4 Steps to Train for a Customer Service Culture

To be deliberate you must be prepared to be relentless. Recruiting can be a tiring process and takes a lot of time, especially if it is done properly — it is better to have this cost up front than down the track when you have made a poor recruitment decision. This means you can’t take your foot off the accelerator now that you’ve made your employment decision, as training is even more important. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may not have a dedicated training team, and if you do, that training team may not be specifically trained to perform their roles well because training roles are often considered to be promotional positions for senior staff who can use their knowledge in training newer staff in the organisation. Whether they are experienced or novice, the following four points will enable leaders and trainers to be deliberate about customer service through training.

1. Know the role training serves

‘Diet Coke, no ice — oh, and I’ll have some training with that!’ Training is not something that just gets thrown on to the start of every employee’s life cycle with an organisation. The business drives the training initiatives and the training initiatives, in turn, enable the business to succeed. OK, so I am confessing that I love learning, and I am fortunate to be a teacher by profession, but aside from imparting essential skills for new staff members there is a specific role that training serves. Despite my last post, I don’t believe recruitment is a process that is 100 per cent error-free, no matter how well it is executed. Therefore, if delivered correctly, training is a second safeguard to ensure the right people are put in front of your customers. The customer service messaging that has flowed through recruitment must be continued on to training in a very deliberate way to show that you are very serious. So, instead of just imparting new skills, the training process turns into a way to help candidates decide whether they have made the right step in joining your organisation. From a facilitator’s point of view, I believe it is very easy to see which new staff are disengaged during this process and are often the ones who don’t have a long-term future in the organisation.

2. Keep customer service separate

Each organisation will have a checklist and associated budget for inducting new employees into their business. I have been fortunate enough to work with organisations that provide a week of customer service training, compared to some that provide a day of training. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel provides 250 hours of training for every employee in the first year, with a 21-day certification process when they first commence in their departments. Now that’s just an example; it’s not about quantity, rather quality. The one thing that The Ritz-Carlton does before any department training is a two-day orientation. For Disney, it is known as ‘Traditions’ where customer service, the common purpose and values are discussed. The point I am making here is that no matter what your budget or time frame, customer service cannot be diluted amongst other important things in induction. Keep it separate and show your new employees just how important customer service means to the organisation.

3. Create the right environment

If the message of your training is to show the importance of customer service in the organisation then it needs to be deliberately reinforced with the right training environment. Have you ever been to training where you arrive before the facilitator? Then you sit there whilst he or she fumbles with the projector cords and settings in a fluster before starting five minutes late. I’m not trying to turn this part of the blog into a train-the-trainer post, but rather make a few points on how to set up the right training environment. Otherwise, all of the hard work to this point could go to waste.

  • Be prepared — no matter how frequently you do it, take the time to know who is in your audience, and know your content very well.
  • Be punctual — arrive at your training early enough so that your set-up has finished before the earliest person arrives. Being ready one hour before training starts will allow you to interact with participants as they arrive.
  • Present well — look for different ways you can convey your message and keep your audience engaged.
  • Perform — show your audience that you love what you do, and are treating them as customers, remembering that you are also on the stage.

4. Develop content for a return on investment

Early in my career, I was fortunate to hear the research from Professor Robert O Brinkerhoff from Western Michigan University who focused on the impact of training. I’d encourage any business leader or learning and development professional to read his research further. Ultimately, what I would like to discuss here is creating customer service content that works and, secondly, making sure it achieves the desired impact, not just ticking that metaphorical box. I have been facilitating customer service training for over a decade and have experimented with a variety of ways to segment content that will achieve a learning impact. Therefore, I developed the DIME™ approach as a way of grouping content to make it more understandable and sequential. Think about ways that you can put your content together, and don’t be afraid to be creative with terminology or acronyms. Then, be aware of the culture of the entire leadership team about the recognition of the importance of training and realise that training is an event and be deliberate about its importance by supporting participants on either side of the training.

Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results:  www.dimecustomerservice.com

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