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
General Search:

OCTOBER: Revenue Management: Technology and Big Data

Gary Isenberg

Hotel room night inventory is the hotel industry’s most precious commodity. Hotel revenue management has evolved into a complex and fragmented process. Today’s onsite revenue manager is influenced greatly by four competing forces, each armed with their own set of revenue goals and objectives -- as if there are virtually four individual revenue managers, each with its own distinct interests. So many divergent purposes oftentimes leading to conflicts that, if left unchecked, can significantly damper hotel revenues and profits. READ MORE

Jon Higbie

For years, hotels have housed their Revenue Management systems on their premises. This was possible because data sets were huge but manageable, and required large but not overwhelming amounts of computing power. However, these on-premise systems are a thing of the past. In the era of Big Data, the cost of building and maintaining an extensive computing infrastructure is incredibly expensive. The solution – cloud computing. The cloud allows hotels to create innovative Revenue Management applications that deliver revenue uplift and customized guest experiences. Without the cloud, hotels risk remaining handcuffed to their current Revenue Management solutions – and falling behind competitors. READ MORE

Jenna Smith

You do not have to be a hospitality professional to recognize the influx and impact of new technologies in the hotel industry. Guests are becoming familiar with using virtual room keys on their smartphones to check in, and online resources like review sites and online travel agencies (OTAs) continue to shape the way consumers make decisions and book rooms. Behind the scenes, sales and marketing professionals are using new tools to communicate with guests, enhance operational efficiencies, and improve service by addressing guests’ needs and solving problems quickly and with a minimum of disruption. READ MORE

Yatish Nathraj

Technology is becoming an ever more growing part of the hospitality industry and it has helped us increase efficiency for guest check-inn, simplified the night audit process and now has the opportunity to increase our revenue production. These systems need hands on calibration to ensure they are optimized for your operations. As a manager you need to understand how these systems work and what kind of return on investment your business is getting. Although some of these systems maybe mistaken as a “set it and forget it” product, these highly sophisticated tools need local expert like you and your team to analysis the data it gives you and input new data requirements. READ MORE

Coming Up In The November Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive
If there is one dominant trend in the field of hotel architecture and design, it’s that travelers are demanding authentic, immersive and interactive experiences. This is especially true for Millennials but Baby Boomers are seeking out meaningful experiences as well. As a result, the development of immersive travel experiences - winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts - will continue to expand. Another kind of immersive experience is an urban resort – one that provides all the elements you'd expect in a luxury resort, but urbanized. The urban resort hotel is designed as a staging area where the city itself provides all the amenities, and the hotel functions as a kind of sophisticated concierge service. Another trend is a re-thinking of the hotel lobby, which has evolved into an active social hub with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafe?s, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. The goal is to make this area as interactive as possible and to bring people together, making the space less of a traditional hotel lobby and more of a contemporary gathering place. This emphasis on the lobby has also had an associated effect on the size of hotel rooms – they are getting smaller. Since most activities are designed to take place in the lobby, there is less time spent in rooms which justifies their smaller design. Finally, the wellness and ecology movements are also having a major impact on design. The industry is actively adopting standards so that new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but also promote optimum health and well- being for the travelers who will inhabit them. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.