Category Archives: Customer Service

4 Areas Where Customer Awareness in the Hiring Process is Key: Part 1 of 2 Articles

Where I buy my coffee there are certain employees who know how I like it made and, just as important, the lid I prefer. I hate straws because of the mess they make in my car and how they’re destructive to the environment. So, I ask for the lid from which you sip.

Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

One employee, in particular, will rush over to correct my coffee order, made by another employee, and change it from a lid which requires a straw to a sippy one. She is aware of my preference. She possesses strong customer awareness.

Customer awareness isn’t only present in food retail; it’s present in every aspect of our lives. The workplace is another example. We interact with our internal customers, our colleagues and supervisors. If our team is inharmonious, there is a chance that the project will fail.

In the community we are aware of the people around us; they are also our customers. I had a neighbor who would trim our hedges, and I would cut his lawn. He was better at trimming than I was; I was able to push a lawn mower while he wasn’t. We practiced customer awareness.

The hiring process is an obvious example of where customer awareness is required. The stakes are high. Employers need to fill positions to make their organizations run smoothly and profitably; job seekers must be the ones to fill the positions.

Of the two entities, the employer and the job seeker, none is more important than the other. In this article of two, we’ll look at how the employer can demonstrate customer awareness in the hiring process.

The employer

The hiring process will operate seamlessly if customer awareness is practiced effectively by the employer:

  1. Writing an accurate job ad
  2. Practice fair and effective recruitment
  3. Conducting interviews that garner the most qualified candidate
  4. Following up with the candidates no matter what the decision

The job ad

Do you think employers sit around the table and say, “Let’s write a job ad that is vague so we’ll attract the worst candidates”? You probably don’t. But in some cases, employers subconsciously produce an ad that is exactly that, vague. Job candidates read the ad and wonder, “What do they want here?”

They go into the interview where they’re confronted with questions that don’t address the requirements of the position they need to fill. If you’re a job seeker, you’ve probably experienced this scenario at one point during the hiring process. A total lack of customer awareness.

Employers must get buy-in from the immediate group of employees who will interact with job candidates and create a job ad based on the needs of these employees. This said, the needs should be doable for qualified candidates. In other words, the job ad shouldn’t be a mountainous list of duties.

The end result of a job ad that shows customer awareness is one that results in interviewers and candidates entering a business agreement with their eyes wide open, not one that confuses both parties. Employers who know what they need will better serve themselves and job candidates.

Recruitment

Not all job seekers will encounter a recruiter. Some will meet with HR and hiring managers. For sake of argument, let’s use the word “recruiter” as one of the hiring authorities. Let’s also agree that recruiters are the front-line of the hiring process. Therefore, they must also be a brand ambassador.

Too often we hear about recruiters who mistreat job candidates. They schedule, reschedule, and cancel interviews. Stressful would be a kind word to describe what the candidates experience. In addition to mistreating the candidates, this behavior hurts the company’s brand.

Recruiters must refrain from this behavior in order to demonstrate strong customer awareness. They should empathize with the candidates who are struggling with the letdown and, in many cases, despondency that is commonplace with the hiring process.

Customer awareness is better demonstrated when recruiters treat their clients and candidates fairly. Yes recruiters are paid by the employer, but their behavior is well noted by candidates who can be a source of referrals down the road. Many of my clients speak fondly of recruiters they’ve worked with, and some don’t.

Interviews

This is where the hiring process often fails. There are a number of reasons, the first of which is mentioned above, but a poorly written job ad is only the beginning. The number of interviews is another example of poor customer relations. The final example of poor customer awareness is the way they’re conducted.

The record of interviews one of my customers endured was nine or ten; I don’t remember. I think we can all agree that any number of interviews beyond four is too many. It makes one wonder…why? Why can’t employers make a determination by the third or fourth interview?

I think we can also agree that making a determination after the first interview is also ludicrous. It’s like bringing a girl or boy home after a week of knowing them and telling your parents that you’re getting married.

I’ve heard my share of piss poor interviews my clients have endured. One that comes to mind is a phone interview that consisted of a list of inane questions such as, “What is your greatest weakness,” “Where do you want to be in five years,” and, believe it or not, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you want to be?”

Do you get the idea? Employers who ask questions like these lack creativity and don’t have a strategy in plan. Back to the job ad and knowing what employers want in their next hire: the questions asked should pull the best out of candidates. They should be directly related to the requirements of the job.

Behavioral-based questions are the best questions. They are the ones that show customer awareness. Sure, hard technical questions are also necessary to determine who is the most qualified, but they alone aren’t enough. Do the candidates a solid and make them dig deep into their story bag to prove their worth.

