Our company recently participated in an international trade show where we showcased one of our award-winning hiring tools, EASy Simulation® Virtual Customer.  In addition to our account executives, we brought along a character from the featured simulation, known to us as “Surfer Dude.”   Yes, he was limited to a two-dimensional physical presence, but thanks to the power of storytelling, his persona became an active participant in the overall experience.

To our booth visitors, Surfer Dude represented an experience of waiting in line for an extended period only to be disappointed by an unmet expectation. We would ask, “Bummer, right? Has this ever happened to you?”  With eyes wide open and heads nodding, the stories flowed…

“One time, I waited in a line for ice cream only to be told they were out of cones and out of dishes. They offered no solution.”

“The worst wait was in a theme park late at night. As soon as we walked away from buying a balloon, it popped. They wouldn’t replace it.”

“You get tired waiting in long lines and it gets worse when the employees complain, too!”

“We had waited more than an hour for one ride, and as soon as we approached the boarding area, our youngest kid needed to use the rest room. I asked if we could go and return to our place in line, and they said, “no.”  And it wasn’t just that they wouldn’t help us, they acted like we were crazy to ask.”

Luckily, we heard positive stories, too.

“I remember when we were stuck on a ride for more than an hour. When we finally got off, we were all treated to refreshments and were given a souvenir.  Despite our frustration, their superior service made us customers for life.”

Our trade show experience confirmed what we already knew. Guest service, good  or bad, makes an impression.  People like to talk and share their stories, especially stories that relate to service excellence – or the lack of it.  Based on the weeklong interactions with business owners and HR managers, we offer these additional observations for you to consider as you look at your new year’s hiring goals and objectives.

#1 – Your current customer service reputation as reported via online sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor will affect your ability to recruit the best and the brightest. Creating a positive online presence should be a collaborative effort for organizations.  A proactive stance is worth your effort. Fan experience expert Ruby Newell-Legner reports that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.

#2 – When it is time to review the budget, trimming tools in your hiring process might not be the best choice.  One HR Manager told us, “I could only go on the information I got during the interviews, so I hired staff who described themselves as a “people person” yet they often did not know a thing about how to serve others.”

Customer service onboarding and training programs will be maximized by putting the right people in the seats, not the proverbial warm bodies.  According to Peter Kriss, senior research scientist at Medallia, Inc., “Unhappy customers are expensive — being, for example, more likely to return products or more likely to require support.”  Dollars spent on effective evaluative measures are dollars well spent.

As we shared with the visitors to our booth, we believe the journey toward customer delight starts with hiring.  If you (a) want to grow your business; and (b) are hiring people to greet and serve the public, the EASy Simulation® Virtual Customer (hyperlink) is worth your time to explore. This fun and engaging simulation immerses applicants in real-life customer situations where they interact with virtual customers and coworkers to solve problems and build customer loyalty. This award-winning tool is accessible from any internet-enabled device and delivers the highest accuracy in predicting job success.  The end result for you is the ability to make a smart hiring decision based on objective, consistent data.

For additional insightful customer service facts, we recommend this list from HelpScout. For example – The list reports, 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service.   Source: American Express report, 2011.

IAAPA Surfer Dude Edit Here’s our Surfer Dude!