Customer Service Expert: “Hire Rock Stars, Not Lip Syncers”

We’ve said countless times before that one of the biggest problems with customer service is that companies — especially large, multinational retail and telecommunications companies — give so little latitude to, and put so little trust in, employees on the front line. Thus, every word and every interaction is scripted, and often with a corporate goal, like getting the customer off the phone quickly or upselling some unasked-for add-on service, that provides no benefit to the consumer.

Speaking last week at the Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit, customer service expert and former training and development director at Hard Rock International Jim Knight offered some advice to attendees that flies in the face of many of their existing business practices. has a good run-down of Knight’s suggestions about how to create “service that rocks.”

Like the need for teamwork and open communication between employees, as well as the importance of having a clear, concise mission statement when it comes to creating a “guest-obsessed” experience.

“The most successful companies in the world have a shared mindset amongst all employees,” Knight said. “And they communicate like heck.”

Given his years at Hard Rock, Knight apparently loves to use rock and/or roll imagery to get his point across.

“Be like U2,” he told the gathered retailers, which is not intended as a call for every business to launch a world tour or sport dark sunglasses all the time, even while meeting world leaders. Instead, it’s a statement about teamwork, says Knight. Sure, everyone knows who Bono and The Edge are, but Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. are just as important. Which we guess is like saying that customer service is the rhythm section of a retail business.

“They contribute to the sound,” says Knight. “In your company, everyone should be singing off the same sheet of music, and everyone has a part to play,”

Continuing with the music motif, he suggests that retailers “Hire rock stars, not lip syncers, to amp up the band.”

Don’t just go with the person that is the best fit on paper, says Knight, who believes that taking a chance on someone who’s a little different may end up improving your business while also earning loyalty from that employee.

Along that same line, he suggests that retailers should “consider being unpredictable” because consumers crave something new and different.

That difference — the experience that sets you apart from someone offering a similar product — will not only make you memorable, says Knight, it might also allow you to charge more for your product.

“[M]emorable experiences help justify the prices,” he explains.

While we’re all for thinking creatively and hiring employees who will provide a good memorable experience, we are a little concerned that some companies — especially those looking to make a name for themselves — will go overboard with the “comin’-at-ya!” rock star thing, and end up with an entire staff of high-fiving FM radio DJ types who are more intent on providing an “experience” than they are in providing service.

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