Yes, Great Employee Engagement Can Turn Into Great Customer Service

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Apr 27, 2015

You know what I always enjoyed, that I still think of a lot? When we would all get together as a family and how much laughter there was in the house. From our parents to all the kids and cousins, it was just pure laughter.”

When I took my first foreign assignment as a Chief HR Officer, I was told by one of the senior executives. “You know the change we all notice in HR? It is the sound of laughter.”

When you walk in now, everyone is smiling, laughing and joking with each other. At one time you hated to come down here; now it is a respite to walk into a friendly environment — especially all the smiles.

Laughter as nectar of the gods

I love to laugh; I love the camaraderie that is built upon working with a talented group of people on a mission to be the best they can be,  and having fun at the same time. But, I have walked into organizations, and sometimes even departments, that resemble a morgue.

I sometime notice people going to work with a look on their face that closely resembles going to the wake of a love one. Somewhere along the line, something happened or is missing. But then you engage in conversation and the talk is about how much you hate what you do, it is almost as if you need the violin in the background as you hear the narrative

I had a talk with my cousin this past weekend, and we talked about how much we fun we had together as a family, and how much laughter permeated the house. Our parents and all the kids were usually sitting around and bowled over in laughter.

As I grew older, I had a conversation with my nieces and told them to always follow the laughter. When you meet someone, I said, always look for the laughter when you visit their home. What are the dynamics inside their household, between their parents and siblings? If it has the feel of a morgue, run as fast as you can.

That may not be a scientific assessment, but it was always a weather vane for me.

We all have worked in organizations where there was this one department that just seemed to have more fun. It was because they WERE having fun. They all enjoyed their team members and they knew each other outside of work. It was just a good feeling among everyone.

Personality: Yes, it is that important

I saw a documentary a few days ago with the title Hotel in the Clouds. The Shangra La’s mission was to be one of the top five-star hotels in London. When the hotel chain moved into the city of London, they hired the locals from the neighborhood — people who normally had  no hotel experience.

Their motto was simple: They hire for personality, not experience. Their thought is that they can teach skill but they can’t teach personality. As this short documentary went on, they highlighted one employee, Angela, who had worked in a pizza parlor and had diner experience but nowhere near five-star training or service

Her mantra, and one of the reasons that she got her job, was that “she loved to make people happy,” and that “she loved helping people.” Because her personality was so infectious that one of the couples she served heard her story about never having stayed in a hotel. They were so taken with her that they decided to treat her to an “experience” at this very same hotel — on them.

There was a scene in which a Michelin-rated chef came to sample the food, but in the end, he went raves over this trainee and how her love for serving people really touched him. Yes, the food was great but that server made the difference.

Here is a hire who had the personality, who loved to talk and laugh with people, and who made a huge difference at this hotel. Never would the leadership team ever think that this person on the lower end of the org chart would have that kind of impact.

This was really a unique approach to hiring, but when you think about it, the decision made complete sense. This is a business that depends on quality service and you surely can’t hire mourners to interact with your customers.

Employee engagement = customer service

The hotel industry is the perfect platform for this type of hiring, because in the end, it is the people who you interact with that make the difference.

The Ritz-Carlton has so perfected this customer service angle that they built a leadership course around handling the needs and wishes of their guest. They introduce to you to finding the skills needed to enhance customer engagement. In the end, this high level of customer engagement will surely impact the bottom line. If employee engagement is the focus within, this in turn will connect to customer engagement.

While there’s a lot to be said for technical skill, personality is one of the most vital components of business, especially if there is a lot of customer contact. Think of a restaurant with excellent food but with a waitstaff that is totally indifferent. Then there is the restaurant with food that is average, but you can’t get in the door. The difference is that the waiters and employees at the latter restaurant are so engaging. Thus the healthy bottom line!.

In these type of businesses, personality plays a huge role.

The hiring balance

The competencies such as personality, fit, skills, and experience are all factors that should play a role in the hiring decision-making process. But in some settings, this paradigm should shift and more weight needs to be given to the personality needed for the job. That factor should be of more importance.

Your business could be like this hotel; while you are preparing everyone for the big shot influencer visit, it is the lowly waitress that really impressed him.

Yes, he did say the food was great — but only after he finished bestowing accolades on his waitress.