We’ve all been there. You call a customer service line and are welcomed with a monotone, rehearsed greeting and a lack of enthusiasm. It is immediately obvious that you are just another faceless number on a long line of endless phone calls for the disengaged representative. Makes you feel pretty special, doesn’t it?
In the modern, predominantly online business environment, it is increasingly difficult to build quality, long lasting relationships with clients who you’ll never meet face to face. Nowadays, companies need to engage clients with amazing customer service across a range of channels. But to provide the best service you need to bring the right team onboard.
Our company was founded to help people send personalized, thoughtful messages that show the recipient they care. When we started hiring, we wanted to bring on a team that was passionate about their jobs, thoughtful about the needs and wishes of clients, and really cared about our mission and values. Here is how we went about hiring that thoughtful team:
1. Bring on the best core team then leverage your personal networks
When advertising for staff in the very early days, we always listed thoughtfulness at the beginning of all job listings. This is the core value of our company but more importantly, this is a keyword which attracts the right type of people. In a recent Forbes article, Liz Ryan argues the most important aspect of an effective job listing is adding a human voice.
As with many early-stage startups, in our first year, we weren’t able to offer Silicon Valley salaries. We didn’t list perks or equity offers, we didn’t mention the fact our tool uses AI. We briefly described our projects, our salary range, and the type of person we were looking for and left it at that. We were searching for people who were really invested in the project and were willing to give their all as part of a small team with limited resources but big ambitions.
However, once we had a handful of key members, we naturally found ourselves leaning more on personal networks and recommendations than advertising online. Generally, thoughtful passionate people tend to run in the same circles as other thoughtful, passionate people.
Our CEO told me to bring on the person who provided the best service I knew, so Hannah, a friendly local bartender became our first customer service representative. She has now grown to be a key member of our marketing team and has played a focal role in developing our business.
With the right onboarding and training, anyone can flourish when placed in the right role. You can teach someone how to interact with clients and use CRM programs, but you can’t teach someone how to be thoughtful and considerate.
2. Find people who are passionate outside of work too
In the same way, as you would expect a creative person to have creative hobbies when searching for a passionate, thoughtful person, we look for people who have passions outside of the workplace. Studies have found that people who are passionate outside of work have a better work-life balance, which means they are more likely to give their all when in work mode.
I personally was recommended as a good fit by the drummer in my band who happened to be the Chief Product Officer. He recognized that my passion for music and ability to collaborate would come through in my professional efforts too.
When we interview potential candidates, we ask as many questions about interests outside of work as we do about soft skills and professional experience. We try to offer space to let team-members make time for their passions and help them grow as a person as well as a professional. If someone needs to leave early for band practice one day, it is not a problem as long as they get the work done in their own time.
Showcasing people’s talents and passions is part of our company culture. We have a drum set and instruments in the office, we regularly pull out the karaoke set, and if someone is putting on an exhibition or show, they are encouraged to let their know colleagues too. Social events are engrained in our culture. We like to bring everyone together once a month for a party for those who have had a birthday that month. At these birthday parties, everyone gets to hang out and gets to know people who they might not interact with their day to day roles.
3. Show employees you care about efficient, personalized onboarding
We have found that the best way to keep employees engaged, confident and productive is by putting time and effort into our onboarding process. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal reveals that the first 90 days of someone’s time with a company is pivotal to building long positive relationships.
The first step is to get our employees engaging with our product. As such, we give them some credits and tell them to send some notes to their nearest and dearest using our platform. This allows them to experience our service from the eyes of our customers, the people who they need to be looking out for from day one.
Everyone is assigned a first-day buddy, normally a junior manager who makes sure they feel welcome, introduces them to others, shows them around the office, and even takes them out for lunch. The first-day buddy will also be tasked with getting them a handwritten name tag and leaving a bowl of their favorite candy on their desk. We then send a Slack message to the whole team saying “Go say hi to XXX our new XXX and take a kitkat”. It is amazing how sociable people become when there is free candy!
Once a rapport has been built, the manager will then provide the new hire with a 30/60/90 day plan which clearly outlines our expectations. This allows managers to better track progress, but it also allows new team members to take initiative to meet their goals – if they know what is expected of them, they can start thinking outside the box about how to get there.
Most importantly, we offer an internal mentorship program to make sure people stay engaged, and feel they are progressing well past their first 90 days. We ask everyone one professional skill they would like to learn and then match them up with a volunteer who can help them. So far this year our team members have been teaching others to code, how to create marketing emails and how to improve their public speaking, to name a few. Millennials seek constant improvement and challenges in their workplace, and we are more than happy to help them.
4. Create processes which funnel this thoughtfulness to your clients
From the second new employees start using our product on their first day, we enforce the idea that our main job is to keep track of what our customers want, need and feel about our service.
Our account management and customer service teams are encouraged never to use canned, copy and pasted responses, and to take the 30 seconds extra to personalize each message. Team members are encouraged to always be the last person to follow up on client communications, even if it is just a quick message to wish them a good weekend or thank them for their time.
At the end of every week, teams meet to run through ups and downs, and any problems or client compliments are saved to be tracked and revisited in the future. Our product team is then presented with feedback on a regular basis so they can integrate new elements into our product. Our product team uses lean startup methodology and is constantly bringing client feedback and interviews into our product design.
Our interview, onboarding, training and internal systems are intensive and require other team members to really invest time and energy into helping new hires. But at the end of the day, we know that each and every person who becomes a part of our team will have no problem jumping in with two feet, and giving their all for someone else. Because they are thoughtful and passionate about what they do.