Tag Archives: Customer Service

5 ways a successful job search counts on how you treat people

I tell my daughter, who is often late for appointments, that life is about minutes. The first time I told her this was when she missed a train into Boston by a few minutes. Not just when catching a train, I went on to explain; but when you have an appointment of any kind.

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The message I delivered to my daughter particularly applies to the job search. Here are five notable examples of how a successful job search counts on how you treat people :

1. Be punctual. When I think about the conversation with my daughter about how minutes matter in life, I think that not only is it important to be punctual when you need to make a train. Punctuality is also important when you’ve made arrangements to meet fellow networkers or potential decision makers.

Especially when you’re scheduled for an interview that will determine whether you get the job or not. Or if you’re meeting someone at a coffee shop for a networking meeting. You don’t want to keep people waiting.

2. First impressions count. You might be rolling your eyes at this well-known fact, but I’m talking about internalizing and embracing this. Yes, you can practice how to shake hands, maintain eye contact, dress for the occasion; but this is something you must do every day.

Think beyond the interview if you want to conduct a successful job search. Your first impressions must be outstanding during networking events, while you’re connecting in your community, even at family gatherings.  If practicing your first impressions is what you have to do, then practice them every day.

3. The way you communicate matters in all forms. Of course your written and verbal communications—which includes your resume, networking, and the interview—are important. But communicating effectively also includes listening and not over-talking.

Over-talking you wonder. Is it even a word? Treating someone with respect means allowing them to do some of the talking, at least. I’ve been to too many networking events where someone feels the need to dominate the conversation. Telling me what they do doesn’t require them to talk without coming up for air.

4. Think of others in your network. One of my favorite posts I wrote is 5 ways to give when you’re networking for a job. This isn’t one of my favorite posts because it garnered many views; it’s a favorite because it talks about the importance of giving back in the job search.

True networkers don’t think only of themselves; they think of others as well. Treat others well by reciprocating when someone does a favor for you. But you don’t need to wait for someone to help you first. Turn the table by doing something helpful to other job seekers. Offer advice on their resume or LinkedIn profile or provide a lead, of offer great advice.

5. Meet your stakeholder’s expectations. This raises the question, who are your stakeholders? The most obvious one is a potential employer. Meet their expectations by networking yourself into becoming a referral. Submit a resume that speaks to the their needs and backs up your claims with accomplishment statements. Go to the interview prepared by having done your research.

Other stakeholders include your network. Related to the previous way to treat others well in your job search, consider ways to reach out to various stakeholders like the community in which you live. For example, when you have time, shovel your neighbors driveway, or help them move furniture. Help them help you by giving them a clear understanding of what you do and what your goals are.

Consider volunteering at a nonprofit that can use your talent. One example would be developing a website for your son’s preschool.Take over the bookkeeping for a start-up. Offering your marketing assistance to a restaurant that is suffering.


The success of your job search will depend on how you treat other people, whether they’re other job seekers; your neighbors; and, of course, potential employers. It comes down to more than just being punctual, you must heed your first impressions, communicate properly, treat your network well, and satisfy your stakeholders. When all of this comes into place, your chances of landing a job will be greater.

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.

Want great customer service, go to Starbucks

starbucksI’m a coffee snob. But I’m frugal. I buy a pound of Starbucks dark roasted coffee at the grocery store to brew at home; and when I’ve brewed a full pot, I’ll pour what my wife and I don’t drink into a container, which goes in the refrigerator.

As a treat, I’ll go to Starbucks drive-through and buy a Venti ice coffee with half ice. (Yes, I use the word “Venti.”) When time and the funds permit, I’ll frequent a Starbucks café. (Read Chief Influence Officer Brian Ahearn‘s post on 5 Reasons Why Starbucks is so Persuasive.)

Starbucks has not only won my loyalty for its excellent coffee; it’s won me over for its customer service, as well.

Customer service is such a priority to me that I’ve abandoned a famous hamburger joint up the street from us because it takes forever to get served. I’ve also traveled miles out of my way to give my money to another branch of a large retail store because I’ve been treated rudely by some teenager whose main concern is texting his girlfriend.

Customer service weighs so heavily on my mind that my kids get sick of hearing me say, “That was great customer service,” or the opposite, which is more the case than the former these days. My kids also get embarrassed when I ask for the store’s manager so I can commend an associate who did his/her job the way it should be done.

As much as I hate poor customer service (maybe we’ve come to expect it), I feel much stronger about superior customer service. And thus, I feel Starbucks “is all that” when it comes to customer service. Why? Let me reenact a greeting from a Starbucks associate at the drive-through I frequent when driving home from my mother’s-in-law house.

“Good evening. Welcome to Leominster’s Starbucks. How may I help you?” the young man wearing the headsets says.

At this point my wife and I look at each other and mouth, “Great customer service.”

“I’d like a Venti ice coffee with half the ice,” I reply. Less ice, more coffee.

“Venti ice coffee light on the ice. Will that be all?”

“Yes, thank you,” I say driving forward. My kids in the back seats drone, “Great customer service.”

“Thank you, my friend,” I hear as I’m approaching the bend. Now I think, here is a guy who really loves his job.

And here’s the kicker—Starbucks’ coffee associates always get my order correct, whether it’s at a café or drive through.

I think about customer service wherever I shop, but there aren’t many retailers that prompt me to ask a manager what contributes to their associates’ excellent customer service. I’ve spoken to a few Starbuck’s managers about why their  customer service is so great. Perhaps this is because great customer service isn’t all that prevalent; maybe not enough businesses are focusing on training their employees on this seemingly lost art.