to be successful in attracting, gaining, and retaining key talent. The best way to ensure that, is to cover all of the bases that guarantee a good candidate experience. Once considered a luxury, mobile apps are now a necessity for many people; 86% of candidates use their mobile devices to search for jobs. Moreover, the average American spends 11 hours a day using digital media. So how could you get by without it in your recruiting efforts? Mobile adaptability and responsiveness are paramount to recruitment success in today’s digital age.

With the conveniences of the digital age, you can take a step back. Think about what you really need in a recruiting solution: tech support, mobile responsiveness, and an easy-to-use platform. More importantly, you need a team that will help you implement and understand your new recruiting technology.

Bells and whistles make video interviewing solutions more complicated than they need to be. Recruiters value efficiency and experience… and so do candidates. The difference between bells and whistles and a real solution is the candidate experience and ease of the hiring process.

Evaluate the quality of service from the platform you’re currently using… do they provide the solution you need or are they giving you a package of bells and whistles?

About the Author: A 20-year veteran of the recruiting industry, Greg Rokos provides strategic direction for GreenJobInterview® and is responsible for marketing its virtual interviewing solutions through client meetings, conferences, speaking engagements, key channel partnerships and other activities. Alongside fellow co-founder, Theo Rokos, Greg is one of the pioneers of cloud-based virtual interviewing.

That Magical Mindful Presence of Candidate Service

“And with all your magic
I disappear from view…”


She stopped in the middle of the hall and met my gaze. We shook hands. Other customers, partners and peers streamed around us on either side like a river around rocks.

“It was a pleasure meeting you,” I said.

She smiled. “Likewise.  This was a great week. Very informative. You really know how to listen to your customers.”

I’d thought she’d wink on that last comment, but she didn’t. Instead, the gleam in her eyes told me all I needed to know. After earlier conversations about how they’d been waiting for our latest talent acquisition product innovations that would eventually improve their speed and quality of hire over time, her and her colleagues were excited about the possibilities. The streams around us rushed continuously by, color and conversation blurred while we engaged in the magical mindful presence of one single interaction.

“Safe travels,” I said.

“You as well.”

Then we both merged into the nearest streams and were gone. And so it was at our PeopleFluent WISDOM 2015 customer conference, where engaging customer, partner and peer communication streams flowed in and out of the general session hall, through breakout sessions, down hallways, across tables during breaks and mealtimes.

Business thrives when customer communication and education are constant and engagement and retention are high. They are, of course, a very special group of investors who count on some kind of return in short order – streamline our processes, save us time, money and more. In the HR technology marketplace, they want all of the above plus better hires, a smarter workforce, strong leadership, diversity of thought, agile innovation and more.

This is why according to Yvette Cameron, HCM research director at global research firm Gartner who spoke at our WISDOM conference, companies spend over $41 billion on customer relationship management (CRM) technologies. We leverage technology, invest in our products and services, improve our customer service, wheel and deal, bend over backwards and do whatever it takes to hold onto our customers.

Conversely, companies only spend about $11 billion on HR technology, which is just a little more than a fourth of the CRM spend. Yvette then asked us all: What if we treated employees like we treat our best customers?

What if. Ironic, right? But hey, engagement is up according to the latest Gallup research: The percentage of U.S. workers engaged in their jobs rose from an average 31.7% in January to an average 32.9% in February. The latest monthly rate of employee engagement is the highest Gallup has recorded in three years and is a full 1 1/2 percentage points above where it stood in February 2014.

One and a half percentage points. Whooptee do-da-day. Break out the bubbly, kids. As soon as we’re hired we disappear into a faded and muted blur. As soon as we don’t get the job, we disappear.

Progress, however incremental, is progress, and there are those who are making the move on the front end to treat candidates like customers and using the right technologies to enable the much-needed preferential treatment. That’s why research and relationship building are alive and well in recruiting today, something we’re going to cover on the TalentCulture #TChat Show this week.

