Mr. Walner

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Service Orientation: How Do You Know When a Job Candidate Has It?

By Doug Walner, President & CEO, Psychological Services, Inc.

Service orientation, aka personality traits and a predisposition to be helpful, thoughtful, considerate and cooperative, can impact your company's reputation for customer service - an important factor for success in the hospitality industry. Some people have it... and some people don't. Some people appear to have it (especially during job interviews), but, in reality, they're not suited for a service oriented position.

Recent research has shown that being able to predict employee customer service behavior before an employee is hired would be extremely valuable to hospitality managers who must select and assess applicants for service orientated positions (Baydoun et al., 2001). Accordingly, the quality of service can be enhanced if an employer selects individuals for service positions who have the requisite personal characteristics.

However, before we can delve into determining if a job candidate is blessed with "service orientation" we must explain what exactly this term means.

Since the late 1990's, services have become an increasingly important part of the U.S. economy. By 2002, service-producing industries accounted for 81.5 percent of total US employment, with some 179,733,700 employees engaged in service work (U.S. Department of Labor, 2003) - and these numbers continue to rise.

Not surprisingly, this rapid growth of the service sector comes with a heightened focus on customer relations or customer service - especially in industries like hospitality where so often guests judge their experiences based on how they're treated by the staff. Based on this, it is in these companies' best interest to attract, recruit and retain employees who are customer service oriented.

What is Service Orientation?

Service orientation was first described by researchers Saxe and Weirtz as being related to a concern for others - it became a set of attitudes and behaviors that affects the quality of the interaction" between the organization's staff and its customers" (Hogan et al., 1984). This definition was later expanded to include "a willingness to treat co-workers and clients with courtesy, consideration, and tact" combined with the ability to perceive a customer's needs, and communicate effectively (Rosse, Miller, and Barnes, 1991).

Each of these definitions suggests a link between an individual's personality and customer service orientation. In other words, a person who is service oriented is predisposed to have empathy for a customer's needs and concerns coupled with the desire to meet those needs. Broken down into specific traits, this may include the likelihood or predisposition to be courteousness and tactful, cooperative, helpful, and attentive - with a tendency to be people oriented and extroverted.

What are the common traits associated with service orientation, in terms of a job candidate? How do you know a job candidate has them?

Especially in the hospitality industry, exceptional employees require strong communication, problem-solving and numerical skills, along with subtler attitudes and traits that are crucial to their success - and to their company's reputation. Candidates who are extremely service oriented are most likely to excel in this type of environment.

For example, for those working in concierge services, the ability to work well with others, trustworthiness with company resources and information, dependability and reliability are paramount. Identifying job candidates who exhibit these traits is all part of the process. So, how does an employer identify star performers or, in this case, star personality traits, and determine who is ultimately best suited for a service oriented job?

Many researchers have developed tools to measure an individual's personality traits with varying degrees of reliability. Regardless of the type of measurement tool used, all generate a description of the respondent based on the Big 5 personality traits - agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience. The first three of these - agreeableness, conscientiousness and extroversion - are the most closely related to customer service orientation.

There are tools specifically geared toward measuring customer service orientation, based on the industry in question and their definition for customer service orientation. These include self-reports, management evaluations, service orientation inventories, such as the SOI (Service Orientation Index) and attitudinal-based situational assessments.

An increasing number of employers within the hospitality industry and many others are turning to pre-employment assessments to help accurately measure job candidates' service orientation. These tools can provide an in-depth view of a candidate, uncovering characteristics and attitudes that can be difficult to predict during traditional hiring processes. For example, an employer may want to hire a candidate who not only has strong problem solving and organization skills, but who also has a consistently friendly and courteous demeanor - qualities difficult to detect during a job interview. Beyond this, pre employment tests are valuable because they are neutral, third party assessments - they are designed to help identify candidates' attitudes and temperaments, as well as other skills that are vital to success on the job.

Assessments for customer service positions typically focus on several fundamental abilities and work attitudes. These include the ability to get along with others, perceptual ability, language skills, problem solving, following written directions, and visual speed and accuracy.

Human Capital software, services and consulting firm PSI's selection-assessment division has evaluated a variety of service oriented jobs in corporations, government agencies and for-profit and non-profit organizations for more than 60 years. PSI has gathered volumes of information regarding characteristics of a valuable employee, tactics for employee retention, and what companies can do to attract and keep talented people.

