Training must do two things. First, it must move your attitude. Second, the skills you gain can only be seen in your work. If work has not changed, then training has done nothing. And remember, the knowledge you gain is not yours. Mr. Isaiah Chol Aruai, Chairman of SSCCSE, Southern Sudan.
Over the last 2 months I have had the privilege of working on some customer service training for clients locally and regionally, and some thoughts come to mind:
- Customer service work is tough and hard to the individual. Most clients who call have a problem and they are angry at the company for their problem and when they call or visit the office they tend not to be in the mood for small talk and simple platitudes. This heavy work takes an emotional toll on the individual worker who apart from the expectation to be polite to the customer, they must endure the constant oversight from their superiors who do not always have the best people management skills. Have a support system for the staff to allow them relief from tough calls or encounters and shield them from customers who are hell bent on taking advantage of their professional standards.
- Effective and commendable Customer service work is a result of many things including personality. You get the wrong person; the training will not change much because their default reactions and responses shall always be wrong. Choose for attitude, personality and character and train for skills. If a person is naturally a people person, then the training will only enhance the existing abilities. Do not always promote a great people person if they thrive around people and dealing with people challenges. Keep them around the front line, maybe increase their salary and responsibilities but don’t take them away into an office to work with papers.
- Training front line staff alone is insufficient since a lot of them require the support of the rest of the team to resolve the customer complaints or issues. If the staff and colleagues in the background do not appreciate and honor the service level agreements that bind the whole organization, they turn front line staff into liars and kill the brand. Consider identifying the whole system that contributes to the customer experience and resolve the processes and bottlenecks that slow down responses and find ways to notice and address bottlenecks quickly especially in the back office.
- Customer experience is more about culture than about training. A firm that has a culture of putting staff and customers first will be shown in its internal customer service and its ability to translate its external standards to internal standards .
- Empowerment of staff is critical to the success of customer service. Staff who have to consult or follow very restrictive guidelines and scripts are unable to use their mental faculties and judgement to resolve issues that come up. Some discretion should be given to the individual to make some decisions that do not contradict other company guidelines but enhance the customer experience and delight. Certain firms give all staff different amounts of monies they can spend to delight and surprise a customer based on the situation.
- Training cannot be theoretical. It should be experiential and have as much realistic role plays, simulations and feedback. Adult learners are not always motivated to learn and depending on many factors their concentration and involvement is limited to the bare minimum and the learning can be forgotten as soon as they live the training venue. Experiential sessions engage the whole person and provide for better learning
- Habits development should be the goal of the training. Customers should be guaranteed certain default experiences at all the touch points of the firm they visit regardless of the individual handling them. When front line staff are helped to internalize habits that enhance the customer experience like the workers at Starbucks, you can grow and guarantee the same experience regardless of location. This does not happen after only a day or 2 of training. Time and resources should be put into developing habits.
- Customer care agents who lie to customers or intentionally drop calls, transfer to the wrong departments, beat the quality control systems are a liability and they should be deliberate systems to capture and exclude such people from such roles. Many firms in the region that boast of 24 hour call centers are unreachable at certain times and no improvements seem to ever happen since the service agents are undetected an few customers follow up on why their issues or calls were not attended to at night or at other odd times.
- The goal of handling calls should not only be how quickly can one resolve the customer issue but how quickly can one delight the customer and turn them from an adversary to an ally.
- When things go wrong with customer experiences, the goal should not be to point fingers or punish but to find out the root cause. Some are the individual staff, some are systemic, others are organizational and the resolution based on the root causes shall have a longer lasting impact on the customer satisfaction.
As society becomes more impersonal, more and more services automated and competition increases, strong relationships with customers shall be the differentiator for some firms. They shall not only reap the full lifetime value of a customer but their net promoter scores shall go up as delighted customers shall refer them to their friends and families.
For more inquiries and discussions on the same, write to me at