Why Customer Service Training is a Waste of Money

WARNING … I’m getting on a soap box.  Potential for unfiltered thoughts ahead.

Want to know why that money you sunk into customer service training isn’t giving you the results you wanted? It’s because you may have taken the easy way out.

If any of these apply, don’t waste your money on customer service training.

  1. You don’t know our employees.  You haven’t taken the time to get to know your employees as people with lives outside of work, with dreams, with active likes and dislikes, instead of as employees.
  2. You don’t have defined performance expectations. What you want done and how you want it done changes from day to day and even worse, from employee to employee.
  3. You play favourites with employees and customers.  Some people get special privelages, some don’t. Some get away with poor behaviour, some don’t.
  4. You disparage your customers, either to their face or behind their back.  You call them stupid or cheap and insinuate they are a bunch of thieves out to get what they can from you.
  5. You apply#4 to your employees.
  6. You hire based on who you like, instead of clearly defined job descriptions and hiring standards.  You like people like you.
  7. You have no idea what your employees do.  Oh you have a vague notion, but you don’t know how much time, how much effort goes into getting their tasks completed, especially the ones who just quietly go about doing their work instead of whining about how much work they have.  Because they make it look easy, you assume it is easy and don’t recognize or value their skills, knowledge and expertise.
  8. You categorize any suggestion or concern is a needless whining.  Your employees should just be thankful they have a job and stop their whining.
  9. You don’t care what your employees think.  Oh, you might pretend to care.  You’ll hold a town hall or send out a survey, but it’s just window dressing.  You’ve already decided the answers, the strategy, the next step.  So what if they are the ones who interact with the customers every day?  So what if they are the ones on the floor completing the tasks everyday?  Their suggestions, ideas don’t matter. You’re the boss … you’ll decide.
  10. Rules don’t apply to you.  Just because your employees aren’t allowed to wear shorts to work, doesn’t mean you can’t.  Just because they’re not allowed to use the parking stalls close to the door, doesn’t mean you can’t.  You’ve earned the right to break the rules.

I could to go and on, but I’m not going to.  All I can say is, if any of those apply to you, don’t waste your money on customer service training because it’s not going to work.  Instead spend your money on customer acquisition because you’re going to need it to replace the good customers and good employees that decide to spend their valuable time with a company that respects them and values them.


Living up to Your Promise

There are a lot of ads, billboards and slogans that promise great service.  “The best service in town.” “We are here to serve.”

Paying lip service to the concept of great service is one thing; actually living up to it is another.  Those companies that do live up to their promise know that good or great service isn’t built on a wish and a prayer.  It takes time, energy, commitment and a strong customer service strategy.

A customer service strategy is just as important as a sales and marketing strategy.  The customer service strategy supports your overall business goals.  A successful sales and marketing strategy gets customers in the door; a successful customer service strategy keeps the customers coming back.

A customer service strategy includes the following:

  1. A service promise. The service promise supports your company’s overall mission and goals.
  2. The service expectations of your customers, based on the product or service that you offer. Remember, you can’t be all things to all people. Who are your customers, who is your target market and what do they want?  If you offer thick, juicy made to order burgers, you will not be able to provide a two minute burger. That’s what fast food restaurants are for.
  3. Customer feedback.  Your customer service strategy needs to include a process to generate and review customer comments and feedback, both internal and external customers. Don’t assume you know what your customers/ employees want.  Ask them!  You may find out that there are some significant gaps that you can address and still stay true to your business model.
  4. Clearly defined service standards. Telling your employees to be friendly isn’t enough.  What does friendly look like?  How do you want “friendly” conveyed on the telephone?  While you’re at it, create internal customer service standards as well.  The attitude / service that is provided to internal customers tends to flow to external customers.  Be sure that everyone in your company clearly understands the importance of internal customer service.
  5. A training plan.  Your employees need to know what you expect from them if you want them to provide consistent service.  What training do new hires need? What about training for long-time employees?  Sometimes we make the mistake of assuming that employees who have been with us for awhile are trained and we forget about them.  Don’t make that mistake.   It can be easy to fall into a rut after doing the same job for a long time.  On-going training helps to keep those expectations front and centre.
  6. Performance management plan.  In order for the service standards to be adopted by your team, they need to know that you take it seriously enough to evaluate whether or not the standards are being followed.  Take the time to recognize and reward employees who are providing the service levels that you ask for.  Provide additional coaching and mentoring when the service standards are not being followed.
  7. Plan for mistakes. The reality is that there will be mistakes made, either due to errors by your employees or by your suppliers.  Take the time to identify potential errors and come up with service recovery options.  Share those options with your employees so that when errors happen, they know what they can do to try and resolve the situation immediately.  Better yet, get them involved in coming up with potential solutions or responses.

