“Attitude” is a broad term. We know we want employees with a good attitude. But what does this mean exactly? Just what is a good attitude? The attitude you want employees to have may significantly depend on their role.
M. Kleiman (on Humetrics blog) gives a great example of a bad customer service attitude. When he received an email offering 50% off his high school’s alumni network, he replied back asking: “If I do not perceive I am getting any value after I join, do I have the right to cancel?”
The customer service response: “Please read our Terms of Service. We do not issue refunds. Sincerely, Dee Dee.”
While this may be a factual answer, someone with a good customer service attitude would have answered differently. For instance: “Thanks for your inquiry. I am sorry to say we have a 'no refund' policy. Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions or concerns.”
The difference in words is tiny, but the effect on the customer is huge.
Success in customer service is a combination of many different skills, but probably the two most important are: a sincere desire to help and a desire to respond quickly. In fact, these are not skills at all — their talents.
What's the difference?
Skills are learned; talent is instinctive. While a “friendly & fast response” can be reinforced through company policy and training, an employee who doesn’t feel genuine empathy and compassion will find every opportunity to reveal this in their work, as in the example above. On the flip side, there are certain people who are innately “wired” to try to please others and the idea of sending an email without any hint of concern would actually make their stomach churn. These naturally occurring talents are the sort of thing you want to accurately assess before hiring customer service staff.
“Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills”
This popular HR management phrase states that it is generally better to hire people with certain personality characteristics (e.g. integrity, passion, initiative, enthusiasm) over their technical knowledge or job experience (where reasonable). It doesn't mean that you should go about hiring an enthusiastic 1st year medical student as a brain surgeon. The "Hire for Attitude" motto is largely about getting people to think about the question: what is more important for success in this role — inherent attitude or previous job experience?
“We've turned waiters and waitresses into great mortgage bankers. We've hired soap-opera actors and electricians. We can teach people about finance. We can't teach passion, urgency and a willingness to go the extra mile."
— Michael Homula, Director of Talent Acquisition, Quicken
"Hire for Attitude" is another way of saying “Hire for Talent.” (Hire traits that come naturally.)
Talent is a combination of many factors, one of which is behaviour, another is our personal values, another is our level of emotional intelligence.
With the TTI TriMetrix EQ profile you can pinpoint the specific list of talents that are required for success in any role, including many different types of customer service positions.