These same candidates, who like your customers, are doing their homework in advance on whether or not they want to do business with you, regardless of the technology investments you’ve made. This means the HR and talent acquisition teams need to take the time and do their due diligence when sourcing the best talent and invest in “whatever it takes” engagement to hold on to these customers – the current and future workforce.

Finding and hiring top tech talent is really tough today, especially those with the necessary skill sets that are critical for today’s companies – primarily, software programmers and developers, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) positions.

According to Dice’s 2015 Tech Candidate Sentiment Survey, tech candidates understand that recruiters use publicly available data to research candidates and get a “total person” view before making that first call to provide a better candidate experience. At least 50% of survey respondents said that they wish recruiters would do more research on them and their background before calling.

The candidates are in the driver seat now, so let us not forget that. But, according to the 2014 Candidate Experience Awards Report (the CandEs), employers overall are doing a better job meeting the needs of candidates in the pre-applicant stage of the candidate experience, providing transparency into Values (86.5 percent), Product (81.3 percent), Answers to ‘Why” People Want to Work Here (87.1 percent) and Answers to ‘Why’ People Stay Here (70.3 percent). They also focused on providing information on key culture initiatives around Diversity (83.2 percent).

This all helps of course, but whether hired or not (we’re all perpetual candidates), business thrives when customer communication and education are constant and engagement is high. Over the past two years, many CandE winners have invested in developing qualitative feedback channels for those candidates not advancing while immediately career pathing those who are.

And although not all their efforts focus on one-to-one communication, many are focusing on interactive communication channels that inform, educate, provide feedback and ask for feedback from smaller groups, leveraging that magical mindful presence of candidate service.

We really should listening more. And answering back. That’s worth at least 10 percentage-point return on engagement, don’t you think?

“And if you were to ask me
After all that we’ve been through
Still believe in magic
Oh yes I do
Oh yes I do…”

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.



A Wave-Making Christmas Miracle

I still couldn’t believe our car wasn’t back yet. The local auto shop owner shrugged and shook his head.

“Sorry Kevin, but I’m going to have to lock up. I don’t want you to have to wait in the rain either, so I’m happy to give you a ride home. You don’t live far, right?”

I stood right in the front of the garage watching the rain come down and the street beyond for our car to magically appear.

“Can’t you call him? I mean, he is driving my car around to test the heater, right? Doesn’t he have a cell phone?”

I turned back to look at the owner; his tired old face betrayed both annoyance and helplessness.

“No, he doesn’t. One of the last people in the county who doesn’t have one actually.”

Wait, what? He’s driving around in our car without a frickin’ cell phone?

“Wow. I’ve got to have our car back tomorrow. We’re going over to San Jose and that’s the car we want to drive.”

“I promise you’ll get it tomorrow. He always over-diagnoses, but I’ll leave him a note and he’ll call you tomorrow. I promise. I’m really sorry.”

I went back to watching the rain and the street, every pair of headlights passing like an unfulfilled Christmas wish.

“All right. You can give me a ride home. I hope he finds what’s wrong with the heater. But you still didn’t find any leaks where the rainwater might be getting in the car, right?”

“No, I didn’t find any leaks. Again, sorry.”

As the owner dropped me off, I couldn’t get the over-diagnosing out of my head.

The next morning I discovered that the other mechanic, the one who over-diagnoses and who was checking our heater by driving our car around, had called and left me a message about actually fixing our heater, and that we could get our car back if we were available for the next hour – the previous night, of course.

Which we weren’t. But there was no indication that he’d read the note that the owner had left him either. That frustrated me further. After I checked my voice mail, I left the shop my own message insisting that we’d come get the car no matter what and deal with the repair later.

Which we did. And then the mechanic called me late that morning and I finally got to talk with him live. He had gone to the shop after all to wait for us. What he told me changed everything I had assumed from the moment of dropping off our car the day before, and even what I thought I believed before and after the TalentCulture #TChat Show with Patti Johnson discussing making waves for positive organizational change that drive stellar customer service and better business outcomes, however incremental or monumental.

