Most people now realize that customer service is more than just ‘common sense.’ It is a skill, with a lot of moving parts. And, like any skill, it requires continuous training and focus to be at the top of one’s game. So, what should a customer service training program include? Here is the only real recipe that works:
Why are you thinking of the training? Where are the gaps? What is the outcome you want? Just saying you want to ‘take it to the next level’ isn’t good enough. Remember the rule of the sharpshooter: “You can’t hit what you don’t aim for.”
Based on a solid assessment, what are the specific customer service skills, attitudes and behaviours that will fill the gaps in performance? Those are what the training should focus on – nothing else.
Is it designed to appeal to adults, or to school-kids? (Too often, the latter is the case). Are the customer service examples and solutions specific to the workplace, or are they too general to be applied? Is it an interactive format? If the training is less than 75% interactive exercises, it will fail. (For more information on how to make training stick, see the white paper here)
Traditional training design techniques don’t work in customer service training workshops. Here’s why: The reality is that everyone has preconceived ideas about customer service. Most people already think they understand it, and are proficient with the skills required. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case, which means that a big part of a customer service training program is about unlearning existing beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
To be effective, customer service training has to included tricks, traps and surprises that create ‘ah-ha’ discovery moments.
If the Regional Manager or Vice-President won’t participate, you might as well not even bother with customer service training. How can they champion service behaviours that they haven’t seen? The single, most common comment in training programs is, “our management needs to go through this.”
It is not uncommon for people who train customer service to come across as condescending and maybe a little preachy. This is because they fail to acknowledge and leverage the experience in the room. Yes, you might need to remind people of the importance of smiling, but you don’t want to present it in your workshop as though this is news to anyone. This is a critical training skill that a lot of trainers unfortunately don’t have.
Customer service training is about persuading people to change the way that they interact with people. That level of change is a big ask for anyone.
To be effective, trainers have to create a bond of trust. They have to be credible, and build a strong case that there is greater risk in not changing than there is in trying new things. This can only be achieved when learners know that the trainer truly believes in the skills, attitudes and behaviours being introduced.
Some in the L&D world believe that a professional trainer should be able to deliver anything. And to some degree, this might be true. But delivering on a topic in which everyone in the audience already considers themselves highly knowledgeable requires a lot of credibility. Customer service trainers need to go beyond the leaders guide and really become immersed in the subject matter.
Theory isn’t good enough. In order to move from theory to application in the workplace, there needs to be time to practice. Role-playing, skits, demonstrations are essential.
If a customer service training program doesn’t have people walking out of the door excited, it’s not going to stick. That energy has to come from the trainer.
There is never enough time during a workshop to develop customer service habits. This is just a reality of all training. The real key to stickiness is what happens after the training. You need to make sure that there are processes and people in place to actually measure and support the change.
Don’t leave it to chance!
Whatever you do, don’t leave a customer service training program to chance. If you’re going to commit the valuable time of your team to attend the program, make it count.
The Six Pillars of Customer Service are the strategic starting point for the development of our award-winning customer service training programs
Below is a link where you can download outlines of Belding Training’s Outstanding Customer Service workshops. But remember – classroom training is only part of the journey to creating a world-class customer service culture.
You need to make sure that the trainer is amazing (see numbers 6, 7 & 8), and that there is relentless support for the skills once the training is completed.
Samples of Outstanding Customer Service Workshops can be found here.
Outstanding Customer Service
Belding’s award-winning Outstanding Customer Service workshops are ideal if you are looking for highly-successful in-house customer service training sessions for your team.
The Outstanding series has three levels and includes a certification option.
Each module is carefully customized for your team and the specific nature of your customer interactions.
Customer service improvement is most effective when you’ve established a clear and meaningful set of standards. Belding helps you do this as part of our development process.