Follow through

I say that the interview is a deal breaker when it comes to customer awareness. A close second is follow through, or there lack of. This phase of the process is not the sole responsibility of the recruiter; much of it relies on hiring managers who must communicate to the go-between. They must play a larger part in the process.

All too often hiring managers feel that filling a role that will make their lives easier, don’t invest enough in the process. Recruiters pull their hair out trying to get a pulse from the hiring manager. Candidates sit by the phone waiting to hear from the recruiter. No, the real problem is the hiring manager.

For the sake of the hiring manager and the company’s brand, they must, must, must treat their next valuable resource with respect. When they say they’ll make a decision in a week, make that decision, or at the very least keep the recruiter and the candidates in the loop. Candidates can take the truth.


Much mudslinging and some strong suggestions have been made. To do the employer a service, the next article will focus on what job candidates must do to demonstrate excellent customer awareness. Namely, they must:

  1. Research the position and company
  2. Write a resume that speaks to the employer, not the ATS
  3. Perform well in the interview
  4. Follow up respectfully.

10 ways to provide great customer service in your job search

Ask my children; I constantly talk about great customer service. When we go through the drive-through and the attendant gets my order right, I’ll rave, “That was great customer service.” If an associate goes above and beyond, I’ll call for the manager and tell them about the great customer service I received.

customer service rep

Providing great customer service doesn’t only apply to paying customers like me; it also applies to job seekers providing great customer service to hiring authorities (recruiters, HR, and hiring managers).

If you’re searching for your next job, you might see it as jumping through hoops. Further, you might have had a bad experience or two with hiring authorities who’ve been plain rude.

But receiving poor customer service from hiring authorities doesn’t mean that you’re given the license to return the same. No, providing great customer service to hiring authorities can be the deal maker that lands you the job.

Alternatively, failing to deliver excellent customer service in your job search could be the deal breaker. Here are some ways to provide great customer service to hiring authorities:

1. It starts with attitude

It always starts with attitude. What makes me cringe is when a job seeker says, “I don’t care what employers think. They’ll have to accept me as I am.” Here’s the thing, hiring authorities don’t have to accept you as you are. They hold the cards. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you’ll land a job.

No, you can’t argue with a recruiter about salary and benefits. No, you can’t decide when to interview based on your whim. No, you can’t treat the receptionist disrespectfully. No, you can’t be a jerk…anytime. Think great customer service, instead.

2. Be qualified for the job

My wife and her team were trying to fill an HR Generalist position. One of the résumés she received was from a person who had no HR experience; her experience was in dog walking and retail sales. Nor did she have a formal degree required for the position.

Wasting interviewers’ time is not great customer service. I’m not one to dissuade people from applying for position when they lack some of the qualifications; however, I don’t encourage people to apply for positions when they lack the most important experience, skills, and accomplishments.

3. Go through the proper channels

Companies have you send your résumés and fill out an application for a reason. They’re trying to maintain the sanity of their HR and recruiter departments. You’ve heard of companies that receive hundreds of resumes for a job. Get the idea?

However, I suggest trying to get your résumés into the hands of  hiring managers. If you personally know someone in the company, they can be your courier. This approach will save you the frustration of sending you résumés through applicant tracking systems (ATS) that will eliminate you from consideration if you don’t match their keywords.

4. Answer the phone

When a hiring authority calls at the agreed time, you’re obligated to take the call. I’ve spoken with clients who told me they weren’t ready to take the call, so they didn’t. I’ve spoken with recruiters who’ve been totally ghosted—yep, it works both ways. Answer the phone!

It goes without saying that you should be prepared for the phone interview, especially if it’s a scheduled one. Show great customer service by taking the interview seriously.

5. Do your homework

One complaint many hiring authorities echo over and over is candidates’ inability to answer this simple question: “What can you tell us about our company?” Some of the candidates respond with, “I didn’t have the chance to visit your website.” Visiting their website is the least employers expect.

I recently spoke to a client who was preparing for an interview. I asked her pointblank, “What do you know about the company?” She went on to say she knows all the products like the back of her hand, loves the responsibilities of the job, knows who is interviewing her, and has performed all the responsibilities and more.

This client was clearly demonstrating great customer service by showing the employer she’d done her homework.

6. Be on time to the interview

Not only do I praise companies for their professionalism, accuracy in taking my orders; I admire their quickness. Think of being on time to the interview the same way the companies, of which I speak, are consistently quick.

Hiring authorities will appreciate your punctuality, albeit not too early, and might even note it as a deal maker. If you are going to be late, call ahead and apologize profusely when you get to the interview. Great customer service.

