Productivity • Management • Operations • Business Tips • 60 minutes

Kathy Nielsen Combines Analytics & Psychology to Hire Great CSRs

February 9, 2021

Episode Overview

“I look for dispatchers who are very people-oriented but don’t overshare”

— Kathy Nielsen

During her rise through the ranks of the home-services industry, Kathy Nielsen has worked as a CSR/dispatcher, bookkeeper, office manager, and general manager. She’s helped grow companies on the front lines and now she serves as a business development consultant and operations expert at Operations Excellence LLC

On “Toolbox for the Trades,” she discusses doing assessments for employees, training CSRs, and how to implement “hit-by-a-truck” processes and procedures.

Here are Kathy Nielsen’s top tips for streamlining operations in the home-services trades:

Assess employees for behaviors, not skills.

Nielsen is a huge fan of assessments. The one company she’s used for 15 years is called Innermetrix. It has tools that help identify how you want a particular role in your company to behave. 

“Then we look for people with those behaviors—not for people we like or have the skill,” she says. “That’s a big mistake companies make—they don’t first determine what behaviors they want in a role.”

Find the “Genius” in people.

One of the training formats Nielsen uses is an immersive Customer Service Bootcamp. A “What’s Your Genius” assessment helps find how employees are wired. 

“It shows what they see, what kind of data they’re getting in, their decision making, how they communicate, and those kinds of things,” she says. “It’s very cool to see those ‘aha’ moments when they realize how they communicate and what they do, and how it really makes a difference in your culture.”

Value CSR Superheroes. 

Nielsen points out that now that so much data is available, you can track sales success back to CSRs who did everything right back at the beginning of the call. “Companies in this industry are often owned by former techs who didn’t value CSRs when they were techs—but they need to make a mental shift on that,” she says.

You don’t have to like your CSRs. 

Yes, you want to like your CSRs, but it’s more important that they are great at their jobs, Nielsen says. Don’t be rude or snotty, she advises, but your job is to manage people—not be their buddy. 

She offers this anecdote: “A surgeon says, ‘Well, I've been told I don't have very good bedside manners. Is that a problem?’ I’d ask if they’re a good surgeon. If he says yes, then he’s my guy. I don’t have to like him.”

Find dispatchers who are problem solvers. 

Nielsen says you should look for candidates for the dispatcher role who are good rule followers and can be taught to dispatch for profit, not just to get someone out to a job as soon as possible. 

“I look for dispatchers who are very people-oriented but don’t overshare,” she says. “I don’t want them on the phone for 20 minutes trying to book a call.”

Critical data error rates are non-negotiable. 

Do the math on a CSR who is right 98 percent of the time, she says. If they take 60 calls a day, five times a week for 52 weeks a year that’s 15,600 calls. A 2-percent error rate is 315 calls. That’s not acceptable, Nielsen says. 

“A CSR shouldn’t be making mistakes with critical data—things like address and phone numbers,” she says.

Don’t over-celebrate divas.

It’s great to have superstars in your company—techs, service managers, any position—but Nielsen believes you shouldn’t create a culture where people become divas. 

“If we allow them to get to the point where they’re ‘indispensable,’ then pretty soon we let them get by with things,” she says. “And then other people start to get by—because we started setting an unintended precedent.

“We think we can’t get rid of a diva, but the reality is they may have become a cancer in our company culture.”

Have a “hit-by-a-truck” procedure.

Do you have processes and procedures in place for somebody to sit down and do your job if you get hit by a truck after lunch, Nielsen asks? 

“This should be done in a very systemized way,” she says. “It should start with critical things like payroll or paying taxes. Getting people their paychecks is a critical thing. You have to be prepared for the worst.” 

Recommended research and reading

Armchair Expert podcast by Dax Shepard

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Toolbox for the Trades is a podcast where top service professionals share the tips, tricks, and tactics they use to succeed in their industry. Hosted by Jackie Aubel, this podcast is brought to you by ServiceTitan—the leading home and commercial field service software.

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