At eighteen years of age, I applied for a sales assistant position at a well known, high end department store. The first step in the recruitment process was a group interview with twenty to other eager candidates. The interview started with a speech made by a company representative, boasting about the brilliance of the organisation and how anyone would be desperate to work for them. I remember thinking at the time how arrogant their approach was. This perception was confirmed when I did not hear a word after the interview from the “too good” company. Not a surprise since the two hour, exhausting session was an unorganised mess.
For years following the encounter, I refused to set foot in one of their stores. I told numerous people of my experience, specifically their arrogance and disrespect of people’s time.
Fast forward twenty years, this time the interview was for an executive position within a large Australian retailer. The interview seemingly went well and was advised I’d hear back regarding the next stage, with several other applicants still to be interviewed. Several weeks later, I was still left wondering therefore, I called their office only to be told a decision had not yet been made. Coincidentally, I bumped into one of the interviewers who was genuinely surprised that I had not yet been notified, as the decision had been made some time ago. In his embarrassment, he confessed I had been unsuccessful as they’d decided to go with someone internally.
A week later, I received the phone call from their office, telling me now for the second time I had been unsuccessful. As someone with experience in human resources, I was completely dumfounded by how unprofessionally things had been handled. I obtained the impression this organisation did not value transparency and communication and to this day I avoid visiting their very big chain of stores.
Unfortunately these stories are common, with businesses having hap hazard, unprofessional and sometimes disrespectful recruiting practices. Employers must be mindful their candidates are also potentially their customers.
Just as a business is evaluating the applicants’ suitability for a role, an applicant is also making a judgement or evaluation of the business. They have an insight into its inner workings, which can expose all sorts of inadequate practices and a glimpse into its culture and values.
Not only may a candidate re-evaluate their desire to work for the company but their overall impression and desire to do business with them as a customer may also be influenced.
When we visit a business, we generally rate the level of service based on that which was provided by the person we predominately interacted with. This may be a salesperson, shop assistant, waiter or service attendant depending on the nature of the business.
Our overall experience however, is influenced by every representative of the business who we encounter along the way. These are people in positions who seemingly play minor roles, hovering on the sidelines or acting as the support crew. Although our contact with these people may be fleeting, they can either add or detract from an experience turning a positive one into a negative in an instant.
One such role is security personnel. Security staff can be the very first point of contact, as well as the last person a customer encounters when visiting a business and we all know how important first and last impressions are. Although they may have minimal connection to the business itself, rather external contractors hired to provide a security presence, if this person is unsmiling, unfriendly or worse rude or abrupt, this can have a detrimental impact to an otherwise pleasant experience.
Delivery drivers can also be the positive or negative icing on the customer experience cake. A friendly, knowledgeable, helpful salesperson has masterfully sold a new television or lounge suite to a customer who is excited about the delivery of their new purchase only to have their excitement shattered due to the sloppy looking, disinterested delivery person who clumsily unloaded the goods and refused to take the packaging away.
Receptionists are another example an important point of contact for clients or customers, responsible for the welcome and farewell to an office, as well other administration tasks. They play a pivotal role in the experience a customer has when utilising any of the professional services, with their demeanour, efficiency and presentation all contributing to a customer’s perception.
Other representatives that have the power to influence a customer’s experience include; installers, service technicians, door greeters, cashiers and ushers.
It is not uncommon for these types of positions to be filled by contractors or temp staff, unaware of the business’s expectations or standards on how to serve customers. Even when these roles are filled internally, they are often overlooked when it comes to the provision of customer service training, yet these roles can have an enormous impact on a customer’s overall experience and therefore, the service reputation of the business.