“Nothing is more important than great customer service. To over-deliver in service to a customer is by far the most valuable thing to a business. Because, there are only two ways to improve the operations of a business: increase sales or decrease costs. In today’s environment, decreasing costs is hard. And as far as increasing sales, doing so via customer service is highly effective.” – Daymond John.
Recruitment is a funny old game. Is it sales? Is it service? Is it just a group of money hungry animals who only care about themselves? Is it a misunderstood industry with good human beings trying to make an honest living?
The truth is that at times recruitment can be all of the above. Which in many ways is to be expected in an industry where regulation is open to interpretation and there is such an eclectic mix of companies.
And when it comes down to the actual business of recruitment, as the old adage goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
At Novo, we have always believed that recruitment should be regarded as a service industry rather than sales. There will be many that disagree and I fully respect that. We are not necessarily saying we are right (although we definitely are).
Now it is abundantly clear that there is an element of sales in the role of a recruiter – of that there can be no denial. But we would challenge anybody who claims the role of a recruiter is pure sales. In our mind, the absolute main priority and target of a recruiter should be shifting the relationship with a candidate or client from sales to a customer service position in the shortest time possible.
And by that, we mean true customer service. Not just acknowledgements through courtesy or attempting to manipulate a sale through ‘being nice’ but genuine engagement whereby the needs of the customer -be it candidate or client- are carefully considered and a solution is provided. Sales will then by nature be a bi-product of that superior service.
But surely when we are ‘headhunting’ or engaging with passive candidates we need to sell our opportunities? Yes and no. Whilst we tend to approach candidates with a specific role in mind, the overriding purpose of the call should be to establish and understand what that candidate’s needs are, what their pain points are and what would make their life better from a career and personal perspective. It shouldn’t be with a blinkered view to shoehorn somebody into a role which ultimately might not suit their current situation – regardless if on paper they appear perfect for your client. The reality is that the candidate will respect you more and the chances of placing them in the future will increase exponentially. Again, service over sales.
Does this make us more successful than our contemporaries? The short answer is no. The long answer is that it depends how we define success. There are many exceptional, well-established recruitment businesses who operate a very hard sales approach which yields huge success in terms of revenue and growth – although I think it is fair to say that invariably the turnover of staff in these businesses is considerably higher. These businesses would argue – rightly in many cases – that delivery is the core function of a recruiter. Get a requirement, fill the requirement. Job done. Their clients are probably even willing to forego higher levels of customer service because they get the people they want in the business with minimal fuss.
The research we conducted across our client base however showed that in the main, this isn’t necessarily the case - of equal standing was the market knowledge of the recruiter they were working with and working in true partnership with a consultant rather than just being involved in a series of sales transactions. That doesn’t mean we are just going to have nice chats with our clients and take them out for cups of coffee (we will do that). Delivery is still the key driver for us but we will just deliver the service in a different and hopefully more consultative and friendly way.
Ultimately it comes down to the relationship between a recruiter and a client and the expectation on both sides. As we have already acknowledged, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
With the advent of AI and other technological advancements endlessly hitting the market, it will be interesting to see how the relationship between recruiters and their customers evolves in the coming years and how this will influence or effect recruiters’ approach to sales and service.