Behavioral Interview Questions by Competency: Customer-Orientation & Customer Service

Behavioral Interview Questions: Customer-Orientation

Customer-orientation is the ability to show care and concern for customers and make them feel valued; willing to deliver timely and reliable customer support and exceed customer expectations; Ability to create a customer-led orientation in a work group.

  • Behavioral Interview Question: “Describe a time when you chose to exceed, rather than meet, a customer’s expectations. Why did you do so, and what were the results?”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate identify a level of customer support to achieve and actively pursue it? Were there results below the customer’s expectation, or above expectation but due to other than the candidate’s actions?
  • Behavioral Interview Question: “Describe a time when you went way beyond the call of duty to ensure reliability and make sure your customer’s needs were met.”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate take proactive steps, such as making sure a product worked, double-checking delivery schedules, or identifying backup plans? Was there little management of a product/service, and/or little effort to make sure all details were in order?
  • Behavioral Interview Question: “All companies have some customers or accounts that are less profitable or more trouble than others do. Describe a time when you made such a customer feel highly valued, possibly leading to additional business.”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate show attention to the customer and clearly indicate the high priority of meeting the customer’s needs? Was there inattention to the customer, incomplete or inferior treatment, or a failure to prioritize his/her needs?
  • Behavioral Interview Question: “Describe a situation in which normal or planned turnaround time or delivery would be too slow for a customer’s needs. How did you address the customer’s needs?”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate take concrete steps to speed up delivery, such as rescheduling, or changing shipping approach? Was there lack of concern for the slowness, or little or superficial effort expended to correct it?
  • Behavioral Interview Question: “Describe a situation in which you converted a hostile or dissatisfied customer into a repeat buyer.”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate take proactive steps to gain the confidence of the customer, perhaps addressing necessary issues or focusing on approaches to improvement? Was there avoidance of the customer and a failure to address the issues?
  • Behavioral Interview Question: “Describe a situation in which you took initiative to create or improve a customer-led orientation in a work group you managed or were part of. How did you ensure success of this effort?”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate initiate a multifaceted approach, perhaps including education, values analysis, and/or measurement? Was there resentment of the customer or a belief that customer support was someone else’s responsibility?
  • Behavioral Interview Question: “Customers often need support in deciding exactly what they want. Describe a time when you invested time and effort in helping a customer evaluate his/her needs.”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate invest time/effort into meeting with the customer, including asking/answering questions and reviewing options? Were there little effort to help, brief/ forced answers to questions, and little initiative to explain options?
  • Behavioral Interview Question: “Describe a time when your care and concern for a customer was clearly manifested in the way you delivered your product/service.”
    Evaluating the candidate’s answer: Did the candidate attend closely to the customer’s needs, perhaps showing high attention to detail and/or following up on progress or results? Was there an absence of concern, evidenced by little management of the product/ service, perhaps with an assumption that delivery would take care of itself?

Motivation: Praise is better than Criticism

Criticism In the day-to-day rush to get things done, recognizing employees takes a backseat to everything else managers have on their plates. However, praise is important.

A study by Wichita State University found that praise and commendation by a boss is a very strong motivator. The survey also found that nearly three fifths of employees do not receive any form of recognition or appreciation on a regular basis from their supervisors.

Some managers are quick to criticize employees for their mistakes. That employees will be motivated because of the repulsiveness of the criticism and change their behaviors is an absurd notion. For this reason, criticism is very counterproductive. Managers unfortunately do not realize that criticism only motivates employees to do anything to avoid criticism and not focus on doing a better job.

The best managers hit upon creative ways to delivering well-timed, sincere praise to employees who do well. Here is what you can learn from them:

  • The most effective praise is well timed. Good managers praise their employees as soon as the employee displays the desired behavior.
  • Praise is effective only when it is genuine and heartfelt.
  • Managers that excel at recognizing their employees are very specific in their praise. They avoid generalities and discuss identifiable achievements of their employees in such a way that the desired behaviors are reiterated.

