Saturday, 9 April 2011

The customer journey

People who buy products or use services are a pesky lot and increasingly unpredictable.

Organisations may map the customer journey for a variety of purposes. Sometimes the aim is to reduce it to a series of steps in marketing to which specific monetary value can be assigned.

Another way of considering the progression of the customer through these contact points is to review how well the shop window reflects the culture and public statements of the organisation. Both Chris Argyris and Donald Schon have written about congruence and gaps between theory espoused and theory in use. Yesterday I sat in a waiting room reading a poster that said: 'Our aim is perfection, excellence is tolerated'. There were damp patches on the ceiling, mistakes had been made in my customer record, which no one was willing to correct and I waited an hour and a half to be seen. Who defines perfection and excellence?

Organisations may hire mystery shoppers or be visited by anonymous critics or inspectors, depending on their sector. The aim is to check that front line staff are maintaining standards of customer service. Little thought seems to be given to another category of potential customer, the job candidate.

I've worked with managers who believe they must use psychometric inventories in their selection process because other organisations do so. Some use assessment centres with a battery of tests to present a professional image. As a candidate I've rarely seen tests applied as specified in the manual. Many managers seem to have no understanding of the instrument and refer to the company pschologist or external consultant who processed the results. More often the results of tests are set aside or mislaid, giving a bad impression of the organisation and how managers value the time and effort of job candidates.

I've known high calibre HR staff who are adept at using psychometric tests and following them up with an interview to review the results and amend any errors. In my experience these are the exception.

When clients ask for help with their recruitment and selection process I ask them to identify the purpose of tests. Are there specific aspects of the job that a particular inventory might help them to select against?

I tend to recommend simpler tests than many on the market, so that managers understand and can apply them with confidence. Alternatively I suggest that they hire me to screen candidates based on specific aspects of job fit. In the latter case I use LAB Profiling, because candidates learn as much about themselves and the type of job that would suit them as the organisation learns about them. The interview avoids jargon and draws on real work examples.

For example, I've helped small business owners avoid hiring office managers who don't enjoy following standard procedures and tend to reduce efficiency and profitability by constantly tinkering with core processes.

In the current economic climate managers who advertise job vacancies may be overwhelmed with the number of applications. Tests or qualifications may be used as a way to reduce the number of candidates. Unfortunately neither seem to ensure the selection of ideal people unless work has been done to define the gap that an individual may fill in a team.

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