Client-Centric HR Service

Client-centric HR service, informed by the lessons learned in the service industry, provides a straightforward path to improving HR's ability to contribute to an organization's success and to that of its units. Client-centric service is based on two simple steps practiced by successful benchmark service organizations. First, find out what managers and their employees need, want, and expect to be successful, and establish what they are capable of doing. Second, endeavor to meet or exceed their needs, wants, and expectations while enhancing their capabilities.

Although these steps sound simple to do, they are admittedly hard work. Doing what you want to do and know how to do is much easier than asking or studying clients to find out what they really need in order for them to be effective. It is always tempting to take time to solve HR's problems rather than the problems within other departments. That is the traditional way things get done in nonservice organizations, and it is wrong. What HR can learn from Disney, Marriott, Darden, USAA, and many other outstanding service organizations is to find out from clients what is important, valued, and useful—and then act on that knowledge. These service organizations offer HR clear lessons on how to learn from its clients in order to identify, design, and deliver what they truly want, need, and expect human resources to do to find and help solve organizational problems and improve everyone's performance. The first cardinal lesson to be learned from the service industry is to always start with the customer.

Disney invented the term "guestology" to emphasize the company's commitment to its customers, defining it as "the scientific study of a guest's needs, wants, and behaviors." The way for an HR manager to become a respected, recognized leader in the workplace is to do the same for managers and employees: study the client's needs, wants, and behaviors. The opposite approach is patiently sitting in an office and smiling pleasantly when someone asks an HR-related question or requests an HR service. Service is different than servitude, and the best client-centric service is not passive but proactive. HR must seek out how it can co-create solutions with all parts of the organization, even when other departments do not know how to articulate their HR needs. Regardless of what else you do as an HR manager, systematically discovering what the organization's managers and their employees need to be effective is critical to your department's ability to deliver service. When you know what your clients need, you can manage everything and everyone in your department to fulfill those expectations.

Excerpted from Gary P. Latham and Robert C. Ford, HR at Your Service: Lessons from Benchmark Service Organizations<​> (SHRM, 2012).


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