Seth Klarman’s Recommended Books on Investing

Seth Klarman's Recommended Books on Investing

Seth Klarman is an American private equity investor and founder of the Baupost Group, a Boston-based private investment partnership firm. Seth is himself the author of a renowned book on value investing: “Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor.” One of the world’s most respected value investors, he once said,

It is important to remember that value investing is not a perfect science. Rather it is an art, and necessitates dealing with imperfect information. Knowing you will never know everything must not prevent you from acting. It requires a precarious balance between conviction, steadfastness in the face of adversity, and doubt, keeping in mind the possibility that you could be wrong.

Song on Saraswathi in Raga Yaagapriya: Kalaavati Kamalaasana Yuvati

Goddess Saraswathi, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, and science

Muthuswami Dikshitar Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775–1834 A.D.), the youngest of the trinity of South Indian Carnatic Classical composers, composed the following in veneration to Goddess Saraswathi, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science. Kalaavati Kamalaasana Yuvati is in raga Yaagapriya and Aditala.

Lyrics

Pallavī

Kalāvatī kamalāsanayuvatī
Kalyānam kalayatu Sarasvatī

Anupallavī

Balābalāmantrārṇarūpiṇī
Bhāratī mātṛkāśarīriṇī
Malālividārīṇī vāgvāṇī
Madhukaraveṇī viṇāpāṇī

Charaṇam

Sarad-jyotsnāśubhrākārā
Śaśivadanā kāśmīravihārā
Varā śāradā parā’ṇkuśadharā
Varadābhayapāśapustakakarā

Surārchitapadāmbujā śobhanā
Śvetapaṇkajāsanā suradanā
Purāri-guruguharañjanī
Murārisnuṣā nirañjanī

Meaning

Pallavī

May Saraswathi, Goddess of Arts, the Sakti of the Creator Brahma, bring about all good things.

Anupallavī

May She the embodiment of the mystic syllables of the twin mantras, balā and abalā (which remove all hunger, thirst and fatigue and bestow all learning), Goddess of Language in the form of the Alphabet, the destroyer of the accumulated obscuring dirt of Ignorance, Goddess of Eloquence (Vāgvāni), of tresses dark like the bees, having on her hands the Veena, bestow all good things.

Charaṇam

May She, whose form is resplendent like the autumnal moon-light, whose face is like the moon, who is the Great Goddess Sarada sporting in Kashmira Country, who is the most subtle form of Sound, who holds in her hands boons and security from fear (for her devotees) and also the goad, the noose and the book, whose lotus feet are adored by the Gods, who (as Lakshmi) is the shining Goddess of beauty with fine rows of teeth, who (as Parvati) delights Siva (Her Lord) and teacher Guha (Her son), may Saraswathi wedded to Creator Brahma born of Vishnu, the Goddess who is Pure, untainted transcendental Being, bring about all good things.

Bertrand Russell Critique of Christianity and Religion

British philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell argued very persuasively through his writings and speeches that religion was merely a fallacy and, notwithstanding any positive effects that religion might have on a person’s emotional or psychological well-being, the concept of religion is for the most part detrimental to people. Bertrand Russell resolutely believed that religion and a religious point of view serve to hinder knowledge and cultivate a fear of anxiety, fear, and dependency.

Bertrand Russell, like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and other critics of religion who came after him, held that religion was to blame for war, coercion, tyranny, and misery that have weighed down the world. Here is an excerpt from his essay, “Why I Am Not A Christian”, first a lecture delivered by Russell on 06-Mar-1927 at the Battersea Town Hall (now the Battersea Arts Centre in London) to a gathering of the National Secular Society, South London Branch.

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes … . A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.

Bertrand Russell on Belief and the Value of Religion

TV Interviewer: Why are you not a Christian?
Bertrand Russell: Because I see no evidence whatever in any of the Christian dogmas. I have examined all the stock arguments in favor of the existence of God and none of them seem to me to be logically valid.

TV Interviewer: Do you think there is a practical reason for having a religious belief for many people?
Bertrand Russell: There can’t be a practical reason for believing what isn’t true. I rule it out. It is impossible. Either a thing is true or it isn’t. If it is true, you should believe in it. If it isn’t, you shouldn’t. And if you can’t find out whether it is true or it isn’t, you should suspend judgment. It seems to me fundamental dishonesty and fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it is useful and not because you think it is true.

