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Five Essential Qualities to Look for in Customer-Facing Employees

Posted by Jessica Miller-Merrell


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The customer-facing position is the most critical role in the service environment. Currently, about 27% of jobs, from retail to restaurant, fall into this category. As a hiring manager, you know that turnover can be high in these positions and employee morale can be low. To keep good candidates from leaving your workplace, it’s important to evaluate some specific skills when hiring, testing, or analyzing on-the-job training. To ensure optimal candidates and decrease turnover, we’ve come up with a few skills that hiring managers should put more emphasis on when deciding on which candidates to hire.

‘>Showing Empathy – While empathy can be learned, it is also something that comes more naturally to some people. Customers need the feeling of being valued or cared for. When employees give no thought to how the customer feels, clients are quickly turned off and lose interested in your business or product. Even if you aren’t able to help the customer in a certain situation, your acknowledgement of their feelings and sense of empathy can help manage the situation and the customer’s frustration.

‘>Knowing the Customer is Not Always Right – This is an important skill that a customer-facing employee must have in order to work effectively. Big companies like Wal-Mart and Target would lose millions if all of their employees believed the customer was right each and every time. Knowing how to stand up to customers and provide quality service at the same time goes far in these industries.

‘>Taking Pride in their Job – Your best employees will be those who take pride in the company they work for. Whether you’re a cashier or a manager, having pride in your company can make the difference between a sale and a lost customer. When things break down, processes are flawed, or long lines run rampant, a positive experience with a customer-facing person can make all the difference. If employees have no pride in their company, they are likely to only make things worse by adding flames to the fire.

‘>Presenting a Uniformed Front – In the retail and restaurant industries it’s really important that your customer-facing associates present a united, uniform front. They need to be able to articulate the values and ideas instilled in them from a corporate perspective. From time to time, they may need to go outside the box, but for the most part, each employee must do his or her part to present a united front. Creating a machine is most successful when each part works together for one common cause. A business works the same way.

‘>Being Flexible – The workplace is often one of the most dynamic places in someone’s life. If they are not willing to be flexible, they may come off as being uncompromising, rigid, or overly cautious. Highly flexible people are willing to take on new adventures and ready to adapt to changes within the office. When a customer-facing employee is dealing with a situation that is out of the norm, being able to be flexible will allow the customer a better experience within your business. Word of mouth advertising is one of the best forms of marketing out there, and that is why being flexible with customers is such an important trait.

These characteristics are some of the most important ones to consider when you are hiring in the service environment. As an HR manager it’s important that you look for defined traits, as it will help with creating better turnover rates and employee retention.

What characteristics have you found helpful in this type of environment?

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About Jessica Miller-Merrell


Jessica is listed as the 2nd most influential recruiter online and as the 8th most powerful woman on Twitter. She is the author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, a how-to business guide for Twitter users. She also writes for a number of leading publications, including Fortune, HR Magazine, SmartBrief, and HR Executive Magazine.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Andrew Lloyd March, 09, 2013

    In my line of work, I found it particularly helpful to be able to hire somebody that can hold its ground to an angry customer. In call centers, if you are a scaredy cat, you are dead meat.

  • Damian Ferty March, 10, 2013

    Apart from the ones that you have already mentioned in this article, I would like to add the listening skills to the list. Proper understanding of what your client needs, without making him repeat himself, it’s a great quality to have when being on the front line.

  • Louis Grant March, 11, 2013

    You all seem to be forgetting about communication skills, and I’m surprised they weren’t mentioned in the article. You can have all that of the above, but without the ability to properly communicate with the customers, you may lose them.

  • Rachel Raw March, 11, 2013

    What about product knowledge? Or do you consider that something that can be achieved through training after you hire somebody?


Guest March, 11, 2013