Workplace Assessments

February 2008 - Security Recruiter Workplace Assessments

All articles written by John Howard, Ph.D., except where noted.

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Crisp and Vivid High Def Customer Service
From Jim Sirbasku’s Desk

That's a great picture on your new HD television, isn't it? The images are sharp and crisp and the colors so vivid. It's grand to kick back and watch a sporting event when you feel as if you are in the middle of the game or on the golf course. But wait. Why is the screen breaking up and going dark? Somebody DO something – before we see only a test pattern and a "technical difficulties" message!

Most of us give no thought to the parts responsible for that beautiful TV image until something goes wrong. Then disbelief and disappointment set in and sometimes we get an education we never dreamed we would need, with a vocabulary revolving around such things as resolution and pixels, those tiny dots that make up an image.

Customer service in our companies can fail in just the same way: Business seems to be humming along. You've told workers that customer service is your number one goal, and you hung the plaque on the wall in your office. Complaints are non-existent, and the financial reports are good. No news is good news, right?

Companies gladly accept traditional marks that they are doing well – such measures as few complaints and customer retention. But sustaining the big picture requires more than happy numbers. There's competition out there for whatever you do, and it's trolling for your customers. If you want to keep customers happy and your company healthy, you must nurture and maintain the individual attitudes that form employee behaviors, starting with top management.

Think of your customer service as a picture made up of thousands of tiny dots, or pixels. These combine and align to form a complete, brilliant image that pleases the eye. But if part of them malfunction, the picture might blur or break up in areas. It might even disappear completely, collapsing into a muddy smudge.

The first step in creating crisp, vivid customer service is developing a framework that describes the behavior surrounding customer service excellence. This includes getting down to the nitty-gritty of actions we expect from employees, such as urging customers to ask numerous questions, training workers how to develop rapport with their clients, or instructing employees to take the time to understand what a customer needs.

This framework must show how a company's desired behaviors align to its business goals, thus illustrating the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve, and showing how these practices compare to those of other companies. Do your practices depart from industry standards? This could be problematic – or it could be just fine if your service behavior encourages excellence and supports corporate goals. Either way, it's good see how you are doing in the broad scheme of things and note "why we do it this way" if you differ from national norms.

The next step in your customer service plan is an internal behavior audit. You need to measure attitudes toward the specific behaviors in your framework so you will know if workers are with you or not. Do they believe in the importance of following up with customers to see if they are satisfied with the service they received? Do they think good customer service includes telling a customer why he or she is wrong?

Once you have the numbers in front of you, it's time to mend the gaps in places where behaviors have broken down. Think of it as fine-tuning of individual employees or perhaps a whole department, if you discover a large percentage of staff with behaviors/ attitudes outside the zone of acceptable customer service.

If you think of your framework in broad terms, it will help you hire the right people by exploring the attitudes of job candidates to ensure their beliefs about customer service mirror the company's.

Finally, remember that almost nothing thrives on neglect. The companies that perform the best measure often. They regularly "fine-tune" their image through training in areas where the picture is blurry. Through regular maintenance, they can kick back and watch the show without fear of technical difficulties or a distorted picture.

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BOOK REVIEW: Do You Own or Rent Your Customers?

Kindness is not a new value, but in the arena of customer service, it might be one whose time has come/gone/is returning.

Author Ed Horrell, in his book THE KINDNESS REVOLUTION: THE COMPANY-WIDE CULTURE SHIFT THAT INSPIRES PHENOMENAL CUSTOMER SERVICE, recalls an era when businesses were smaller and managers or owners knew their customers, called them by name when serving them and urged them to button their coats against the cold. Compare that with today's indifference. Is personal service possible in 2008?

Yes, says Horrell, who gives numerous examples. One is a department store with legendary customer service. The store's company "handbook" is one paragraph long, thus ensuring that employees will read it. The gist of the handbook message is that the company stands for service excellence, and Horrell relates several tales that back up the store's reputation.

