Building a Company Culture of Respect

What’s the culture at your company? At Headsets.com, it’s respect. The Headsets.com experience is defined by the attitude of the customer service rep you reach when you call, and how you feel when you hang up the phone from your conversation with him or her. That experience has fueled the company’s growth. At Headsets.com, 52 phone reps work with customers, guiding them through the maze of selecting the product that is right for them.

“At the core of that call is respect,” says founder and CEO Mike Faith. “The customer deserves our respect. Sometimes they could be wrong. But they always deserve our respect.” And that’s why if any one of those reps rolls his or her eyes, acts exasperated, or does not give customers the respect they deserve, that is the end of that rep’s job at Headsets.com.

Building a Company of Respect

Compromising Culture Hinders Growth

To ensure that disrespect is a rarity, Headsets.com is very rigorous in how they screen and hire candidates. Before they are hired, candidates go through what Mike Faith calls a day of customer service tryouts. This includes up to eight interviews. Candidates talk to a voice coach (to check for warmth, tone, and empathy) and a business psychologist, to understand how they react to pressure and how they might, for example, keep their exasperation in check when customer calls escalate. They are tested for memory and English usage and grammar. They sit in on calls. After these initial screens, multiple interviews inside the company determine if they are a “fit” for the Headsets.com culture and customer commitment.

This rigor is in place because reps are encouraged to trust their gut in how they interact with customers. And respect is paramount to these interactions. Although rarely acted upon (because of the rigor used during selection), this commitment to making disrespect a “fireable” offense helps reps who have had a long work shift, or a chatty customer asking obvious questions, remember that customers are entitled to their point of view, to their rant, and to have their say.

Rules for Customer Respect

Headsets.com is, according to Mike Faith, “dedicated to customer love.” Respect for customers is at the core of that love. The company is a success because of their ability to sustain service passion. Only one in 30 applicants who goes through their customer service tryouts makes it into the company as a Headsets.com rep. And once you’re there, customer respect rules. Rigorous? Absolutely. But effective? Something must be working. This company focusing on selling headsets grew from a $40,000 investment in 1998 to $30 million in revenue in recent years.

How do you decide who to pick as the people who will deliver your special blend of service, support and personal connection to your customers? Is your interview process as unique as your business? Should you give applicants a “customer service tryout” like Headsets.com does?

9 Comments ▼

Jeanne Bliss


Jeanne Bliss Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS; a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. Her best-selling books are; Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions for Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

9 Reactions

  1. That is a serious interviewing process. A business coach and a psychologist? That shows serious dedication and I would expect that their customer service rankings reflect that effort.

  2. Hi Jeanne,

    After reading the screening process, I can understand why their profits are so high, with that kind of hiring process in place clearly shows the dedication of the company to provide high class customer service. This company can be an excellent role model for other companies to improve their service. You and readership may be interested in the following article:

    http://businessinsightsblog.trainingforentrepreneurs.com/2010/09/28/strong-company-cultures-equate-to-strong-performances/

    Riya Sam
    Training for Entrepreneurs.com

  3. Jeanne Bliss

    Hi Robert,
    You bet, Headsets.com takes this very serious. By being this deliberate, they have built the company from an initial $40,000 investment to a company exceeding more than $30 million in revenue. Like most of the beloved companies, their advertising is greatly reduced because customers tell their story, their recruiting costs are lower because employee churn is small, and their margins are higher.

  4. Jeanne Bliss

    Riya,
    Thanks for sharing your great article. This is really about being deliberate and having a clear process to follow to make hiring them most important decision. I love the extent to which Mike, the founder of headsets takes this, and how much of a zealot he is.

  5. Jeanne Bliss

    Hi Geri,
    Thanks for bringing up the great Danny Meyer. You are right – there are so many significant commonalities among these companies — and that’s really what I was trying to get at with this book and the case studies in my blog. That doing the right thing isn’t an accident. Leaders can’t issue a memo to “smile and say hi” to customers, and they can’t etch it on a crystal ball and put one on everybody’s desk and expect attitudes to change. Leaders have to know what attributes and aptitudes they are hiring for that fit their culture, they need to inspire, reward and recognize for that behavior, and they need to model the behavior they want others to follow. It’s not a hard recipe – but it’s a hard one to execute.

  6. Building a company of culture is the point to be in business and having employees you can trust is key!

  7. The time and money investment that goes behind screening and training Customer Service Reps is completely worth it. In a way, Customer Care Reps brand your company by giving a strong vibe via attitude. A Customer Care Rep plays a strong role in building or maybe even destroying a business. Thank you for sharing.

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