Yes, he took our car out to test the heater and didn’t bring it back until hours after they closed, but he decided to take it to his house to hook up his own laptop, log in to the manufacturer’s site and run his own diagnostic tests. Why he couldn’t do that at the shop, I didn’t ask, but it doesn’t matter now anyway. Not only did he fix the heater without needing any new parts or tearing our dash apart, he also discovered where the leak was and how to fix it, something the owner said couldn’t be done.

It was a wave-making Christmas miracle, this over-diagnosing, to make a difference for one customer, one that will end up saving us hundreds if not thousands of dollars fixing two problems instead of just one, one that will keep us bringing our cars back to our little local auto mechanic shop down the street, rain or shine.

Not the big-business dramatics that we’ve come to expect and read about, but it’s still wave-making that I’m sure keeps their customers coming back year round.

Happy Holidays, TalentCulture #TChat Show Land!

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: tsbl2000 via photopin cc

How To Positively Impact Other People

“When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.” — Chinese Proverb

Do you find that your life is busier than it’s ever been before? You’re taking on projects, going more places and meeting the people, and trying to get more done than ever before? You know that you’re not taking time for yourself, but you don’t know how you can change your situation. Unfortunately, you have your blinders on and, as you struggle to get your “stuff” done, you simply fail to notice the world around you.

Practicing mindfulness is one way you can intentionally start to pay attention to and be aware of what is happening around you. Sound a little too “woo-woo” for you? There is not only a lot of research supporting mindfulness, you’ll find benefits including stronger relationships, better health, and less stress.

Think about the number of times you go into your favorite coffee shop and take your bad mood out on the barrista. Thankfully, employees at Starbucks are trained to deal with your foul attitude, but not everyone has received that level of training. Do you take the time to notice the person behind the counter at your favorite fast food restaurant? How often do you say “Hello” or acknowledge the cleaning lady in your office? Colin Powell shares how he recognized the cleaning staff that took care of his beautiful office while in the White House. On a regular basis he would tell them, “If you didn’t accomplish your purpose, I couldn’t accomplish my purpose as secretary of state. We’re all all in this together.” What a beautiful acknowledgement for doing a job most people simply ignore (unless it’s not done). By taking the time to notice the people that serve you on a daily basis, you can make a huge difference in their day and possibly, in their life.

Here’s what can happen if you take the time to be kind … There’s a restaurant I frequent because of the numerous networking organizations I belong to. A waiter named Darren took care of us on several occasions. His service was so good, it was noticeable. Always. Smiling, never missing a beat, Darren was the consummate professional. My Positive Thinkers Network group had its first meeting at this restaurant. Darren was our waiter. This was a good thing, because we didn’t realize the draw this event would have. Instead of the 25-30 people we expected, we had 89 people show up — with separate checks. Again, Darren was on his game and he was fabulous.

One evening my husband and I went to eat and were fortunate enough to have Darren as our waiter. His service was great, as usual, including giving us a bag of cookies to take home because we were too full for dessert. As I was walking out of the restaurant, I asked the maître d’ for the general manager’s card. (Of course she looked at me with some concern.) I took the card and we left.

I sent Darren’s manager a card letting him know about the exceptional service and how pleased he should be that someone of Darren’s caliber worked for the restaurant. I sent the card and didn’t think too much about it again. The next time I went to this restaurant for my networking event, I found an envelope with my name on it. Here is what I found inside:

A Poem to Lisa Ryan

Positive thinking is a life raft to the soul when you feel like your ship is sinking…

A positive Outlook each day invites God’s special blessings to come your way…

Lisa, I can say with all positivity your act of kindness to my heart has forever inspired me…

My way of thanking you will to be to pass on that beautiful positive vibe and all you say and do…

It’s amazing how one person’s sunshine can incredibly change another’s life and it makes me proud to say, you’re a friend of mine.