One widely circulated story says a clerk at the store returned a customer's money for tires that he was dissatisfied with – even though the store does not sell tires. The organization's customer service is so highly thought of that when Horrell was writing the book, people asked him repeatedly if he was including this particular store. The continuing refrain intrigued him, so he studied the store and found many gems of wisdom. It proves one of the points of his book – that people are loyal to service excellence, and they will talk about it.

The author makes several points that seem simple. He discusses four values that make customer service come alive when they replace indifference: dignity, respect, courtesy and kindness. Put into practice, this means going beyond giving customers what you THINK they want and actually ASKING them what they want.

He also asserts that good customer service is a practice that everyone inside a company must adopt. "The way you treat your employees will be the way they treat your customers. I have found this to be a universal truth; it never fails." Good customer service separates the companies that merely rent their customers from those that actually own them, he writes. And a primary rule of ownership is that you take better care of something you own.

208 pages
ISBN 978-0814473078
Publisher: AMACOM

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CASE STUDY: Gaining Confidence with ProfileXT™ Job Match

In the highly competitive advertising sales arena, a productive sales staff is crucial to growth. Although success in sales is measurable, productivity is difficult to spot during the hiring process. How do you gauge the energy and effectiveness of people you do not know?

An advertising sales organization discovered that ProfileXT's™ Job Match Pattern provides clear answers and infuses hiring leaders with more confidence.

The company chose 26 advertising sales representatives to participate. Managers administered the ProfileXT™ to each employee, and also recorded the number of each worker's new customers, the ads each one sold, and each one's overall dollar volume.

Job Match Pattern

Four salespeople ranked highest in each of the three areas (new customers/ads sold/dollar volume). Fifteen employees ranked in the middle, and seven ranked lowest.

From this scale, the company developed a Job Match percentage and matched all 26 employees against it. An 86 percent or better match most strongly identified top performers. Leaders chose this percentage as the company's breakpoint for hiring.


Of the 26 employees in the study, eight met or exceeded the benchmark. All four of the top performers ranked in this group. Only one of the seven low performers displayed the same match. Thus the pattern differentiated between the top and bottom performances made by the company's own evaluations, with these results: • Top Performers correctly identified by the pattern: 4 of 4 (100 percent). • Bottom performers incorrectly identified by the pattern: 1 of 7 (14 percent) This pattern now serves as the company's benchmark for matching employees.


Using the ProfileXT's™ Job Match, the organization has developed the ability to screen sales representative candidates with success. Leaders believe their hiring practices show more consistency with ProfileXT™. Their knowledge that the PXT is based on employee attributes gives them more confidence in hiring decisions. This process demonstrates how employee selection practices can improve using Job Match Patterns.

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Nothing is More Important to People than Their Names

"Hey Bud, let me introduce you to someone I've just met. That is…um…

I'm sorry, what did you say your name was again?"

Embarrassing? No, that's too small a word!

Take heart! Unless you're one of a small number of people worldwide suffering from prosopagnosia, a neurological condition rendering a person incapable of recognizing faces in spite of having good eyesight, then the following steps will save you the embarrassment of ever forgetting anyone's name again.

A Personal Story from Bud Haney Almost everyone struggles with remembering the names of people. I was helped when I learned that if you have empathy for people, you will have an easier time remembering their names. I think I learned this principle by observing Jim Sirbasku in action. Jim used to have a problem remembering names because his "E" was bigger than his "EM." Here's what I mean: When he met people, his focus was on himself, or his ego, which I call the "E." Jim was more focused on "telling" people than he was on "learning" from people. I decided the way to help Jim start remembering names was to remind him to "Use your EM (empathy), not your big E." It was my way of reminding him to pay attention to people's names and what they did, and put his ego aside.

The biggest payoff for learning to remember people's names is the embarrassment you avoid. This chapter is full of ideas to help you improve your memory when it comes to recalling the names of the people you meet.

