Customer Service Training—Not Right Now, I’m Too Busy doing it Wrong!
Is your team too busy to get customer service training, but your CX performance is not what you want? We are all sometimes guilty of being too comfortable with what our experiences have taught us instead of taking the time to learn more. And, while experience is often the best teacher, it can sometimes be a wrong or incomplete teacher. This statement is especially true now. What you learned in the past is less helpful now as customer expectations for their service experiences have changed. As a result, ways of doing things that worked in the past may not work now.
I’ll give you an example from my own life. When I graduated from business school, I worked as a field salesperson. The company I joined required a lot of training for everyone, so much so that I raised concerns with my boss about the amount. Finally, I said politely, “not now. I barely know the customers in my territory.” After learning that being well-trained was a job expectation, I attended several intensive sales training classes. I quickly discovered that much of what I had learned from earlier sales experiences needed correction. Even though I did not want to attend training at that early stage of my career, it helped immensely. I became much more effective as a result.
Customer Service Training
In our firm, our tagline is Measure, Manage, and Improve. In the Measure piece, our clients receive feedback we collect from their clients. This feedback is in the form of quantitative and qualitative customer feedback. There are also alerts about sales opportunities or issues from selling a product or service.
In the Manage piece, our clients respond to this information from their customers. It could be a service experience that a customer could have been more pleased with, which may require a discussion with the people delivering the service. It could be a customer complaining about a recent product purchase and needing a call. It could be a customer who had laudatory comments about the work of a service technician, and the manager needs to let the employee, and others, know what the customer said. Each of these interactions, and others, require effective communication and other skills.
Too often, employers skip the need to improve their staff members’ skills through training. They assume their frontline leaders have these skills. After all, they have the experience to know how to manage both groups of people. However, sometimes these leaders do, and sometimes they don’t, something I learned personally. This point is where training comes in.
What Kind of Customer Service Training Do You Need?
Training is about learning new skills, competencies, and ways of doing business and working with customers.
Companies are missing tremendous opportunities to “learn from within.” In most situations, if you have more than a few divisions, locations, or other distinct and separate business units, some are doing well, and others are not. Focus on the ones doing well and doing so consistently:
- Read customer comments from the feedback to develop clues as to why they are performing well.
- Observe what happens when a customer walks in the door or calls on the phone (remember that my point of reference is a B2B industrial environment). What specific things do employees do that customers like (or do you think is a good practice)?
- And most importantly, talk with employees. Find out what they think is working best for them.
For example, several years ago, a client needed help improving customer experience in his parts area. The senior management team identified the top-performing locations and did a deep dive into each branch. They identified the key things they were doing to satisfy customers. They also interviewed several frontline employees on video and integrated these into their training. It proved to be highly effective.
Depending on what you need to do, you can build highly effective training from internal sources, primarily if you can involve some of those implementing best practices that come internally.
When To Learn from Outside?
Outside training (learning) sources are readily available for almost any topic. In CX, outside education can play a valuable role. Sometimes, no matter the power of internal learning, others resist listening to their peers, and sometimes the boss. An outside learning source plays a valuable role as an effective change agent.
We now offer several training options (see link). Through our training experiences, there are several things we have learned:
- The learning must be as interactive as possible. This need implies some amount of in-person training. While online resources can reinforce in-person training, the interaction from an effectively designed learning experience provides an opportunity to establish a more common language around CX needs.
- A follow-up to the learning sessions is essential. This follow-up may take the form of a short remote session with attendees. Probe to ask what they learned from the session that they have found most effective. Least effective? If needed, revisit some of the more challenging issues that have arisen.
- Whenever possible, tailor the learning sessions directly to the company’s environment. While many things we learn apply to various industries, the examples and issues must relate to the attendee’s environment as directly as possible. Frontline people in the material handling industry do not want to hear how bankers solve CX issues for their customers!
Training Does Matter
Returning to our Measure, Manage, and Improve tagline, the Improve piece is the hardest implement. It is hard because you often have to change systems, processes, and individual approaches to customer care. Change in these areas takes time. Training (learning) that results in new behaviors toward customers and employees is critical to improving customer experience.