Hire Your Customers!

If you’re having a hard time finding employees, look no further than the people that already know and like you…your customers! Because they know and like you, they are likely to need less training, stay longer, and be the most productive of all of your hires. If you are in the retail business, hundreds of potential employees walk by you every day in the form of your customers. In the non-retail business, there is often some fear about hiring your competitor’s employees for fear of alienating the firm. In retail, the sheer volume of customers allows you to convert a few to employees. Why Customers Make Great Employees Your customers make great recruiting targets. They already are likely to:

  • Know your product so the amount of training needed is likely to be lower
  • Like your product, so selling it (or improving upon it) will come naturally (and because they use it, they may be more convincing)
  • Be familiar with their potential co-workers
  • Have demonstrated that they can physically get to your facility
  • Be someone you know something about (likes, payment history, etc. so assessment is easier)
  • Also share the values of your firm.

Even if you don’t hire them:

  • If they know you need employees, they may become a valuable referral source.
  • The interview process is likely to make them better customers.

Ways To Make Customers Aware You Want Them To Apply Some techniques for making customers aware of your interest in hiring them:

  • Sign – Put a small sign up in the window (on the counter) saying you want customers to work for you.
  • Sign – Hang a large sign outside your building.
  • Flier – Place a flier in the bag with their purchases or put brochures on the counter.
  • Flier – Put a flier inside the product box.
  • Direct mail – Use frequent user lists (like frequent flier programs) for direct mailings.
  • Mailings – Send an e-mail to your online customers letting them know your would like them to apply.
  • Billings – Send a note in your monthly bill.
  • Table cards – Put tent cards on your tables (ex.: at quick service restaurants)
  • Comment cards – Make it part of your customer comment cards. Target customers that comment favorably on your product/service.
  • Packaging – Make them part of your packaging (ex.: the anti-burn sleeve on take out coffee cups).
  • Web purchases – Make it an integral part of the purchase process on your Web page.
  • Web banner – Put job banners on your product web pages.
  • Credit application – Include a note as part of your credit application process.
  • Receipts – Print a line on your cash register receipts.
  • Include in ads – Put a small line in your newspaper media product ads reminding people you are looking.
  • Discount – Give a discount to customers that apply for a job.
  • Guarantee “known” customers an interview (many people fail to apply because of the fear that they won’t even get an interview).
  • Retirees – Ask pensioners in your mailings if they would like to return part-time.
  • User groups – Target “user” groups that use your or similar products. Attend meetings, use advertising and direct mail (IT associations). Post jobs on chat rooms or list servers that focus on your industry or it’s products.
  • Kiosk – List jobs in in-store product search/order kiosks.
  • Alternative media – Place ads in non-traditional, minority local newspapers and in “alternative” newspapers.
  • Open house – Hold early/late hour sales event (open house) and invite your best customers. Have a recruitment table set up to solicit referrals or direct hires.

Co-Brand Your Jobs With Your Product! Great firms spend a great deal of money on marketing, sales, PR, and in building their brand. The very best firms also do “co-branding.” This is the process of simultaneously co-selling both the product and the firm as a great place to work. This means most “ads” for products also contain a small message or note on what a great place it is to work at. When PR does an event a message is also included about what it is like to work there. Recruiting is also done at trade event booths. In turn, recruiting events and “ads” also help to sell the product. Possible Slogans

  • We would hate to lose you as a customer, but we would welcome you as a employee.
  • We love to hire our customers… we find that they become our best salespeople.
  • Join our team. Employees get generous discounts… It’s like a sale everyday.
  • If you like staying here… why not stay here and work as part of our team (hotel).
  • Would you like fries or a job with that (quick service restaurant)?
  • If you are a movie buff…why not see them all for free (movie theater film clip)?
  • If you worked here… you would be at work already?
  • Refer a friend and if we hire them…we will give you a gift certificate?

Customers In A Non-Retail Business Incidentally, you should also consider hiring your wholesale customers. The key is to do it subtly. In most cases, wait until they contact you and try to keep the number of hires from any large customer to below 5% of your hires (or match the number they hire from you). Hiring from customers might make them unhappy, but I have never run across a case where a customer dropped a product because of excess recruiting. Conclusion Customers generally turn out to be among the best performers when they become employees. You already know them and they know you. Don’t hesitate–seek them out and track your success. You won’t be disappointed.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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