1. Switch Off the Internal Dialogue
As you're reading this strategy, take a moment to examine what else is flying around in your mind. It's no different in social or business situations where you're meeting people for the first time. Instead of focusing solely on the person you're meeting, your mind is filled with snatches of other concerns flying through it: "…mmm, the food looks good…when she's finished speaking, I'm going to say…" With all of that internal dialogue, it should come as no surprise that you find yourself embarrassed to have "forgotten" someone's name. In reality, you just didn't bother to try to remember it in the first place. Become conscious of your internal dialogue and make a conscious effort to focus your attention exclusively on the external dialogue. Every time you find yourself drifting inward, step out. Stay external – prepare to remember.

2. Listen
Hey, come back! Just because I'm repeating Rule #1 of good communication, a rule you've had hurled at you time after time, don't ignore this key element. Good listeners rarely forget names. Learn to listen actively by applying the next few steps which focus your active listening engine. Then when a person's name is introduced into the conversation, be sure to hear it!

3. Bury the New Name in Your Memory
First, repeat it in a sentence. Plain and simple everyday courtesy phrases like, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Marie" will do it. This has two effects: it puts the name immediately into your short-term memory and it makes the new person feel good – most people love the sound of their own name. If it's an unusual name, ask her to spell it: "Is that N-I-L-G-U-N?" This implants it even deeper in your memory and builds further rapport. Finally, think about the name itself. Does it sound like anything else? Is there any way you can make a memorable association? Names like Wood, Holly, Marsh, Guinness, or Green are made for memorable association. If there's no obvious association, then consider what their names sound like: McCann (My Can), Harrison (Hairy Son), Kendall (Candle). The process of trying to make these connections helps to bury names further in your memory.

4. Make Eye Contact
When meeting someone, look at him. Make eye contact and smile. Imagine the name of your new acquaintance is written in big luminous letters across her forehead. Then observe: What makes her face interesting and different? Has she a parting in her hair or a gap in her teeth? Eyebrows that meet? A long nose? You don't have to stare them out to do this effectively. All of this can be picked up in a few quick glances, if you're prepared to make the effort.

5. Bring it All Together
Finish the job of remembering them forever. You've got the name, you've got some memorable association, and you've got some distinguishing physical features. Now, construct a mental picture for this person. Connect his or her unique physical features with the name's association to create a picture that will pop into your mind next time you meet. The sillier the picture, the better.

This is an absolutely infallible system. Apply it and you'll never forget someone again. With a little practice, this process becomes so automatic and instantaneous that you will find a mental picture pops into your head right away for every new person you meet, ensuring that every new face and name is filed away in your mental Rolodex. Forever.

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SUCCESS STORY: Full Speed Ahead at Planet Tan

EDITOR’S NOTE: St. Louis, Mo., native Tony Hartl, CEO and founder of Texas-based Planet Tan, describes his 120 employees as "talent." Strategic thinking keeps this forward-moving executive at the top of his game. Planet Tan's awards include Profiles International's 2007 Client of the Year, The Dallas Business Journal's Best Places to Work in Dallas-Fort Worth for 2006 and 2007, and INC Magazine's designation of an INC 500 Company for 2007.

Q. How did you create the name "Planet Tan"?
A. When I was starting Planet Tan, there were similar names out there -- Planet Hollywood was popular. And there were other tanning firms with "global" and "international" in the name. I wanted to take something to infinity so we would not fall victim to the "one-up" concept. I chose "planet," which matches the logo design.