7. Treat everyone well

Do you know who is one of the most important people in the hiring process? If you guessed the receptionist, you’re correct. In some cases, the receptionist is asked what they thought of the candidates who came in for interviews. If they give a thumbs down, that’s all she wrote.

Make sure you are respectful to everyone with whom you come in contact. Great customer service includes smiling and being friendly. I make a mental note of this when I’m being served, even if I’m not smiling back.

8. Take the questions seriously, every question

One client recently told me she was asked if she were an insect, what would she be. She recalled learning from on of my colleague to think about an attribute important to the company. Her response was, “A bee, because I work for the betterment of teams, often pulling more of my weight.”

My client could have gotten offended, thinking that the question was stupid; but, instead, she thought about the reason for the interviewer asking and knew she had to show respect by answering the question seriously. That’s an example of great customer service.

9. Thank them for their time

I recently spoke with a recruiter from a large medical device company who told me that some people don’t even thank the hiring managers for the time they’ve taken to interview them. What did our parents teach us?

10. Follow up

The same recruiter told me that the hiring managers would almost beam with excitement when they received thank-you notes. My rules for thank-you notes are very simple: send unique ones to each interviewer, mention a take away from the interview, and be quick in delivering it. Again, signs of great customer service.


As I conclude writing this, I understand that advising you to  provide great customer service in your job search is a tall order, especially given the circumstance. I also know you don’t always receive the best customer service from hiring authorities. Be the bigger person, though. Realize how it will help you in the end.

5 traits that lead to a successful job search. Hint, it’s about customer service

customer-service-phoneSuccessful businesses realize that selling excellent products at reasonable prices is not enough. They have to couple that with excellent customer service. This last component cannot be overlooked. To most consumers it’s a vital ingredient.

When people ask me which business offers the best customer service, I automatically say Starbucks. My valued LinkedIn connection and Chief Influence Officer, Brian Ahearn, felt the same way in 2013 when he wrote 5 Reasons Why Starbucks is so Persuasive.

That was awhile ago, but I’m willing to bet he still prefers Starbucks over the competition.

I asked Brian which five traits of customer service stand out in his mind. He was quick to rattle them off—I’m sure he could think of others, though. His five traits are: friendly, responsive, helpful, empathetic, and knowledgeable.

Smart job seekers understand that everyone is their customer.

Friendly

My experience with Starbucks has consistently been pleasant because the baristas are…friendly. They smile, ask me if I need anything else, and always wish me a good day. I feel as if I’m the only one they’re waiting on.

Not only should you smile; you should also make eye contact and project warmth in your voice. Again, simple advice; but I can attest that when my clients do all threee of these three, they receive a better response from me and others.

At a networking event, you’ll come across as friendly while talking with networking partners, which makes you come across as someone they would recommend to a hiring authority, if the opportunity arises. Of course there are other attributes you need to demonstrate.

Similarly, your friendly demeanor is essential in an interview, where you want to come across as affable, someone with whom people want to work. Friendly seems like a simple trait, yet it packs a bigger punch then most think.

Responsive

The baristas that take my order at the drive-through don’t need to be told twice what I and the members in my car want. They make me think, “Dang, they’re on the ball.” This is one example of responsiveness. I’m sure you can think of others.

You have to be responsive to your networking partners who rely on you for advice and possible leads. When answering a job ad, you must send your résumé and cover letter to potential employers within a day or two. This will indicate how responsive you’ll be when you work for them.

When being interviewed on the phone, showing great customer service means getting back to the interviewer quickly. Many a job seeker has lost out on jobs because they kept the interviewer waiting. Be prepared to answer the difficult questions; don’t waste the interviewer’s time.

Helpful

helpfulThis trait brings to mind companies that are aren’t helpful. The associates are nowhere in sight, and when you happen to land one like a fish, they give you convoluted directions that confuse you more than help.

Being helpful in the job search means helping others who are looking for work. I wrote a post about giving to others while networking. This means thinking of others before thinking of yourself, which may seem difficult given your situation.

Help employers by applying for jobs for which you’re qualified. I know this sounds like basic information, but this is one of the biggest complaints recruiters and hiring managers have. I tell my clients they should meet at least 85% of the requirements, not 40% or 50%.

Empathetic

A company that shows empathy will understand the concerns of its customers. Products or services that don’t perform up to standards and need to be returned without hassle is one example of showing empathy.

This post from John White describes how his employer handled a difficult situation involving irate customers.

As a career strategist, I see the roller coaster of emotions job seekers go through in their job search. As my customers I have to be empathetic to their plight. This doesn’t mean, however, that I should let them lose focus and drive because of their turmoil.

