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Use The Web to Find Out Who’s a Star

One of the most common things that my clients ask me is how do they find the star out of all the applicants they get for a job. It is not uncommon for a customer service representative position to get a lot of applicants. How do you find the best of the best from all of those applicants?

My secret has been investing a lot in reference checks and doing a lot of homework about the applicant before you hire him or her.

First thing’s first.
Before you go through this relatively extensive process, I suggest narrowing the number of candidates down from the original amount of applicants (say 30 people) to a much smaller number (say 2-3 people). This will make the process a lot more manageable. You don’t want to narrow it down to 1 person, though. It has to be at least 2 people. Once you have your two people, it is time to get started.

The Google.
If your HR manager doesn’t at least Google candidates, he or she should be fired. Now. This should be done before the initial interview is scheduled. However, it is wise to do another and more thorough Google about your two candidates. If there are any “official” web sites associated with the person (i. e. their own blog or web site), look over those in detail. Print out results/pages that are odd or questionable.

Tips: Be sure to Google the person’s name (bob bobsen), the person’s name followed by previous employers (bob bobsen smith company), the person’s name followed by their location (bob bobsen new york), and their email address (bob.bobsen@gmail.com).

The LinkedIn.
Not everyone, especially lower level employees have a LinkedIn account, but it is usually worth checking out. Some users may have a lot of connections and information, while others may have very few. Just check out the account and see if you notice anything interesting. Be sure to contact anyone you know that does directly know the candidate as well.

Tip: Look for recommendations. Check out who recommended the candidate, what their relation is to the candidate, and if you want, contact that person. It is always interesting to do an informal reference check like that.

The Social Networks.
Next, it is worth checking out MySpace and Facebook. Facebook is generally more privacy-centric, so it could be harder to get any useful information out of it. However, MySpace profiles are generally pretty open and even a bit too honest. Other social networks that are worth checking out are things like accounts on Twitter, Flickr, etc.

Tip: Try not to be too judgemental. You’re looking for things that could possibly show instability in the candidate or show that they may not be suited for the particular position they’re applying for. I would watch for heavy partying / drinking, drug use, illegal activity, etc.

Monday’s post will talk about how to take the age old practice of reference checking and take it to the next level. Today’s post is only about using the web.

[Photo courtesy of timsamoff]

The Cool American Express Booklet

I do not have a credit card. I have two debit cards, but no credit cards. I’ve never really needed one since both my debit cards seem to work wherever they take credit cards. However, my parents are longtime American Express cardholders. On Friday, I noticed that they had a very cool little booklet that American Express sent them on their counter.

This booklet didn’t seem to have much of an ulterior motive. It served to educate and inform. It was filled with useful FAQs. There weren’t long paragraphs and boring pages, but instead page after page of well presented FAQs. They were in plain English, highly relevant, and useful.

What makes American Express’ booklet better than others?

Well designed.
The booklet is very well designed. It isn’t too large, but isn’t too small. More importantly, it is very easy to read and the information is presented in a very attractive way. There are lots of high quality pictures. It is printed on high quality paper, etc.

Simple copy.
The actual text in the FAQs is simple and in plain English. None of the FAQs are that long. They answer the question directly and provide useful information. The answers aren’t loaded with industry or company-specific jargon, either.

All types of questions.
The book features all types of questions ranging from questions about general credit card use to what exactly American Express will cover if you lose your card. Most of the questions talk about how American Express can help you. That is useful for both the reader and for American Express, which wants to sell you services and get you to use their card.

Simple.
This is one of those situations (like many) where simplicity rules. Simple book, simple questions, simple answers, well designed. Very useful. All and all, a great combination.

Consider sending a useful little FAQ booklet to your customers. It is a lot more effective than a few pieces of a paper, an email, or just letting your customers guess the answers. If you present relatively boring information in an interesting way, it’ll get your customers’ attention.

A Better Type of ISP

Tuesday’s post was about how a particular airline employee delivers exceptional customer service on a consistent basis. Today’s post is about an ISP that is taking the high road when it comes to customer service and actually paying attention to it. I’m not sure what is up this week, but whatever it is, it’s odd.

