First of all, pat yourself on the back for noticing. There are a lot of companies that don’t ask for customer feedback or keep track of the feedback when it does come in. Knowing there is a problem is an important and valuable first step.
Second, don’t assume that customer service training will fix the problem or reverse the trend.
It’s not that customer service training is a bad thing. Customer service training can be effective when it provides a forum to discuss challenges and develop solutions. It is a great opportunity to focus on and identify specific customer needs, wants and expectations and come up with new ideas on how to meet or exceed those expectations. Customer service training helps build confidence and skills in dealing with difficult or challenging situations.
But all too often, the reason for poor customer service is much deeper. Very often, the reason for poor customer service falls in one or more of the following areas:
- There are no clear service standards in place. When service professionals don’t know or understand the service expectations, it’s very difficult to meet or exceed them.
- Internal customer service is fair to middling. Fair to middling internal service results in fair to middling external service. Very, very few of us are able to turn off the negative feelings that result from a squabble with a team member, a dressing down by a supervisor (especially when done in front of others), unreasonable workloads, no response or slow response to requests … the list could go on and on. And when we are not happy, generally those around us aren’t happy either, or at least not as happy as they could be.
- Skills training is rushed or poorly developed. When somebody does not know how to complete the tasks associated with their job, if they cannot answer basic customer questions or know who to go to for the answers, they become frustrated and the customer becomes frustrated. Putting someone on a shift too soon is not good for business.
- The wrong people are in the job. When the focus is on finding the most qualified candidate instead of the most suitable candidate in order to shorten skills training time, customer service suffers. Yes, it’s important that people know how to do their job. That’s what the skills training is for. But generally the hardest part of the job isn’t the how, it’s the “how the how is completed”. Efficiency and knowledge improves with training and practice. It’s much more difficult to turn surly indifference into genuine friendliness and concern.
Customer service training is a valuable tool for companies committed to the creating positive, memorable customer experiences, but by itself, won’t provide the results you are looking for. Before hiring a trainer, ask yourself:
- Have we taken the time to really figure out what our customers want, need and expect and then developed standards to meet and exceed those expectations?
- Am I providing the same level of high service to my service team that I expect them to provide?
- Are we providing in-depth and effective skills training?
- Do we have the right people, with the right attitudes and personal attributes in roles they are most suited to?
If you can honestly answer yes to all those questions, then customer service training that focuses on your business, your service team members and your customers, will help move the service bar forward.
I had a great conversation this week with an organization that has recognized the need to create a customer service strategy. I absolutely loved it when they said “this needs to be more than a stand alone training session.” They get it! Workshops and training sessions are effective, when they are supported by clear standards, skills training and a recruitment and hiring strategy that includes attitude and the desire to serve as a key attribute.