April 23 2013

Customer Care Expert Guest: Monica Jenks , “You Hired It, Now Can You Change It?”

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Today, our guest blogger is Monica L. Jenks, the principal and owner of Great Connections, a boutique style company dedicated to helping organizations “raise the bar of customer care communications excellence.” Monica has been the training vendor of choice for companies who have relied upon her expertise for more than 15 years.

You Hired It, Now Can You Change It?
By Monica L. Jenks

How did it happen? You hired what you thought was the perfect agent (let’s call her Rebecca) for your contact center. Rebecca’s resume and credentials are impressive. She is a college graduate and has completed advanced degree coursework. She arrived early, looked sharp and professional and the interview was engaging and successful. But, once she was actually performing on the job, you discover problems with her poor grasp of writing and grammar. How did you miss it? What, if anything, can you do about it?

Rest assured this is a common error made by many. It is easy to be influenced by what you see on paper and many flaws can be missed in a face-to-face interview. Obviously, the problem is that a contact center agent must represent the company and the brand in the most positive, pleasant, and professional manner possible. Poor spelling, vocal tone and grammar can destroy your agent’s credibility and, even worse, negatively impact the image of your company to your customers!

I have two recommendations to help you avoid such problems in the future. First, be sure the first two interviews are conducted by phone by two different interviewers. In a phone interview, the objective is to listen carefully to the candidate’s vocal tone and word choices.
• Does she or he have a mastery of the English language?
• Does the candidate speak too softly or too loudly?
• If English is not his or her first language, does the accent present a barrier to effective communication?
• Is proper grammar being used?
• How much slang, colloquialisms, and/or unprofessional language “creeps” in?

If the first interviews are conducted face-to-face, you could easily be impressed (or, perhaps, not at all impressed) by how the person looks. A pleasant expression, well dressed and attractive candidate can cause the interviewer to completely overlook the candidate’s language strengths and opportunities.

Second, I recommend that grammar testing be conducted early in the interview process. If the job involves email or letter responses, this is particularly important. I made a document called, the “Top 12 List of Spelling Errors” that will help you identify common errors that affect credibility. These are also ones that spell check will miss. Words to look for include:

1. By (preposition) versus buy (purchase) versus bye (farewell or a competitor advancing)

2. Sight (see) versus site (place) versus cite (quote)

3. Though/thought/through/thorough (We know the differences but these are three words that writers tend not to notice are being misused.)

4. Few (number) versus less (amount or quantity)

5. They’re (contraction for they are) versus their (possessive); versus there (place)

6. Who’s (a contraction for who is) versus whose (possessive)

7. You’re (a contraction for you are) versus your (possessive)

8. Lose (not win) versus loose (not tight)

9. Too (also) versus To (toward, direction) versus two (number)

10. Its (never an apostrophe for possessive) versus it’s (contraction for it is)

11. Then (used for time) versus than (used for comparison).

12. Assure (make confident) versus ensure (make happen) versus insure (issue policy)

This is all good to know before you hire Rebecca. But what if you discover problem after you hired her? Use great care and caution please. When you hired Rebecca, you hired a behavior(s) or trait(s) she has probably had her entire life and it will be quite difficult for her to change. Are you stuck? Perhaps not. Before you start any plan of action, you need to learn the answers to the following three questions.

1. Is Rebecca Aware of the Problem? Tread carefully and be as positive as possible! Let Rebecca see the problem with you and let her know upfront that you will do all you can to help. Go over a poorly written email or letter with her. Discover if she sees the errors (perhaps even before you point them out). Listen to a recorded phone call with her and ask for her input. If she acknowledges there is a problem and is willing to work on improving it, the “battle” is half over.

2. Is the Company Willing to “Go the Extra Mile” to Provide Assistance? Depending on the degree of learning needed, Rebecca may need specialized training often only available outside the company offerings. Perhaps a college-level class, use of a tutor, English as a Second Language course, or other special class is in order. If her language usage is not a huge obstacle, Rebecca could benefit from working one on one with a trainer and then coached by a supervisor.

3. Are You and the Company Prepared for the Time Needed for Change? Be prepared for this learning to take time and effort as well as the ongoing support. It is important to note that adults do not change behavior easily or quickly! Research shows that, even with support, it can take up to a month of concentrated effort for an adult to change a behavior. Also note that even after a month, it is not uncommon for an adult to “slip back into old habits.” Therefore, the continued support and coaching by management is absolutely critical to Rebecca’s long term success.

I hope this helps you either before your next candidate interview or after you’ve already hired an employee with a challenge to overcome!

Reach Monica at:
Twitter Monica Jenks @fixtheperson1st
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