TV Interviewer: I was thinking of those people who find that some kind of religious code helps them to live their lives — it gives them a very strict set of rules — the right and the wrongs.
Bertrand Russell: People are generally quite mistaken. Great many of them do more harm than good and they would probably be able to find rational morality that they could live by if they drop this irrational traditional taboo morality that comes down from savage ages.

TV Interviewer: But are we, perhaps, the ordinary person, perhaps, is not strong enough to find his own personal ethic. They have to have something imposed upon them from outside.
Bertrand Russell: I don’t think that is true. What is imposed on you from outside is of no value whatever. Doesn’t count.

TV Interviewer: You were brought up, of course, as a Christian. When did you first decide that you did not want to remain a believer in the Christian faith?
Bertrand Russell: I never decided that I did not want to remain a believer. Between the ages of 15 and 18, I spent almost all my spare time thinking about Christian dogmas and trying to find out whether there was any reason to believe them. By the time I was 18 I had discarded the last of them.

TV Interviewer: Do you think that that gave you an extra strength in your life?
Bertrand Russell: No, I don’t know. No I shouldn’t have said so. Neither it’s a strength nor the opposite. I was just engaged in the pursuit of knowledge.

TV Interviewer: As you approach the end of life, do you have any fear of some kind of afterlife?
Bertrand Russell: No, that is nonsense.

TV Interviewer: There is no afterlife?
Bertrand Russell: None whatsoever.

TV Interviewer: Do you have any fear of something that is common among atheists and agnostics who have been atheists or agnostics all entire lives, who are converted just before they die to a form of religion.
Bertrand Russell: Well, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as religious people think it does. Because, religious people, most of them, think that it is a virtuous act to tell lies of the deathbeds of agnostics and such. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t happen very often.

Bertrand Russell’s Books on Religion, God, and Atheism

Book Synopsis: ‘Shift:’ Carlos Ghosn takes you Inside Nissan’s Historic Revival

Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan

In the year 1999, Japanese automaker Nissan was in a downward spiral. The company had accrued massive debts, severe losses, and a badly damaged brand. Nissan had exhausted its strategic options and its managerial resources. It dreadfully needed a global partner and a new chief executive officer. Renault, the French multinational vehicle manufacturer, answered this call for desperation. Established in 1899, Renault was a so-so European automaker with far-from-inspiring prospects.

Renault had thus obtained a 36.8 percent stake in Nissan. Renault CEO Louis Schweitzer put Carlos Ghosn, the company’s second-in-command, in charge of Nissan. Ghosn seemed a perfect choice for the job. At Renault, Carlos Ghosn had earned his standing as a savage cost-cutter and first-rate manager. The French labor unions had begun to call him “Le Cost Killer.”

When he become heir to the helm at Nissan in 1999, it was clear that Carlos Ghosn had been training all his life for this mandate of turning around Nissan. Ghosn’s multicultural background made him unusually well matched to take on the Nissan challenge.

The Making of Carlos Ghosn

Shift: Inside Nissan's Historic Revival by Carlos Ghosn At Nissan, Carlos Ghosn was the definitive outsider. A multi-disciplinary talent who could speak more than a few languages, Ghosn was born in Brazil to Lebanese parents. As a youngster, he relocated to Lebanon at age six and was educated by Jesuits in Beirut. From there, he relocated to France, where he earned degrees in engineering from the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole des Mines de Paris, two of France’s most esteemed universities. Alongside, Ghosn learned five languages, a passion for logic and statistical precision, and a gift to perform in unfamiliar—even multi-cultural—landscapes.

In 1978, after graduate studies, Carlos Ghosn joined Michelin, the French tire manufacturer. He swiftly moved up the ranks, from an engineer to plant manager to chief operating officer. He then took a seven-year stint in the United States integrating the Uniroyal-Goodrich operations, which Michelin had just acquired. During his 18 years at Michelin, he established two approaches that would stand him in good stead later in his career: an approach to cross-functional teams, and a methodology to rationalize and consolidate manufacturing operations.