I read this post about how an Irish ISP called Perlico has an interesting IVR. Much of like I described in my post on little things that add humor in customer service, when you call Perlico, you can push 3 to hear a duck quack. They realize that IVRs are often long, annoying, and boring, and are trying to poke fun at it. In an industry as boring as Internet service, my thoughts are more power to them.

The interesting thing about Perlico having their quacking IVR is that it actually created a viral marketing campaign. 70,000 people called in 3 days – that is a huge number of calls. It’s great exposure for Perlico and everyone seemed to have a pretty good laugh about it. I’m not sure if they intended to do that, but it was a great result nonetheless.

Here is a segment from a radio show that featured the IVR (weird sentence). It is fairly funny. The voice on the IVR says push 3 to hear a duck quack just like the other two, very serious options.

Another thing that is very interesting about Perlico is that they post quite a few customer service statistics right on their web site. They show how quickly they answer the phone, how often they resolve issues, etc. The information is pretty useful and the transparency is great. Very few companies, much less ISPs, do that.

I think it is also worth noting that it is fairly simple to add the duck quacking IVR option and customer service statistics page to your web site. Not that complicated and it definitely sets you apart.

I love to see and write about companies that do something relatively common and add their unique twist to it. Those are the companies I find to be most interesting. They are the prime examples of what great customer service and a customer-centric attitude can accomplish. If you know of any companies like that, I encourage you to tell me. I write about them as I hear about them, but I am sure there are plenty more out there.

I don’t live in Ireland and am not a Perlico customer, so I can’t say how the company is first hand. However, I am guessing that they are better than most. Certainly better than Cox, right?

[Photo Courtesy of Spiralz]

Terrific Customer Service from United

I have flown and written about United Airlines before. The experience was so-so. I didn’t really enjoy it and it didn’t really stand out as bad, either. However, courtesy of Maria from CustomersAreAlways, I was made aware of a particular United Airlines pilot that goes way above and beyond the call of duty. He was written about in a great Wall Street Journal article.

The particular pilot is Capt. Denny Flanagan and he should be running customer service for United. And how does he go above and beyond? By doing a lot of little things that are totally unexpected from pilots. A few of them are below:

  • He takes pictures of pets in cargo with his camera phone to assure their owners that the pets are safe and are on board. As a pet owner and someone who has traveled with pets (never in the cargo, though), I would find this tremendously comforting.
  • He writes notes to first class and other “VIP” passengers thanking them for their business. The notes aren’t generic – he addresses the passengers by name and writes them on his business cards.
  • If a flight is delayed or diverted, he will look for a McDonald’s and order 200 hamburgers. Or, he’ll find some other place that can provide food for the passengers.
  • When unaccompanied minors travel on his flights, he will call the parents and let them know that things went okay.
  • If a passenger has an issue, he will often get on the phone and handle it personally instead of just referring them to customer service or a ticket agent.
  • He holds little contests, giveaways, etc. during his flights.
  • He gets feedback from passengers and posts the notes in crew rooms or sends them off to get issues resolved.

United is smart, though. They give Denny the resources he needs to keep being a great customer service person. They pay for all of the things he gives away (books, wine, and discount coupons), his extra business cards (700 a month!), and for the food he buys if flights are delayed or diverted. I feel they are taking the right approach.

My question is: why doesn’t United standardize some of this? Not all of the pilots have to go to Denny’s level of amazing customer service, but the airline can definitely standardize the process of buying food if a flight is delayed, giving away extra items, and encouraging feedback. Some of the initiates are costly, but I am sure there are ways that United can follow Flanagan’s lead.

I think it is clear that Denny is almost entirely responsible for the superior customer service he provides. It shows what type of work ethic he has and how he is dedicated to helping the passengers. You want to find guys like Denny to work in your customer service department. Every now and then, they will come along by themselves, but you want to actively seek out people like that.

If a pilot did any one of those things for me, I would be thoroughly impressed. If all of them happened, I think I would have to poke myself to see if I was dreaming. This sort of customer service simply doesn’t happen very often.

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