How to Get the Best Out of Your Service Staff

The secret lies in effective human resource management

It is an open secret. Organisations with a sustainable competitive advantage have a highly skilled and motivated workforce who are proactive in delivering service excellence – like the one Singapore Airlines is known for. That familiar tagline, “It’s a great way to fly” focuses on their 7,000 service employees trained to serve their customers. Such service leadership strategy nurtures the type of service behavior necessary for success.

Whatever sector you are in, it is important to engage the hearts and mind of service employees through sound human resource management. With the changing socio-economic environment, not only must the Public Service be able to anticipate its customers’ changing needs, it must also be clued in to the expectations of its service staff.

Service employees are the “face and voice” of their organisations. Researchers have found a significant correlation between service employees’ perceptions of their employer’s human resources practices and customers’ attitudes about the service received. When service employees describe their firm’s practices in positive terms, customers also report receiving superior service.

Here is how you can get the best out of your staff:

Recruitment and Selection

The first step for delivering quality service is the selection of quality staff to deliver that service. An ideal recruitment process assesses both service competencies and service inclination. Look beyond the technical qualifications when assessing an applicant’s service orientation. Scrutinise the functional qualities. Service employees need to know “how” to deliver quality service. They must have an inclination towards service and the right temperament to boot.

For example, the Ritz Carlton recruits employees with the customer-centric mindset of ‘ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen’. Hiring approaches include observing behavior, conducting personality tests, and providing potential staff with a realistic job preview.


Service employees must be trained to deal with customers and to satisfy their needs and expectations. Specific training in interpersonal, technical and functional skills equips the service employees with the micro-skills of tuned-in service language and nonverbal language.

Customers resent being ordered about and having no choice. Positive service language engages a customer’s goodwill for cooperation. Non-verbal language cues such as nodding, facing the customers, maintaining eye contact, leaning forward slightly, making open-palm gestures and a pleasant tone of voice, help to show that the service employees are listening intently to their customers.

Rewarding Service Excellence

Employees want recognition and a share in the benefits resulting from their efforts. So appropriate reward policies can motivate employees and reinforce behavior that leads to desired outcome.

Supervisory Support

Even if the employees know what to do, they may not be able to execute the tasks required without the necessary support. Service employees experience greater job satisfaction when their supervisors are supportive and show concern for them.

Team Support from co-workers

Frontline staff who deliver service directly to customers require the full support of backroom staff for a smooth service encounter. Internal marketing theorists have argued that it is impossible for businesses to provide better service to external customers than what they provide to their employees or internal customers. Service staff who feel backed up by their team are
more enthusiastic and hence provide quality service.

Motivated service employees are difficult for other organisations to replicate. Manage your human resources well. They are the key to success!

Seow Bee Leng is the principal trainer of Continuum Learning Pte Ltd and an Associate Trainer with the Civil Service College. She focuses on customer service training competencies. Her interests lie in equipping and enabling service employees to enjoy service delivery and value-add to their customers.


    Sep 8, 2011
    Seow Bee Leng
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