Over the years at Michelin, Carlos Ghosn had recognized that his advancement at the family-owned company was limited. In October 1996, he transited to Renault as its executive vice president for purchasing, manufacturing and R&D. He soon called for upheaval by closing a Renault factory in Belgium and squeezing out billions of operating costs by initiating several efficiency programs with suppliers and in-house units alike. Following a string of efficiency improvements across Renault and consolidations of operating plants, Carlos Ghosn became known as “le cost killer.”

Renault-Nissan Alliance

Carlos Ghosn Led Nissan’s Historic Revival

At Nissan, Carlos Ghosn recognized that crisis was not only essential for organizational transformation, but also a powerful catalyst for it. After years of regretful leadership and disoriented policies, Nissan was headed to bankruptcy. Ghosn first determined just how deep the financial rot ran. He discovered that, inside Nissan, there was a sense of deep denial about the company’s perilous operating and financial condition. Carlos Ghosn went about slashing purchasing costs by 20%, reducing capacity by 30%, closing five factories, and ousting some 20,000 workers through layoffs and attrition. In Japan, large companies were viewed as simply too big to fail. Then Japanese government was expected to rush to the aid of companies if Japan’s keiretsu-linked financial institutions did not.

In his business career, Carlos Ghosn has brought a composed, analytical approach to each managerial problem he has faced. As Ghosn went about in his efforts to transform Nissan, he implemented a quantitative, results-oriented methodology of setting numerical targets and then holding his leaders and their organizations accountable for them. Carlos Ghosn also announced the conclusion of seniority promotions and financial cross-shareholdings with other companies, set meticulous financial targets and declared that he would quit if he did not meet his own demanding targets. His drastic plans made were opposed by Japanese management traditionalists. He was also reprimanded by the powerful Japan Auto Parts Industries Association.

Carlos Ghosn also invested heavily in Renault-Nissan’s technological abilities. He set up cross-functional Renault and Nissan management teams in engineering, design, and marketing. These cross-functional teams were asked to uncover every problem and set new, realistic-but-tough performance goals. In addition, Ghosn was a tough taskmaster and executed with discipline. He made it clear he would not tolerate any backsliding: he writes, “If you disagree with the plan, you’ve got to leave the company.”

Carlos Ghosn with Nissan 350Z

As cost saving programs, consolidation of operations, and reduced reliability on debt improved Nissan’s financial performance and Nissan’s operating efficiency, Carlos Ghosn took courageous steps to invigorate the Nissan brand. He revitalized the Z-series sports-coupe line with the Nissan 350Z, a model that had been terminated previously in 1996. In the U.S., the world’s largest automotive market, Nissan jumped into new market segments with the Nissan Murano SUV and the Nissan Quest minivan. Nissan also flourished from Nissan Titan truck, the Nissan Armada SUV, and the Infiniti QX56, full-size vehicles that accounted for higher profit margins.

As a result, Nissan not only reached Carlos Ghosn’s demanding targets, but also exceeded them. Again, Carlos Ghosn was promoted. In May 2005, he rose to become the president and CEO of Renault.

Currently, Carlos Ghosn is the Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the global strategic alliance that oversees the unique cross-shareholding agreement between Renault and Nissan.

Book Recommendation: “Shift: Inside Nissan’s Historic Revival”

“Shift: Inside Nissan’s Historic Revival”, by Carlos Ghosn and French business journalist Philippe Ries, offers a treasure trove of practical guidance to executives who find themselves in challenging business cultures, especially in a global business environment, and are faced with diverse expectations for engagement of employees and managers.

The Seven Deadly Sins (Christianity) and the Five Poisons (Buddhism)

The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Proverbs 6:16-19 in the Book of Proverbs in The Holy Bible lists “six things the Lord hateth, and the seventh His soul detesteth” (from the American Standard Version):

  1. haughty eyes,
  2. a lying tongue,
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. a heart that deviseth wicked purposes,
  5. feet that are swift in running to mischief,
  6. a false witness that uttereth lies,
  7. he that soweth discord among brethren.

The Seven Deadly Sins (The Common List)

In AD 590, Pope Gregory I amended and consolidated the various lists of seven sins that were in vogue then and created the more common list of Seven Deadly Sins. Even Dante Alighieri, the celebrated Italian poet of the Middle Ages, quoted this list of Seven Deadly Sins in his epic, The Divine Comedy.

