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5 Reasons Your Customer Service Training is Failing - Part 1

Customer service training is important

Like a lot of companies out there, you may either have a customer service training program in place, or are thinking about one.  And that’s great. That’s important. Customer experience continues to be a dominant driver of success. Training for customer service is particularly important now, as companies, including your competitors, are already starting to ramp up their efforts big time to recapture market share as the pandemic wanes.

The difference that a solid training program can make to an organization is huge.  It can improve customer retention, loyalty, sales and profitability.  The data also tells us it also plays a large role in employee retention, loyalty – and acquisition.

Sadly, more customer service training fails than succeeds

The key word here, however, is solid.  The training has to be solid. That’s harder to achieve than most people realize, and the reality is that more customer service training fails than succeeds.

The ones that fail do so for five reasons. We have audited hundreds of customer service programs on behalf of our clients over the years, and we have seen these same things time and again. This is the first of a five part series exploring each of them.

Customer Service Training Mistake #1: Fail to Target the Real Training Needs


Several years ago, one of our customers in the financial industry asked us to develop some training to reduce their customer churn rate.  Specifically, they wanted the training program to focus on developing their teams’ empathy and mindsets.

Customers thought they didn’t care, and weren’t competent

On the surface, the request made sense. Their data had clearly identified customer satisfaction and first-interaction resolution of issues as being consistently below expectations.  Anecdotal evidence told them that customers thought employees “didn’t know what they were doing,” and “didn’t care.”  The company had already initiated additional product knowledge training, but it didn’t seem to be making a difference.

But that wasn’t the real problem…

When we did our initial training assessment for our client, however, we discovered that the root cause of these customer perceptions wasn’t product knowledge. Nor was it employee mindsets or empathy. The perceptions, instead, were stemming from two things.

The first was the company’s focus on “average call time.” Employees were being measured on how long they spent with each customer, and were rewarded each month they stayed below the prescribed maximum per average call. This was causing employees to be more focused on moving things along then taking enough time to get things right.

the second was the absence of questions. Employees typically asked very few beyond broad questions like, “What seems to be the problem?” and follow-up technical questions.  They were focused on learning what the problem was, but not on the impact the problem was having on the customer. Things – not people. This resulted in the inability for them to frame their responses in context of their customers’ best interests.

Defining the real customer service training need paid off

On our recommendation, the company removed their average call-time metric, and we focused the training on asking questions and other positive language skills. The results were fantastic. The lesson, of course, is that your customer service training can only be effective when you have clearly identified the actual need.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the things we recommended had been on the radar for both the company’s training manager and the customer service department head. People in those roles often have unique insights beyond the available data – but are unable to act on them.

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Internal customer service training

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  • Employee engagement, enjoyment and retention
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  • Communication errors
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  • Employee turnover

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