Q. How many Planet Tan locations do you have, and where are they?
A. We have 12 with the 13th being built right now. All are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Within the next 30 months, we will add 20 additional stores. Q. Were you living in Dallas at the time you
founded the company? A. I was living in Denver. I'd gotten a classic education in marketing and at age 23, I was the vice president of a corporation. My position gave me an understanding of trends, as well as an access to research and data in tanning and an understanding of clients' lifestyles. So I studied where this type of client might live. I also looked at where I wanted to live. Dallas was the answer. It's a great market, a great city from a cosmopolitan standpoint, and it has the traditional values that I grew up with in the Midwest. Q. What are those values?
A.When you say you are going to do something, you do it. You don't need a contract. I seal many of my deals with a handshake. Also, I appreciate people. That doesn't mean taking them for granted, but appreciating what they do. The overarching thing is the work ethic. I have been in many markets where there is a cultural difference when it comes down to accountability and how people work. The Midwestern ethic, shaped by farm life, is that you work all day and all night. I was exposed to that at an early age. Q. Besides that hard work, what makes Planet Tan successful?
A. There are two points of difference between Planet Tan and our competitors. We established our brand as fun, energetic and relevant. We sponsor three sports teams. We are the official tanning center of The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, The Dallas Mavericks Dancers and the NHL Dallas Stars Ice Girls. We are one of the few businesses to sponsor all three major sports franchises in Dallas and this makes people think we are larger than we are. The second thing is our size. Our average stores have 50 tanning beds, where others might have 10 or 12. We have the largest tanning facilities in the world and we are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. We have so many beds that we gain market share very rapidly. Q. Did you know the business would be successful from the outset? A. Yes. I never thought I would do something that would not be successful. There is a certain level of optimism, enthusiasm and energy that entrepreneurs bring to the table. There is a real bias for action. It's like a 16-foot speedboat. You think at lightning speed. It's in the DNA – you've got it or you don't. It's not learnable or teachable Q. Why did you contact Profiles International?
A. We had a need. We had 88 percent attrition in 2006. We needed better assessment tools. A friend referred me to Profiles. Q. What assessments do you use and what have you seen as a result? A. We use ProfileXT™, ProfileXT Sales™ and Step One Survey II™. In one year, I saw a drop in attrition from 88 to 72 percent. I knew we were onto something. Q. Have you seen other changes in your business as a result of your relationship with Profiles? A. We take more of a deliberate approach to our hiring process now. We understand that there's not any one piece we want to do without. We use Profiles assessments, multiple interviews and reference and background checks. We have 120 employees and that will grow to 170 by end of the year. We call people "talent," and the difference between talent and people can be a strategic initiative for a business.

SUCCESS STORY: Full Speed Ahead at Planet Tan You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. -- Laurie McIntosh, writer

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New Customer Service Profile™ Report Shines Light on What Customer Service Means Partner Contact Information For years, Customer Service Profile™ has waged war against poor treatment of the people your company needs to survive. Managers use CSP's placement, coaching and individual reports to see which job candidates' attitudes best match the organization's expectations for excellent customer service. For employees already on the job, CSP reveals which areas and/or individuals would benefit from more training.

Now a new CSP report gives organizations one more strategy to use in battling poor customer service. Called the alignment report, this revealing survey gives managers a dual-screen view of both marketplace attitudes and those of their own employees in one convenient document.

The alignment report works in two specific ways. First it shows Company ABC how well its customer service standards match those typical of other companies. Second, it reveals to Company ABC how closely its own employees agree with ABC's customer service values.

After viewing the results, Company ABC may want to make some changes – or may choose to do nothing at all. As with other reports, this one's power lies in the information it provides. Here is a picture of the report at work: It takes Company ABC's answers to 50 important statements and matches them with industry norms. A sample statement says: "All of a customer's concerns are important; never dissuade them from asking questions." In column format, Company ABC's yesor- no response to that statement is compared with that typical of other companies. Differences are highlighted. A third column shows whether a selected group from Company ABC agrees with the company's perspective. This answer is given in percentages when employees disagree. No percentage means overall agreement.

If Company ABC's answer to the statement differs from that typical of the marketplace, it may or may not be a cause for concern. A company might want to change its response to the statement. Based on corporate goals, only that company can determine what constitutes its best customer service practices. Large percentage differences between a company's agreement with a statement and that of its employees might be of more concern. If Company ABC believes that all of a customer's concerns are important and 50 percent of employees surveyed disagree, more exploration is necessary, and perhaps more training.

The alignment report is one more nail in the coffin of poor customer service and one more step to establishing a customer-oriented culture in your organization. Call us at (254) 751-1644.


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