  1. lechery / lust (luxuria in Latin)
  2. gluttony (gula in Latin)
  3. avarice / greed (avaritia in Latin)
  4. sloth / discouragement (acedia in Latin)
  5. wrath (ira in Latin)
  6. envy (invidia in Latin)
  7. pride (superbia in Latin)

“Five Poisons” in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism

The Mahayana tradition of Buddhism inventories five kleshas, mental states that can cloud the mind and result in unwholesome actions:

  1. Ignorance. Also: confusion, bewilderment, delusion, disorder
  2. Attachment. Also: desire, passion, yearning
  3. Aversion. Also: anger, hatred, rage, fury
  4. Pride. Also: arrogance, conceit, overconfidence, condescension
  5. Jealousy. Also: envy, spite, covetousness

Japan’s Demographic Problems

Japan's Serious Demographic Problems

Japan fell from grace after its booming 1980s, largely due to bureaucratic overindulgences, political slip-ups and unsustainable growth rates that fueled its prosperity for decades.

Japan is undergoing a slow but certain social, economic, and political transformation. The Japanese are reinventing their society with a growing sense of urgency.

Over the last fifteen years, Japan has experienced a steady decrease in the number of people in the working age of 15 to 64. Experts estimate that by 2050, this working population may shrink to just 54 million from a high of as much as 87 million.

Simultaneously, Japan’s population is rapidly aging. A 2007 report by Japan’s government stated that Japan’s population dropped for the first time since the first census records from early 1900s. Overall, Japan’s population of 129 million is expected to decline to 100 million by 2050. An estimated 30% of Japanese are older than age 65 leaving a smaller workforce to sustain the ever-increasing needs of the country’s national pension system.

Compounding these problems is the fact that Japan has the lowest birthrate among developed countries — 1.34 children per woman. Fewer women get married and have children. In addition, employed women work long hours leaving little time to devote to childcare.

The Japanese government announced an elaborate plan to stimulate the birthrate, provide for better day care in hopes that it would increase the number of women in the Japanese workforce, and ultimately boost economic growth.

List of Hospitals in the 13 Counties of Southeast Michigan


Hospitals in Eaton County, Michigan

Hospitals in Genesee County, Michigan

Hospitals in Hillsdale County, Michigan

Hospitals in Ingham County, Michigan

Hospitals in Jackson County, Michigan

Borgess Medical Center, Kalamazoo, MI

Hospitals in Kalamazoo County, Michigan

Hospitals in Lenawee County, Michigan

Hospitals in Livingston County, Michigan

Hospitals in Macomb County, Michigan

Hospitals in Oakland County, Michigan

Hospitals in St. Clair County, Michigan

University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor

Hospitals in Washtenaw County, Michigan

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit

Hospitals in Wayne County, Michigan

Apple’s Double Irish Scheme for Tax Avoidance

Apple's Double Irish Scheme for Tax Avoidance

Turns out that Apple might be paying about 10% of its pre-tax income in taxes as compared to a 35 percent federal corporate tax rate. However, details of Apple’s tax practices indicate that there Apple engages in merely tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is not quite unlawful. There seems to be no evidence that Apple engaged in tax evasion, which is indeed unlawful.

Apple uses a tax avoidance scheme known as The Double Irish, which came under scrutiny during the Senate testimony. Using the Double Irish scheme, Apple instituted a shell subsidiary in Ireland, an offshore tax haven, and assigned the majority its intellectual property rights to this shell subsidiary. In turn, the subsidiary charges fees and royalties and receives billions of dollars in revenue. On these receipts, Apple pays about 2% in corporate taxes in Ireland instead of the high tax rates it would pay for the same receipts in the United States.

It can be argued that the Apple’s management is indeed doing what is best for Apple’s shareholders. Apple’s senior management and the board have a fiduciary responsibility to do anything in the best interest of its shareholders, as long as such actions are lawful. Had Apple ignored this prospect of reducing its corporate tax bill by using the Double Irish scheme, the senior management and Board may possibly be accused of being negligent in their responsibilities towards shareholders.

The actual problem might just be that the Congress hasn’t taken any wide-ranging measures to make all tax avoidance schemes illegal and ensure that companies pay their fair share in taxes.