Is customer service an art form? Is it something that everyone should be able to do? Is it trainable or do some people just have a natural talent for it?

In a world where everyone is in a hurry, every transaction can be completed on a screen the size of a credit card and customer loyalty left the building when the www was created, it’s more important that ever for businesses to provide outstanding customer experiences to their customers. Price is no longer the main contender in the game, with service and location now ranking as the top criteria for perceived value.

So why then is it still so hard to get some good service around here? Companies spend millions of dollars every year on customer loyalty incentives, staff training programs and making it right clean up’s because it’s easier to do that than the obvious solution – hire the right people! Service roles are considered the bottom of the barrel, for the most part, especially retail – the most customer-centric industry around! Hiring staff for any CSR position usually includes making sure they can read the employment agreement and sign their name! Sure there are reference checks and the like but with such high turnover in the service industry, most businesses take what they can get! At my last employed position I had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get my position as a team leader, with personality and aptitude tests and yet, those employees being trusted to build relationships and nurture the very people that keep us in jobs, were only asked a series of questions “tell me about a time when”.

Those very same businesses spending all this money are also covering the costs of constant staff turnover because their CSR’s feel they are paid too little to receive criticism on how they could have had more oomph in their “good morning”, or because even though this is a CSR position, they are now expected to upsell credit cards, without the paycheck of a sales manager.

I remember working with a guy back in the UK in a contact centre, who was the complete opposite end of the spectrum to what the company usually employed, how he got the job, I still to this day do not get, but I remember listening to him on the phone one day. All my fellow CSR’s were cringing as they heard him address the customer as “My Dear”. “Are you having a lovely day my dear” he would say as he navigated swiftly through his computer screens, updating details like a ninja. “Now I am noticing that you have had no claims for your husband in the last little while, is he doing ok?” “oh yes,” she said, “now that he has no teeth, he doesn’t need to visit the dentist!” and how the two of them laughed – while everyone else shook their heads. What was this profounded “fun” this CSR was having with a customer, where was the professionalism? Of course, the company received a written letter from the customer a few days later, addressed to the CEO, expressing how she had very much enjoyed her conversation with the CSR and requesting in future could she please speak to only him.

I have met people like this guy before. They are the “yellow” personality trait if you do insights, or Sanguine if you have read personality plus or the “ESFP” from Myers-Briggs. They are unruly, don’t like being managed, they are unorganised, generally messy and everything you probably don’t want to hire, on paper. But in reality, they LOVE people, and people love them and they are ideal for Customer service positions. I wholeheartedly believe that some people are born to make others happy, that is their mission in life, and if you are lucky enough to find someone who just loves to talk to your customers all day long, make sure you hang on to them and pay them what they are worth – way more than industry standards, and don’t yell at them because they didn’t clean their coffee mug!

Yes, great customer service skills can be trained, but to really stand apart, you also need to have a personality. When you let these entrepreneurial spirits sore, the referrals and sales become a natural progression and more genuine too. Customers won’t feel like they were pressured into something they didn’t really want. These yellow personalities, take the time to find out more about their customers and so can more easily match products and services.

So next time you need to hire a CSR, tell them the interview is a toga party and then hire the ones having the most fun!