Column: Attitude is everything


Commentary by George Klein

Experienced leaders know that they should hire for attitude, not skills. This is especially true for customer-facing employees.

Mark Murphy, author “Hiring for Attitude,” tracked 20,000 new hires and found that 46 percent of them failed within 18 months. Nearly 90 percent of the time, the new hires failed because of problems associated with attitude. Attitude separates high performers from low performers and can affect the ability to work collaboratively with others, think innovatively, cope with failure and learn.

Finding employees with the right attitude is especially important when hiring customer-facing employees. There is no definitive list of what those attitudes are. I have a list of attitudes that are foundational for all customer-facing employees. In addition to having empathy and being solution-oriented, employees with these foundational attitudes are ones that consistently provide “wow” experiences for customers. Here are four I think rank high on the list.


Patience is defined as quiet, steady perseverance and even-tempered care, traits that are clearly important when working with customers. Customers come to employees for help when they are confused, need direction or have a problem. Taking the appropriate amount of time to understand and assist customers is better for that customer as well as for overall business.

Read Customers

In today’s world, employees aren’t always able to see customers face-to-face. In fact, they may not even hear a customer’s voice. They still must be able to read customers by looking for subtle cues about the customer’s mood, personality and level of frustration. The ability to read customers and respond with empathy is also an important part of engaging and personalizing customer interactions.


Customers are more diverse than ever, ranging from millennials to baby boomers. A diverse customer mix has different needs and may want different solutions to meet those needs. Innovative employees who can be flexible in how they interact with customers will be successful.


Memorable customer service that people talk about takes an employee who is solution-oriented, refusing to give up when working with customers. Customers know when employees go above and beyond for them and will reward the company with their loyalty.

Hiring for the right attitudes is critical for all employees, especially those who interact directly with customers. You can train for skills. Employees who bring the right attitude are worth the investment.

George Klein is the CEO/Founder of Peoplocity, a customer feedback and communication platform. Contact him at [email protected]