I’ve been working in the recruitment industry for ten years now and throughout this time I have witnessed significant changes to the way recruiters and recruitment professionals work. Recruitment as an industry is incredibly efficient and has come a long way from the days of telephones and a rolodex of contacts. Huge databases hold everything we need to know, mobile phones are getting smarter by the day, and mass mail outs are so common that a ‘clutter’ inbox has been created within Outlook. It cannot be denied that with all of these advancements, the customer experience has somewhat fallen by the wayside.
I work as a Client Services Manager for Your World Recruitment Group, an agency within the healthcare sector. This is an area of recruitment that is both exciting and extremely challenging, particularly having faced a number of changes in the past couple of years. Agency rates for NHS staff were capped over the course of 2016, which means that essentially, healthcare recruitment is now a level playing field and no one agency has an edge over the other when it comes to paying their candidates. In laymen’s terms, if an agency hasn’t been focused on their initial customer experience, they sure better start now!
The only thing now separating many recruitment agencies is their service-offering; what each agency can offer in terms of service to their client/candidate that stands apart from competitors. I guarantee that the agency size, years’ operating and quality of merchandise won’t win your candidates over; it’s the quality of communication and the ability to make each person feel exactly that - a person and not a number.
Of course, it’s all well and good just saying that customers receive a great experience from a recruiter but the proof will always lie with the level of referrals an agency receives. Quite simply, if a customer has a good experience, they will tell their friends and colleagues. Word of mouth is one of the largest forms of advertising and it’s absolutely free – all it costs is a little effort towards satisfying each individual customer to the best of the agency’s ability. I have personally returned to various services in the past, not because they were the cheapest or had the best deals, but because I felt truly valued as a customer and I remembered that initial fantastic service. I’ve taken that personal experience and applied it to my own career, ensuring that each client and candidate understands their value and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
However, let’s not be naïve; at some point every agency is likely to get a customer who hasn’t enjoyed their experience and there’s no shame in that. You cannot please everybody, no matter how much effort you put in to doing so. The key is knowing how to provide a service that deals with the complaint effectively, thereby preventing the client/candidate from firing further ammunition. Once the agency has done their best to correct a situation, all that’s left is to learn from the issue(s) and press on.
It may seem an obvious point but there are so many companies who don’t understand the importance of hiring the right staff when it comes to the customer experience. A recruiter may be incredibly organised with the drive to reach targets, but without the ability to form long-lasting professional relationships their efforts are fruitless. Clients and candidates both want the convenience of a single point of contact, someone they can rely on and communicate with on a more informal level – let’s face it, it’s always easier talking to a friend. Equally as important are the non-sales teams, who also communicate with customers on a daily basis. Your customer experience is fragile, any part of their journey can affect their overall satisfaction. By hiring payroll staff or compliance staff etc. with the ability to communicate confidently with customers, the entire journey from registration and beyond is covered. Let’s be clear on one thing; understanding the importance of customer service does not start and finish with Front of House or a Complaints Team. Everyone (and I mean everyone) from entry level to senior staff needs to have these skills.
What many recruitment agencies don’t consider is that their quality of client/candidate service has a direct impact on the reputation of the industry. When we actively make the effort to ensure that our clients and candidates are completely satisfied with the service they receive, the result is a positive one. Take the healthcare sector, for example. A satisfied nurse will take that positivity and carry it forward to their new role, providing a positive experience for their patients and, again, improving the reputation of agency workers in healthcare. Of course, a negative candidate experience could have the complete opposite effect. This chain of outcomes all stems entirely from the initial customer experience.
Now let’s add Marketing into the mix. They are the face and voice of the agency, making sure that great feedback is used to the agency’s advantage. The more fantastic feedback an agency receives, the more the Marketing Team can advertise it, which brings in more clients/candidates…it’s as simple as that.
Customer experience may seem to focus solely on the satisfaction of an agency’s clients or candidates but, in actual fact, it has a huge effect on internal staff too. By using a similar chain of outcomes, we know that happy customers will shout about their experience, be that in an email directly to their consultant, feedback on social media or a testimonial etc. Great feedback attracts more customers, which helps the company to grow. A growing company should reward its employees, which will significantly increase employee morale. Happy employees will be more likely to provide a better customer experience…
So in this age of databases, emails, mail outs and cold calling, don’t let your clients and candidates fall by the wayside. An agency is only as good as the reputation surrounding it so do your research and find out about how your customers truly feel. Find some more personal ways to interact with your candidates; sit them down in focus groups or encourage Consultants to arrange more face-to-face meetings instead of emailing backwards and forwards. Hold more open days and give your workforce the chance to get to know the team behind the screens. You’ll find that not only does business improve but the recruitment industry becomes a more positive place to work for everyone.