Customer Service: A Priority for Recruiters, or Just a Buzzword?

“Customer service” is a term often mooted by recruitment agencies… but is it something that is actually taken seriously, or is it simply part of an agenda to try and improve public perception? 

Gary Melton, Director of Novo, discusses whether customer service is a genuine priority for recruiters and the steps that companies can take to genuinely improve their customer experience. 

Whilst I am aware this issue is not unique to the recruitment sector it is certainly one of the sectors in which this question is most prominent. I have been floating around the recruitment arena for a few years now and in my experience, more often than not, it seems that customer service – and more specifically the promotion thereof – appears to be more of a fad that we feel we should be talking about rather than a genuine priority. This is akin to the social corporate responsibility phase ten years ago whereby companies spent more time promoting what they were doing for the wider community rather than having the inclination or intention to effectively deliver it.

What makes it so interesting is the fact that service and experience is totally subjective from a candidate perspective, which makes it extremely difficult to assess.

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Two candidates may sign up to the same recruitment agency as part of their job search and be treated in exactly the same way throughout the process, yet one candidate may feel the service they received was excellent whereas the other may deem it substandard. Of course this is not unique to recruitment and is true of any company in any industry offering a service.

One thing is for sure. Companies love to talk about it. In fact, 75% of companies surveyed in September 2017 revealed their number one priority was to improve customer experience.

Who should take overall responsibility?  

If customer service truly is deemed to be a “number one priority”, the first thing a company should do is determine who is responsible for driving the overall customer experience initiative. Somebody will need to be accountable for ensuring the entire business is pulling together and working in harmony to ensure that they are consistently delivering a service that is deemed and agreed to be “excellent”.

But herein lies the problem, especially in recruitment where the majority of companies tend to presume that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that their customers are receiving an exceptional and consistent service rather than one individual.

Do you work for a recruitment agency? Think about it; who in your business is ultimately responsible for the business delivering a great customer experience? The reality is that you probably don’t know the answer and chances are that there probably isn’t anybody.  So whilst many recruitment agencies will say they are committed to delivering great customer service, there are far fewer who can clearly identify a leader who is responsible for driving that objective forwards. Sure, consultants who are speaking with customers will be helping to deliver the service but it is nigh on impossible for individuals to collectively drive the whole initiative without a focal point.

If that sounds confusing, then consider this in relation to your company:

  • Are you aware of any business-wide message that is clear or transparent, relating to expectations in the delivery of customer service?
  • Do you know how levels of service are monitored and who is responsible for monitoring it? More importantly, do you know who looks at the current customer service delivered and suggests (and implements) ways to improve it?

Lack of Accountability Can Lead to Service Levels Being Compromised 

In an environment where every employee has the responsibility to deliver the customer service strategy there will always be a lack of accountability. That also means there will not be anyone to steer service levels in the right direction should people veer off track.

This leads me to question the seriousness with which recruitment companies take customer service. Call me a cynic, but are agencies just saying they are looking to improve customer experience as a sort of tick box exercise, as opposed to making a genuine commitment to improving it?

Perhaps I’m wrong, but after speaking with clients and candidates on a daily basis, I’ve noticed that the same frustrations are continually raised: lack of feedback on performance and feeling like a number being the common problems… maybe that’s something you can relate to?

The fact that these issues are still cropping up today suggests to me that agencies aren’t as dedicated to improving their customer service as they would like you to think. More often than not candidate and client expectations are not properly understood and consequently how can agencies be sure they’re delivering the level of experience expected? The truth is, they don’t know what that level is!

To conclude, I would suggest it’s time for agencies to stop simply saying they’re striving to improve customer service and start to actually do something about it. This can only be done by putting someone in charge of implementing the process, which includes understanding the needs of clients and candidates, determining the standard of service required, monitoring overall business performance and continually striving for improvement. Customer service is extremely important and it should no longer be treated as just a buzzword.

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