How customer-facing is your HR team? It’s a serious question and one which perhaps is not given the attention which it deserves.

Go back just a few years and in many organisations it’s true to say that if you worked in HR you certainly weren’t seen as a front-office person. In many cases you weren’t even seen as back-office, with HR being viewed almost as a department which sat to one side of the rest of the organisation.

In those days, the nearest HR came to customers was in dealing with complaints made against people within the organisation; and even then most of the interactions were with the relevant department or complaints team rather than direct with HR.

It’s easy to see why. The job of the HR team was to oversee and manage the people resource which would enable the rest of the organisation to function.

But times are changing. Nowadays every department has a role in delivering great customer service. It doesn’t matter whether you are interacting with customers on a daily basis or have never encountered a customer throughout your working life. Either way, you have a responsibility to play your part in delivering the organisational vision.

So what does this mean for the HR team; how can they play their part in the delivery of customer excellence? Quite simply, by ensuring that every action and every decision has been made with customer excellence at heart. Let’s look quickly at three key elements of this approach; hiring, training and internal processes.

Hiring for cultural fit

Let’s start with bringing people into the organisation. More and more organisations are moving away from qualifications first, people second, as they recognise the importance of hiring for cultural fit.

This is sometimes given a bad press as it is misinterpreted as simply hiring clones. However, true hiring for cultural fit means bringing people into the organisation who will not only be able to engage with the values and attributes of the business, but also bring their own qualities and experiences to enhance the overall mix.

Hiring for cultural fit therefore moves recruitment away from simply being a tick box exercise and towards a skilled interpretation of people and personalities. It puts the onus on HR to recruit people who will enrich the life of the business and in the process enhance the customer outcome.

Training customer care

Once you’ve hired the right people you then need to provide the training that they need in order to deliver great service. This requirement transforms training into being a holistic, blended learning experience which is delivered as and when required.

And that training shouldn’t simply be in carrying out processes or even in areas which may traditionally be seen as relating to customer care such as telephone answering or time management. The move towards customer facing, innovative organisations means that employees may need help in developing communication and listening skills, in teamwork and collaboration skills and in developing a wide appreciation of the organisation as a whole.

Transforming process

When the focus is on customer outcome, then internal processes all have to be geared to that end. As a result, contracts, targets, rewards, internal processes all need to put customers first, internal metrics second.

For example, if the nature of the business is such that customer contact soars on Fridays, the last thing that HR should be doing is requiring members of staff to fill in overtime or job sheet records on the last day of each week.

Similarly, targeting individuals on number of calls made is counter-productive if the pressure to close the call means that the customer query is never fully answered.

In a customer facing organisation, the customer facing HR team can really drive the business forward to success. If your HR team isn’t fully customer focused then perhaps it is time that it was.