How can we improve customer service levels within headhunting?

Headhunting and recruitment are service businesses. In fact, the Institute of Customer Service estimates that 75% of the UK economy is now generated from the service industry. So why are there so many poor recruitment experiences when service is such a critical factor?

Certainly, the headhunting and recruitment markets are very competitive and have very low barriers to switching, so to survive and grow, providing quality customer service is critical.

But clearly, this does not seem to be enough of an incentive for some consultants in the market who deliver a poor service and tarnish the industry with a bad name.

Personal relationships

To quote from the film Jerry Maguire, “the key to this business is personal relationships”. Jerry Maguire was also in a service industry where people were the key (he was a sports agent), and he was fired for writing a thesis which suggested focussing on less clients, as it would result in better quality service for those clients.

I’m not suggesting reducing the number of clients an organisation has, but it is vital to ensure that organisations deliver a great quality service to their existing clients. By delivering a great customer experience, longer term success and increased profitability is more likely.

A headhunter knows that building strong personal relationships and providing a quality service for both the candidate and the client is likely to result in repeat business from two perspectives – their client when they have a need to recruit again, but also the candidate. When a candidate reaches a senior position where they are responsible for hiring, they will remember what a great experience they had with the headhunter so why go to anybody else?

Simple things

Much of what headhunters and recruitment consultants do can be challenging – finding the perfect candidate for a client is not always easy, but it is the simple things that many consultants don’t do which can make the difference between a poor or great customer experience.

At every stage of the process, keeping both the client and the candidate informed of progress should be undertaken. From a headhunting perspective in particular, sharing with the client what organisations have been targeted, and who might or might not be suitable candidates within those organisations.

Providing candidates with a summary of information about the client prior to interview is not difficult as the consultant should have this from their initial briefing – and yet so many candidates turn up to interviews not knowing very much about the client or the market they operate in.

Consultant reputation

Whilst many consultants may see this as the candidate’s responsibility, it is the consultant’s reputation at risk if they put forward an incompetent candidate, and after all, why wouldn’t every consultant want to maximise their chances of success?

Ensuring feedback is provided to both the candidate and the client post interview stage is also something that will help a consultant be remembered for the service they offer. Many consultants just tell a candidate that they have been unsuccessful without giving them the real reasons for the candidate to learn and develop from. Similarly providing clients with honest feedback from candidates can be a challenge for many consultants.

Going the extra mile

The really great consultants don’t just stop once the candidate offer has been made and the candidate has accepted it. They keep in touch with the candidate right up to the start date, but more importantly well beyond this as well to make sure the candidate is happy in their new role.

This also significantly reduces the chances of a candidate changing their mind before starting the new role or leaving very quickly after starting, both of which will significantly damage the consultant’s reputation in the eyes of their clients.

Sending a congratulations card, or a bottle of wine to the candidate once they have started are low cost, simple gestures which will really enhance the consultant's reputation for great service.

Market reputation

The recruitment market has got a poor reputation because in an industry where service and personal relationships are so critical, there are very few headhunting or recruitment consultants who offer a truly great and memorable service to both their clients and their candidates.

So it is down to every consultant, whether they are a headhunter or recruiter, to start changing market perceptions by doing the simple things right, and delivering a great service to all of their clients and candidates. After all, the result should be a win-win all round – more repeat business for less work, enhanced consultant and market reputation, and happy clients and candidates.

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