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Mila D'Antonio | December 10, 2012

4 Tips for Hiring Seasonal Employees who Don't Wreck Your Customer Experience

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We can expect it every year around this time: Video clips featured in the news of busy delivery men hoisting holiday packages over customers' fences or whipping them into theiryards, breaking the contents within.The news anchors, horrified at what they're witnessing, then discuss options to remedy this behavior.

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The fact of the matter is that as the American economy improves, retailers should prepare for the holiday onslaught by hiring qualified employees who can can not only meet the demand, but also deliver on customer experience expectations.

According to a recent survey from Aon Hewitt, a global human resources solutions provider, 53 percent of retail managers expect customers to spend more this year, and as a result, 48 percent plan to hire more seasonal workers than they did last year. However, the same survey shows the seasonal hiring process remains inefficient. More than 85 percent of retail managers admit they've made a mistake when hiring seasonal staff in previous years, with the top ones being not interviewing enough candidates (53 percent), hiring the first person that walks in the store (19 percent), and managing the entire hiring process alone (14 percent). Fifty-five percent of respondents say they have hired sub-par seasonal help just to fill positions.

While retailers might be thinking of these employees as temporary, it's crucial to remember about the impression they give customers. A bad one can have a lasting, negative impact long after the holiday rush is through. It's important to treat them just as you would full-time employees. Finding and training seasonal employees who can work well with full-time staff and deliver the expected customer experience takes considerable amount of training and effort. Here are four tips to help guide your efforts:

Dig Deep: When interviewing, look at candidates' willingness to learn and have a genuine interest in selling your products. Ask questions that go beyond their availabiilty and experience; ask about how they feel about taking on new tasks and working with others, as well as questions that can gauge their willingness to go out of their way to assist customers.

Feel the Love: Make new hires feel welcomed and included. Encourage social interaction between full-time and temporary staffs and include the new groups in the overall training for your long-term workforce to create a cohesive work environment. This will not only help the new staff get acclimated, but may motivate your long-term staff as well.

Train Often: Because it will take longer to get seasonal hires to buy into your mission, train and quiz the new hires on the products you sell regularly. In the words of Forester analyst Kerry Bodine, "Great customer experiences don't happen by accident--they have to be actively designed." In other words, implement a structured process to ensure that they're meeting customers' needs and enabling positive customer interactions.

Lean on Current Staff: Create programs that encourage your best employees to "adopt" one or more new hires to serve as a mentor for whom they can seek out for questions and help. Empower these employees to resolve temporary work-related issues that may arise.

A well-planned and thoughtful hiring and training strategy for temporary hires should keep your brand's image intact this holiday season. As for preventing packages from breaking, I can't make any promises.


What advice can you share for preparing seasonal staff to deliver on the customer experience?

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