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Staff Profiling – A Customer Service Case Study

How important is it that new staff are closely aligned with values of the organisation and will be intrinsically motivated by the tasks required and the environment in which they work? How good are we at aligning these and ensuring practices are achieving the desired outcomes?

What follows is a case study and the key question for the reader is, with this level of preparation and understanding of what the orgainisation was looking for from their staff, would they have a better chance of finding it and ending up with a more aligned, energised and intrinsically motivated workforce?

For most organisations repeat business is critical. The old rule of thumb states that 80% of business comes from 20% of the customers. As such, converting a first time customer into a regular can have massive implications. In addition the cost of getting a new customer can be a significant multiple of the cost of conversion. The core objective therefore was to create an experience for the customer that increased the likelihood of repeat business. This customer is also more likely to share positive word of mouth experiences with others.

A good map makes the journey easier

The First Step

The first step is to research what customers wanted and then set up all the pieces to create what would contribute to that particular experience.

  1. Identify what really satisfied customers would be saying about their experience.

  2. Identify the type of service and services which would contribute to these customer perceptions. In particular what behaviours on the part of the staff would make the customer feel this way? What would positively influence perceptions?

  3. Identify what type of people are most likely to display these behaviours and find ways of attracting the right profile. Start with the wording and design of the job advert.

  4. Set up a selection procedure that not only identified the “right type” but also gave them a first impression of the company that would be consistent with the mood and desired behaviour being sought.

  5. Create an environment that was conducive to the “right profile” and one that satisfied their needs.

  6. Develop leadership competencies and values consistent with this approach.

  7. Be passionate about the beliefs and demonstrate it in one’s behaviour.

The first reaction of every person to any set of circumstances is an instantaneous emotional one followed sometime later by logic. Generally we seek and apply logic that supports our initial emotional response. And the biggest influence on this initial emotional reaction is our perceptions around the people we are dealing with.

The People Philosophy

  1. Create a story, which represents what you are trying to achieve.

  2. Identify what must be done to give this result.

  3. Be specific as to the profile patterns most likely to create the desired behaviours.

  4. Let this be the critical issue in selecting staff.

  5. Engage in ongoing ceremonies and celebrations to reinforce desired behaviours.

  6. Create an environment, which delivers on staff personal and professional fulfilment needs (based on desired profile).

  7. Give staff constant feedback on how we’re doing.

  8. Workouts, free open discussion on staff’s agenda.

  9. Encourage staff to colour outside the lines in own behaviour.

  10. One on one meetings with all staff monthly focused on enhancing intrinsic motivation.

To find a needle in a haystack it is always good to know that you are looking for one and what a needle looks like. Here is an example of what the needle here might look like, the more detail and specifics the better.

  • The emphasis will be on "customer enjoyment" rather than simple customer satisfaction. Staff should set out to ensure that customers have a "good time", creating an environment where customers have a "fun" experience in keeping with the reason they are there.

  • There should be a strong emphasis on proactive customer interactions; with staff taking the initiative in helping customers get the most enjoyment from their experience

  • They should be "personalities" - friendly, natural, outgoing, and gregarious. They should enjoy mixing with people and perform more as "party hosts" rather than as servants. They should be willing and skilled at putting customers at ease, engaging them in conversation, intuiting their interests, and encouraging a safe and relaxed atmosphere.

  • They should have a natural liking for children as well as an affinity for elderly people.

  • They should be ready and able to offer suggestions to customers, which will help them further enjoy their experience.

  • They should be proactive in thinking up ways of improving the service, both individually and collectively. They will regularly get together to review their performance and swap ideas for improvement. Their ideas will range from how to make their day-to-day duties and customer contacts more effective, how to defuse disgruntled customers, how to keep kids occupied, right through to generating ideas for making the experience even more successful and enjoyable.

  • They will be quite knowledgeable about the offerings, and proud to explain its many features as well as positively responding to any queries.

  • They will also be a highly professional sales force, encouraging customers to spend money, staying alert to selling opportunities, up-selling and cross-selling and, in fact, being quite entrepreneurial in their approach.

  • They will be motivated by their own and each other's enthusiasm for the job and, especially by the gratitude and enjoyment of the customers. They will be sympathetic to disgruntled customers and will have the behavioural and verbal skills to correct difficult situations.

  • They will take their jobs to heart, and most likely will even spend off-duty hours thinking about how they can make things more enjoyable for their customers.

In some ways the above is the easy part (even though very few organisations analyse it in such detail). However, the challenge comes when you try to assess an individual to determine how naturally aligned they are to this.

Profile for Customer Enjoyment Staff

Having identified the attitudes and behaviours wanted, the next step is to identify the key profile patterns needed. This is based on language and behavioural profiling (meta programs) which identify the foundational thinking and muscle memory of the brain.

1. Criteria

They will generally be quite outgoing and at ease with people. They will have a good sense of humour and will find it easy to converse with other people at all levels. Their attention will be focused on other people, which will allow them to respond quickly and naturally and to follow or lead conversations. In interpersonal dealings they will tend to be proactive, usually initiating conversations rather than waiting to respond to someone else. Through their attention to other people and their (usually) unconscious observance of body language and behavioural detail, they will have developed an almost "instinctive" understanding of what other people are likely to need or want to do.

