Can an Employer Require Friendliness?

How far can an employer go in requiring employees to be friendly? To start, does the employer have a business-related need for friendly employees, who greet customers and smile? It would be the rare business or organization that didn’t need employees who treat customers and clients in a personal, friendly way. (Sears, in an 800-store study, found that happy employees gave better customer service, recommended Sears products, and stayed with Sears longer than unhappy employees.)

Options to Encourage Employee Friendliness

And a happy employee certainly is more likely to be pleasant toward customers and co-workers, and smile more. But there’s a further question: Assume you have a policy which tells employees to be friendly and smile at customers. How can you force an unhappy or a basically sour person to be pleasant? You can’t. But there are some things you can do:

  • You can recruit and hire people most likely to be friendly with customers. One example of an employer who seeks out and hires happy, fun-loving employees is Southwest Airlines. Southwest has group interviews. The HR people actually have applicants get up in front of the group and tell funny stories. They watch not only for the outgoing abilities of the applicant who is speaking but also for the friendly reactions of the applicants who are in the audience listening. They’re looking for employees who react in a fun and friendly way toward others.
  • You can test promising applicants to spot behavior styles best-suited for customer service jobs.
  • You can adopt a policy that requires employees to be friendly to customers and cheerfully provide service to customers. In your policy, give employees samples of the type of behavior you want them to exhibit. Before hiring, get a commitment from the applicants promising they will treat customers as you expect.

Example of a Customer Service Policy

The quality of our service to our customers determines the success of our business. For all of us who work here to deliver the finest service to our customers, it is essential each employee interacts cheerfully and positively with each customer and each visitor. While on duty employees will use facial expressions, voice, language and gestures which communicate cheerful, pleasant and positive messages to customers, visitors and coworkers. Unacceptable behavior while on duty includes negative and gossip-type talk about coworkers, customers, and visitors.