Sweet Fancy Moses – do you have an Elaine?

Everyone needs an Elaine.

Not Elaine Benes (from Seinfeld) – the Elaine I’m talking about came up in a discussion at the workshop I did this morning for the Overland Park Chamber on marketing to your existing customers.

The discussion was on the importance of employees carrying out your key marketing differences to your customers -really representing all of your best values and qualities to give ‘Wow’ service.

One of the participants was from Grandma’s Office Catering and she used the example of one of their caterers (Elaine) that was a perfect example of what we were talking about.  Elaine not only had a great attitude and made everyone smile, she was also reliable, on top of her responsibilities and a great ambassador for the business.

Elaine gets customers to call in and rave about how much they like her, even when she’s just doing her job.

So how do you get your own Elaine?

Great Employees aren’t a dime a dozen

It’s no secret that great employees make great products and services – the question is, what makes them great and how do you get them in the right place to really shine?

Unfortunately some of it is just luck.  There are some people that just instinctively make everyone around them better, make them feel good and generally light up a room.

I’m not sure that can be taught.

However…a lot of the time, that success can be duplicated – even with normal employees!  It’s not easy and it will take time, investment and some focused effort, but the payoff can be incredible.  Imagine having 10 employees working with your customers the way Elaine does?

Assuming that you’ve got a model employee to start with, here’s how you can make that happen.


The first step is to talk to your customers and your employee and try to find out all of the positive reasons why they stand out.

Do they have unique or especially in-depth knowledge about your product or service?

Do they routinely go the ‘extra’ mile to make sure that the customer is getting what they expected?  (As an example, I know of a cable company employee that set themselves up on Twitter to be the first line of response for their customers even though customer care wasn’t really part of their responsibility).

Do they have a great attitude and they’re friendly all the time?

Ask the employee what their approach is – what do they do to make sure that customers like them.  Although they likely won’t want to brag, they have a process they use to make sure they’re getting stuff done the right way.

Find out what it is and get it documented.


You may already have other employees but are they the right ones?  A lot of things that make someone especially effective in a customer facing role revolves around their inherent attributes.

Herb Kelleher – former CEO of Southwest Airlines often said “Hire for attitude, train for aptitude.”

Stop looking just at past resume achievements and skills and start interviewing to:

Find out if they can get along with others.

Find out if they want to be there (really, truly).

Find out if they live to excel.

Find out if they share your values (and the companies values).

At Southwest Airlines they emphasize – ‘You can’t train nice”.  You have to hire for it and train the other stuff.

Use Assessments

Even the best hiring and interviewing practices can make mistakes and a hiring mistake can be very painful to a small business – the impact in terms of productivity, training time, salary and lost opportunities can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars for a bad hire.

On the other hand, there are a lot of great Assessments out there that might cost you a little bit up front but could really help save you from a bad decision.

Another cool thing to do with assessments is to have your ‘star’ employee take the assessment first and use their response as a benchmark for new people you’re hiring.  You can’t really clone your employee, but you can get the next best thing by finding somebody that shares a lot of traits and talents in common.

Training and Coaching

You know what’s working with your customers, you’ve got employees (new and old) that have the right attitude and want to excel, now you’ve got to train them and coach them to really get that training to become a habit.

I would recommend breaking the new ideas into small pieces and incorporating them into your operational processes gradually over time.

Hold regular meetings to talk about the new changes and make sure people are understanding them and getting them into practice (that’s the coaching aspect).

It may take a while, but you can have a whole group of Elaines creating a bunch of happy customers – just don’t let them dance…!  😉

Check out the Video on Youtube here.

Do you have other suggestions on ways to create those ‘star’ employees?  Share them here.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

1 thought on “Sweet Fancy Moses – do you have an Elaine?”

  1. Eric Reid says:

    This is a great point. Skills and procedures can be trained, but passion and teamwork are hard to instill. Not to toot our own horn too much, but at Centriq Training, our Connections IT staffing division makes a point of tracking these types of attributes in our technology candidates, and make recommendations to employers on just those sort of personality-meets-performance sort of requirements. Our clients tell us it’s worth it!

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