God bless you, Darren

This beautiful poem was written by a waiter and was given to the person who took the time to notice the difference he was making. You have the power to make someone’s day just by acknowledging them.

If you want some more ideas on how to bring joy to someone else today, check out this article by Sophia Elias, “12 Simple Ways to Make Someone Else’s Day.”

Sometimes, the best friendships start with a simple, “Hello.”

About the Author: Employee engagement expert and motivational speaker Lisa Ryan works with organizations to help them keep their top talent and best customers from becoming someone else’s. For more information, please connect with Lisa at her website: or email her at

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Train Your Employees To Have Great Phone Etiquette

The link between your customers and your business lies mainly with the people who are answering your phone. The first interaction that a customer has with an entity is with a customer service representative. With that said, wouldn’t you want the business lines being answered by people who will make a great first and lasting impression? By ensuring that you have employees who can provide your customers with a memorable experience (in a good way), you can improve your chances of converting them into buyers and retaining existing customers.

The phone reps you have within your business should communicate in a professional and coherent manner each and every time they answer a phone. Your representatives should also speak with confidence, expertise and in an engaging way. Customers pay attention to more than you realize when they contact your call center. This interaction can make or break a new or existing relationship. Having a team of skilled phone reps to handle customer support is equally important. The idea is to provide a place where people can call to get the service they need to complete a transaction or continue the use of a product or service you offer.

Read on to see how you can train your employees to be great representatives of your business. 

Hiring employees to handle the call volume of your call center is only the beginning. Providing them with the necessary tools to perform their job satisfactorily is also necessary. Having business phone systems that allow your employees to manage the needs of customers is important. Once you have an automated business phone system, you can proceed with giving your employees the direction needed to be excellent representatives.

What Elements Are Problematic During Customer Calls?

Before you begin training your employees, you’ll need to determine what elements of customer interactions are problematic. Write these down, so you’ll know what areas your team needs to address. You’ll need to focus your training around these elements, so that the right areas are getting approved. This will also help you to establish what your expectations are for phone interactions between the reps and customers.

What Happens at the Beginning of the Call?

When your phone reps first answer the phone, how do you want your customers to be greeted? Not only does this include the words/script that should be recited, but how it is recited. It’s important that there is clarity and courtesy being conveyed through the tone of the representatives, so to make customers feel welcomed, rather than than they are an inconvenience.

What Tone of Voice Should be Used?

When customers call your business, they shouldn’t be met with mutters and flat tones. Upbeat seems to work well for cable companies and phone providers that have a strong focus on customer service. The tone of your reps’ voices should also be sincere, to show a genuine interest in helping customers with their questions and problems. It’s important that this tone is kept throughout calls, even if customer are problematic or rude.

How Long Should Calls Last?

The amount of time your representatives spend on calls will vary based on the situation of each customer. However, there can be a timetable drawn up that can act as a guideline for how long certain types of calls should take. This will also help give your phone reps an idea of how to better meet your standards.

Do Your Reps Have Sufficient Product and Technical Knowledge?

If you have a company with multiple departments, you can easily combat this issue by having customers transferred to the right department for assistance. However, the reps that answer the phone shouldn’t be completely clueless. It’s a good idea to train your employees about the products and some technical knowledge. For more complex situations, the IT department can be contacted. Since prospective customers will contact your initial reps first, extensive knowledge of products and services is necessary to help convert callers into customers.

Developing Training For Your Employees

Once you have covered all areas of customer-rep interactions, it’s time to implement them into your training. The format can be in video, presentation or in-person. Make sure to allow your employees to ask questions, so that everything is understood and actionable. Test calls can also be performed to ensure that the employees have gotten everything memorized.

No matter how you decide to train your employees, make sure that you have everything included that will help make the culture of your call center customer-centric.  After all, this is the point of access for bringing in new customers and keeping your existing customers happy.

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