For its hotel and hospitality clients, PSI recommends an industry-specific battery of assessment tests that comprise a Customer Service Battery; a Basic Skills Test; and PSI's proprietary attitude assessment test, ViewPointTM. ViewpointTM, covering four primary areas (Work, Service, Sales and Tenure), helps identify applicants who are reliable, dependable, and trustworthy, thrive in a fast-paced work environment, and remain even-tempered in high-pressure situations. While such tests are not typically the only source of information, they often provide reliable and valid information and serve as a useful tool for eliminating sub-par candidates.

Employers in the hotel and hospitality industry whose success is so closely related to guests' experience - and consequently, their employees' level of customer service orientation - will benefit from making conscious, informed decisions about how to conduct the hiring process, and how to determine candidates' service orientation prior to their employment. Pre-employment screening and assessments 'in the end' take the hiring process a step further to help decipher who is genuinely service oriented from those applicants who are simply putting their best face forward during the interview.

Doug Walner drives the goals and day-to-day operations of PSI. With nearly fifteen years of experience and expertise in the technology sector, Walner was appointed President in 2002 and CEO of PSI in 2005. Under his leadership, PSI has developed and introduced ATLAS™, a technology platform which provides comprehensive examination administration services, and web-based pre-employment selection products and management assessment tools. PSI has experienced revenue and profitability growth during his tenure. Walner received his Bachelor or Arts degree in History from Tulane University. Mr. Walner can be contacted at 818-847-6180 or doug@psionline.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

AUGUST: Food & Beverage: Multiplicity and Diversity are Key

Paul Hancock

Vegetables are no longer served as garnishes or accompaniments but, center stage in the dining scene in this day. Plate design and bold flavors are more paramount than ever. The “wow” effect is in full effect. Guests are more eager to try something new more than ever before. It is entertainment, so it has to be great and throughout the dining experience. There is a cultural shift happening right in front of our eyes with vegetables. Vegetables have been the unsung heroes of the plate for many decades. That is changing. READ MORE

Robert  Hood

What does a restaurant look like in 2017? To define what a restaurant is is a difficult process and not an easy thing to do considering that foodservice has evolved so much and comes in so many shapes and sizes. In 2017 restaurants are not even defined for having chairs or tables for diners or even want diners to stay after the point of food purchase and the sale is completed. This is the world of the ‘QSR’ or ‘Quick Service Restaurant’ and since it arrived it has changed restaurant culture, our food service experiences on an almost daily basis, and begs the question ‘is QSR the new fine dining?’ READ MORE

Chris Ferrier

Many hotels are overwhelmed by the thought of putting together a ‘buy local’ or ‘farm-to-table’ culinary program when they also have to serve many guests. Where do you start? Should chefs contact all the local farms, breweries, wineries, fish mongers, meat and poultry farms in their area? Should they visit each farm? Many years ago, this was what we did; but with 1,200 meals to prepare, often we would clear out the farmers’ goods and still not have enough for what we needed. READ MORE

Bobby Martyna

A key trend in hotel development is making the hotel lobby a destination for guests. Where in the past, the focus was primarily on the guest room, moving forward, brands and independents are looking to transform the lobby into a space where guests can socialize, work, snack and dine. In order for the lobby destination to be both compelling and memorable, the retail design, visual merchandising and food selection need to convey what is special about the location and must work together to deliver a surpassing guest experience. READ MORE

Coming Up In The September Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Hotel Group Meetings: Blue Skies Ahead
After a decade of sacrifice and struggle, it seems that hotels and meeting planners have every reason to be optimistic about the group meeting business going forward. By every industry benchmark and measure, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year, which means more meetings in more locations for more attendees. And though no one in the industry is complaining about this rosy outlook, the strong demand is increasing competition among meeting planners across the board – for the most desirable locations, for the best hotels, for the most creative experiences, for the most talented chefs, and for the best technology available. Because of this robust demand, hotels are in the driver’s seat and they are flexing their collective muscles. Even though over 100,000 new rooms were added last year, hotel rates are expected to rise by a minimum of 4.0%, and they are also charging fees on amenities that were often gratis in the past. In addition, hotels are offering shorter lead times on booking commitments, forcing planners to sign contracts earlier than in past years. Planners are having to work more quickly and to commit farther in advance to secure key properties. Planners are also having to meet increased attendee expectations. They no longer are content with a trade show and a few dinners; they want an experience. Planners need to find ways to create a meaningful experience to ensure that attendees walk away with an impactful memory. This kind of experiential learning can generate a deeper emotional connection, which can ultimately result in increased brand recognition, client retention, and incremental sales. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group business and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.