When we start a new business, we have our own views on what makes great customer service.  As an owner/manager and initially the only point of contact for the business we are in direct control of that service and how the interaction between the business and new or recurring clients takes place.

Cue growth and we start adding staff to our business and one of the early additions we make is someone to man the phones or the front desk. What are you looking for when you hire this person and is price the number one deciding factor or one a few steps down the line?

Growing businesses can get into trouble and potentially fail if growth is not managed effectively.  One of the steps in growth is adding additional staff.  Those new staff need to understand what your expectations are in respect of being the face of the business.  If you are targeting a largely English speaking audience, then is the ability to communicate in English a first priority or second after cost?  How many times does cost win??

I am writing this article because I came across one of those everyday situations that arise in the UAE whereby the person at the end of the phone had a very limited grasp of English and we spent a frustrating 5 minutes trying communicate with each other.  The business in question actually prides itself on Western style service levels, but unfortunately their initial contact point for the business could not understand me nor my requirements.  Having received good service in a previous dealing with the company I soldiered on, asking to be transferred to one of the other assistants but even that proved almost comical with phrases that we are all familiar with, namely “I am not getting you sir”, “come again?”, “hello? hello?”, “please call back in 5 minutes”.  Safe to say, the call ended with the sale lost to the business probably equating to a large proportion of the persons monthly salary.  What is the cost to the business of this?

Unfortunately, the owner of the business, whom I know to be of western descent from my past dealings, wont know about this because when I asked to speak to the gentleman, I was told he was not in the office, even though I could actually hear him in the background.  He will only know about it if I spend my time following up with him.  Based on the above, my only chance to speak with him will most likely be if he answers the phone himself.  So the sale is lost, he is non the wiser and I am hardly likely to refer his business to my friends and colleagues.  See how the costs are adding up?  The real cost of the employee and the opportunity costs of my sale and potential others from word of mouth.

Taking this experience as an example, it is worthwhile reflecting on the phrase “You get what you pay for”.  For a marginal increase in cost to this business, which actively targets English speaking Western expatriates in Dubai, they could hire someone with far better English skills, potentially has a background in customer service and make the customer feel ready to hand over cash for the sale.

Now I am not advocating that we simply pay more for staff and expect that to convert to getting better staff, but consider the goals that you want to achieve by hiring this person before thinking about how much they are going to cost.  Think about how you can maximize the investment in a staff member and be willing to pay a bit more for the right person.  Cost therefore being a consideration but not the primary objective.

Don’t forget also that your investment does not stop at the point of paying their salary.  Invest in appropriate training and also performance review to ensure that you continue to develop the person into the asset you expected when you hired them.

There is a trap that cutting costs equates to higher profitability.  Is this true in the example above?  Lower cost in this instance actually had the reverse effect, leading to lower profits by a lost sale.  There is a balance that can be tricky to achieve if not managed correctly.

TLB Business Advisory Services is here to help growing businesses with a common sense approach and a wealth of experience in dealing with them issues facing growing businesses.  To find out more on how our Business Review Services can be tailored to deliver benefits to your business, contact us at gidday@tlb.ae or 04 3609477.

Leave a Reply