2. Direction (Towards/Away From) – Mainly Away From

They will be good at anticipating difficulties and finding solutions, paying attention to what might go wrong or what might need fixing, especially with regard to other people. Their ears will prick up when someone tells them they have a problem, and they will feel almost compelled to respond. They will be motivated by deadlines because they have a need to avoid the difficulties that could occur when they're not met. This will equip them well in dealing with fast turnarounds. They may have some aspirations towards achievement but will usually put these aside if there's something that has to be solved.

3. Source (Internal/External) – Mainly External

They will tend to rely on the opinions of others in order to make decisions and will often ask for suggestions about what they should do or how they should respond. They will enjoy getting positive feedback from customers and their superiors and will usually be motivated by this. They will also tend to be quite ready to give positive feedback to others. However, they will be able to evaluate negative feedback and decide for themselves whether or not it's justified. They will be sympathetic to passenger complaints but where these are out of their control, they won't let themselves become personally affected.

4. Reason (Options/Procedures) – Mainly Procedures

They will be careful to observe established procedures and will tend to look for the "right" way of doing things. Once started on a procedure they will usually feel compelled to finish it. However, their need to help people will occasionally lead them to look for ways to bend the rules, especially if they know they will get positive feedback and appreciation.

5. Decision Factors (Sameness/Sameness with Exception/Difference) – Sameness with Exception

They will work best in an environment where there is steady and sustained improvement. They will look for better ways of doing things and respond to changes which are progressively implemented. They will prefer things, which are better or improved rather than new or different. They will be uncomfortable with change, which is perceived as being revolutionary. Equally, they will quickly become unhappy if they think things are staying the same.

6. Scope (General/Specific) – Mainly General

They will have a good general sense of their jobs and how their individual roles fit into the overall picture. This general overview will also help them adapt to a wide variety of tasks and allow them to understand their importance. They will also have a good sense of detail for their own work areas and will be aware if little things are not right. However, they will need to be reminded of the big picture to maintain their focus.

7. Attention Direction (Self/Other) – Other

They will tend to pay attention to the comfort and well-being of others before they attend to their own. In conversations and in group situations they will be quite adept at reading people's emotions and body language and will usually make most sense of people's communications through non-verbal messages. They will understand the content of people's messages but will weigh this against what they consider to be the feelings of the people they are dealing with. They will tend to respond automatically to other people's needs rather than wait to be asked to do things.

8. Style (Independent/Proximity/Co-operative) – Mainly Co-operative

They will enjoy working with other people and being part of a team. They will understand that there is a need for people to have defined areas of responsibility but will often overlook this in order to help others get things done. They will find it uncomfortable if they have to work for long periods by themselves.

9. Rule Structure – My/Your

They will have a good sense of what they need to do but will usually let circumstances decide how they should perform their tasks and the priorities they should follow. They will usually accept that others may wish to do things in a different way to them. They will not have any rules, which will dictate how customers should behave.

Getting the right people is only the start. It is critical that the environment and leaderships style is tailored to suit “the right profile” so that they remain energised and motivated. Given the above profile the following issues were considered critical.

Key Practices

Here are a number of the key practices, or issues, made the difference:

a. The uniform was designed for ease of wear, comfort while working and general appeal to the staff.

b. Numerous methods of gaining customer feedback were used (letters, surveys, visitors book, anecdotal comments recorded by staff etc) and the staff themselves analyse, interpret, brainstorm ideas and make proposals.

c. The “workout” concept was used whereby staff held regular meetings with the business manager solely on the staff’s agenda.

d. The concept of “one on one’s” whereby there was a sharing of assessment between the manager and the staff member on how they were “showing up for each other”. A strong relationship and deep understanding of each other’s position resulted. This was conducted against the backdrop of the “story” of who we were and what we were trying to achieve.

In addition, coaching leaders must be a high priority. These activities were seen as critical to the "means of achieving" the goals and ultimate success. This is the means to the end and profit / success are the result. Leadership is seen as an outcome focused goal and success is measured only by the impact on staff.

They were also attentive to their customer philosophy and made a strategic decision to combine purposes for their customer feedback mechanisms. Their customer feedback processes were designed to help customers focus on what they liked about the experience, what they would tell others about their experience as well as identifying areas for improvement. This was a fully integrated part of their strategy.

“Conventional customer surveys or comment cards may point people in the direction of negative aspects of their experiences and are often used by more senior management as a stick, especially if a trend is negative. They may even bring to the attention of the individual completing the survey negative aspects of the experience that they may not have been previously aware of until asked. When asked a question such as “how clean was the room” indirectly one is being asked to see if they can now find dirt. As such an individual may be more aware of faults after completing the questionnaire and it is this view that they are more likely to emphasise when speaking to others about their experience.

Instead of promoting the “negative” aspects it is possible to elicit valuable information while at the same time leaving the person completing the survey with a more positive attitude and disposition towards the company. The point is to ensure that the customers comment on their experience in such a way that leaves them feeling better and more likely to be positive ambassadors for the company.”

If you would like to know more about designing and achieving a people strategy that ensures staff are more aligned, energised and intrinsically motivate or would like to enquire about any aspect of developing competencies in this area please contact Louise at

Brendan McCarthy | Senior Partner

Stratis Consulting

‘Strategic Employment Relations’

M: +353 (0) 87 254 8167 +353 (0) 1 2936748

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for general guidance only and does not constitute legal or specific case advice. The answers to specific situations will vary depending on the circumstances of each case. This is not a substitute for specific professional advice relevant to individual circumstances facing your business.


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