I just read an article on BNET http://bit.ly/9d7KjH about customer service in an industry that sadly needs it.

We had the opportunity to experience the “hospitality” of the U.S. airlines quite a bit this last week. I personally got to experience it returning from a preliminary relo trip and then two of our guests who flew in to attend my daughter’s college graduation got to experience it on steroids. 

They stranded one of our guests on the way home and the other both coming and going! The almost pathological indifference to their customer’s situation was mind boggling!

Contrast this to the level of service described in the enclosed article on Virgin Air. The other interesting thing about this article is that it describes the process used by Virgin Air to hire and select their employees and then the training they put them through before they ever set foot unsupervised on a flight. 

It is interesting that they mention JetBlue and Southwest in the same article. All three have reputations for delivering a superior value in a commoditized market and oh yeah, by the way, all three invest a significant amount of time over and above the industry norms in the selection and training of their staff - not their aircraft and luggage handling systems, their people.

I have mentioned before on this blog and other places that there is simply no substitute for hiring the right people. 

Technology will not overcome bad hiring and frankly neither will training. If you start with an inferior “resource” either by poor selection techniques or poor orientation you will never end up with a superior result. The $5 trillion we lose to turnover annually isn’t an anomaly, it is a consequence.

I had an opportunity to complete a two part radio interview

www.blogtalkradio.com/customerexperienceshow last week on a related topic. One of the panelists, a former C level executive asked me a series of questions on this very topic – 

“What do you do if you have the wrong people who refuse to change?

My reply will probably make a lot of folks unhappy. I said two things:

  • First, you need to fire your HR and/or staffing team for being incapable or unwilling to identify and fix the process that is allowing you to continue to make bad hires. 
  • Second, you need to fire the management team that doesn’t address the issue. 

I sincerely believe that most employees at least start their jobs with the intention of doing a great job every day. When I say most I am talking in the high 90th percentile. When they don’t do what we want or excel it is typically a case of where we hired or placed the wrong person or we are doing a poor job of managing them!

If you have a poor performer who is still in your organization six months after you identify the problem the issue isn’t with them, the union, or HR, it is a management problem. My experience is that most unions don’t protect poor performers; they just keep us honest and make us apply a consistent process.

So in conclusion I leave you with the following thoughts:

  • Hire hard, manage easy! 
  • Hire for attribute, train for skill! 
  • Hire smart people. You can teach smart people to do almost anything, but you can’t teach people to be smart! 
  • Hire whole people whose values are congruent with those of your organization and don’t rely exclusively on interviewing to test that congruence! 

At the end of the day the team with the best players playing together wins!

You will never have higher engagement from your customers than from your employees!

It has taken me almost thirty years to get that, but I find it is a universal truth!


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