Nor should you allow your fellow networkers lose sight of the endgame. Understand what they’re experiencing, but hold them accountable for their search. You can empathize with them, because you’ve been there, but you also realize they have to conduct their search, when they may want to stay home and watch Ellen.

Knowledgeable 

Have you ever come across a technical customer service rep who answers all your questions, even the ones before you ask them. They lead you through a serious of complicated procedures in order to get your computer up and running. You’re so grateful that you want to talk to their supervisor so you can praise your technical customer service rep.

This is how you need to come across in the job search. I think of Mavens who are there to provide advice to struggling job seekers; whether this is in an organized networking group or a meetup or one-on-one.

One client who comes to mind is not only knowledgeable,  he’s also caring.

Of course, demonstrating knowledge is most important when you’re sitting in the hot seat at an interview. Able to answer questions about the role, company, even competition is essential to your success. This requires extensive research on these three elements, not a cursory read of the job description and website.

Take your research to the next level—this is what the knowledgeable customer service rep—did. Study anything written about the company on the Internet. Talk to people who work at the company. Read press releases and annual reports if the company is public. Leave no rocks uncovered.


No one values and knows customer service as well as Brian Ahearn. A recent post he wrote describes how last impressions are lasting impressions. It is a wonderful story that I can relate to.

I may even be more stringent than him, because even one bad experience may cause me not to return to a company. Yes, I know this is sad, but I do value customer service. And so should job seekers. They must realize that providing great customer service is essential to their search. Essential.

Photo: Flickr, Eurobase FulFillment, Flickr, Lynn Stover

The best way to answer an interview question; Prove It.

Woman Job CandidateYou’re asked the interview question, “what is your greatest strength?” To which you answer, “I would say customer service is my greatest strength.”  Paus…. Long silence between you and the interviewer…. Interviewer writes on her notepad…. She clears her throat…. Next question….

What did you do wrong?

If you say you did nothing wrong, that you answered the question by addressing the major skill the employer is seeking; you’re partly correct. What you failed to do is prove that customer service is your greatest strength. Here’s how to prove your greatest strength.

Take a breath before answering this question. “I would say customer service is my greatest strength. I listen to the customer’s needs, always asking how I can help him/her. When I understand the customer’s needs, I do my best to meet them. Can I give you an example?”

The interviewer nods and waits with anticipation for you to prove what you assert. To do this you’ll tell a story using the STAR formula, which may go like this:

Situation: One of our longstanding customers had left us prior to my arrival at Company X. I had heard the customer was unhappy to the point where he said he no longer needed our services.

Task: My vice president wanted me to persuade the customer to return. As the new manager of a group of five furnace technicians, it was my mission to win back this customer.

prove itActions:To begin with, I had to understand what made our customer unhappy, so I asked one of my subordinates who was close to the situation. He told me it was because the person who previously worked on his furnace did shoddy work and wasn’t responsive.

With this information in hand, I called out customer to introduce myself as a new manager of the company and ask him why he was unhappy with our service. At first he was justifiably angry, telling me he would never use us again. He revealed that his furnace was never cleaned, that it still smoked..

This was going to be a tough one, based on the tone in his voice. I listened to what he said and told him I really couldn’t blame him for being upset. I agreed with him that he wasn’t treated properly. I was going to make it right. Too late, he told me; he was going to go with a competitor of ours. He hung up before I had the chance to talk with him further.

I decided to go unannounced to his house to introduce myself from Company X, I was met with, “Boy, you’re persistent. I apologized for coming without warning and asked him if I could look at his furnace. He didn’t seem to mind and told me to go to the basement through the back.

“But I ain’t paying for nothing,” he told me. Fair enough, I told him. We want to regain your trust, and if I can’t fix what’s broken, I wish you the best. I am still sharp with my technical skills, so I was sure I could fix his furnace and win back his business.

I spent two hours fixing what was broken, namely the exhaust pipe was full of soot, which required vacuuming. In addition, the oil pump had to be replaced. This was not news our customer wanted to hear, but he was happy I was honest with him and for the work I had done. He also said the former technician didn’t catch these problems, or didn’t care.

When he asked me what he owed me, I told him there was no charge. I just wanted to be assured that he’d stay with our company.

Result: My customer told me that I had regained his trust. Further, he appreciated my honesty and concern that his furnace would be fixed right the first time. He returned to our company. For my efforts, he tried to give me forty dollars “to take the missus out for dinner.” Of course I refused his money.

From the above story, you see how the job candidate proves how he provided customer service in this instance. Of course the interviewer will ask more questions about customer service, both requiring positive and negative outcomes. Although this story exceeded two minutes, the job candidate was able to grab the interviewer’s attention.