The Customer Approach to Reducing Turnover

Posted by Melissa Meunier on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 @ 10:30 AM

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Any business wants to keep their talent.  These days it is not easy; competition is tough! Yet there are some companies that are taking a bold, but not necessarily new approach to recruiting talent in an effort to curb employee turnover.

Have you heard the saying, “customers make the best employees?” Well, there are companies turning that statement into a reality. As I see it, customers are familiar with the brand, have been using the product or service, and in some cases interacted with an employee on a consistent basis. Turning to your customers could be like winning the lottery when it comes to finding the right talent.

The folks at softwareadvice.com recently posted a blog story titled “Should You Hire Your Customers for Customer Service?” that shares the benefits of hiring customers. The article researched companies in very different markets and uncovered the interesting tactics being used to recruit and hire talent.  While the article focuses more on the customer service position, the idea could be adopted across many different roles in multiple industries and markets.

The article talks about a well-known U.S. bank that has embraced this method of recruiting.  They utilize their ATM’s messaging screens to communicate hiring opportunities to their customers. Talk about a captive audience! Their reasoning is two-fold - a low cost option to get a recruiting message to the masses of would-be candidates, which may not be their traditional target market for recruiting; and a loyal customer has the potential to be a loyal employee. In an economy where everyone is trying to develop unique ways to draw in talent, it looks like taking a play from the old playbook might lead to a new recruiting trend. 

I was a product of this recruiting tactic; just not to the creative extent we are seeing now. Years ago I was loyal to one clothing brand (Company G) yet worked for a competitor (Company E). I loved Company G’s clothing, wished I could purchase more and knew the staff even better than the team I worked with.  The manager of Co. G kept asking why I didn’t work there? Good question. Why wouldn’t a company want to hire an individual that already had a passion for the product, knowledge of the shopping experience and the company’s expectation, all without even training them?

Another topic that resonates with recruiting is job fit.  Some organizations purely hire to fill a position, not because the candidate is right for the position – hardly a successful and cost effective best practice! That approach simply puts the organization in the same situation they were before should the new employee leave. Finding the right person for the job may take longer than filling an empty chair and in the long run is beneficial to both the employee and the organization.  Another success the article refers to is an Internet game producer company that chose to recruit their customers to fill open positions in their new support center by actually going to arcades in the area and seeking out gamers.  While a call center position does not specifically tie into gaming design, the company felt that recruiting by this method allowed them to find people that already had an innate desire and passion for the product – something you can’t really train someone to have.

The research found that not only could hiring customers be good for the company; it can be good for their co-workers and the culture.  When you hire customers, they already have one thing in common – their love for the product or service.  And, while a specific passion may not translate across all industries, at least the gaming organization feels they have a support system of co-workers who share interests and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

In addition to a possible reduction in employee turnover, there is another benefit to hiring a customer. That benefit is cost. There can be a significant cost reduction associated with the recruiting and training process – there is little to no recruiting involved and from a training perspective it will require less time to train an individual that already has product and company knowledge. 

While recruiting your customers to fill open positions may not work in all markets, the article stresses the importance of digging deeper and identifying what could be driving the turnover rate. Uncovering the roadblocks can help a company move past hiring just another body to hiring a passionate and enthusiastic person that is right for the job.

Oh, and by the way, I did leave Company E to join Company G the next month!

Topics: new hires, employee retention, reducing turnover

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