If your company doesn’t have a clearly defined service strategy in place, I encourage you to take the time to create one. While you probably won’t envision every situation or customer touch point, a well thought out plan will reduce the number of customer complaints and service issues that you need to handle.  Besides, just like your sales and marketing strategy, your customer service strategy needs to be reviewed and revised where necessary on a regular basis.


To find out more about customer service strategies, sign up for a free consult here, email me at lbarkman@servicedge.ca or call me at 204-995-5836.

Five Traits of Effective Coaches

Leaders wear a lot of hats. Leaders of teams are responsible for the overall performance of the team. One of the hats that strong leaders wear is the coaching hat.

Effective coaching benefits both the leader and their team members.  Teams that perform to standard are much more likely to achieve their goals.  That makes the entire team look good.  Coaching team members to develop new skills and take on additional responsibility provides opportunities for career advancement. That’s a positive for the team member and for the leader, as some tasks can be delegated to others.

Here are five traits that effective coaches / leaders share. They are:

1.    Tough, but fair

You know what the performance expectations are and you need your team to meet those expectations.  Coaches who are too nice, who are afraid to identify when expectations are not being met, won’t see the results they need.  Push your team to do well, but in such a way that recognizes individual strengths and weaknesses.

2.    Respectful

Don’t bring down anyone’s self-esteem.  Focus on self-development and improvement, not on punishment.

3.    Coach Everyone

Don’t just focus on under-performers.  Help all team members become better at what they do.  Coach high performers to learn new, career development skills.

4.    Find Time for Fun

People learn better when they are having fun.  Ask the question “What can I do to make routine, dull tasks less boring, especially during the learning process?”

5.    Consistent

Consistency gives team members a sense of certainty. They know what is expected of them and they know those expectations won’t change depending on whether their coach is having a good day or a bad day.

When you think back on some of the best coaches / leaders you’ve had, what are some traits they demonstrated? 

Wednesday Wisdom from Others

Here are three blog posts that when I read them, I paused, reflected and then read again.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

  • Broc Edwards at fool with a plan takes a no holds barred approach to HR.  Be prepared .. this blog post, That’s Why They Pay You, is an in your face challenge to many a company’s perception on why people should show up for work.
  • Dan Rockwell’s post Death to Bobble Head Leaders challenges leaders to look for disruption, to ask for new ideas, to go against the status quo.  And for those that refuse, don’t complain about status quo results.
  • In his blog post, Set Employees Up to Win – Not Fail, Neil Ducoff’s takes a look at many of the reasons (excuses) we pull out of our back pockets when employees don’t perform to standard.  Very often it’s us … not them.

Do you have some great ideas, questions to share?  You can do so here or on Facebook.

Five Employee Gift Ideas that say “I Value You”

The holiday season is upon us and for many companies that means it’s time to thank employees for their efforts.  Some companies hold an annual holiday party; others provide gift certificates, turkeys or perhaps an annual bonus.  Any and all of those ideas are appreciated by the recipients. The only problem is that all too soon the holiday party is over, the gift card is redeemed, the turkey is gone and the bonus spent.

This year, in addition to the traditional end of year gift, why not also give something that says “I value you” for a lot longer.  Here are some ideas.

  1. Care about your employees, not just the work they do.  Make time to get to know them.  What do they like to do outside of work?  Movies, reading, gardening, writing?  Knowing this also helps you customize gift cards to specific interests, which makes gift cards that much more meaningful.  Be aware of special events happening in their lives, both the good and the bad.  Births, deaths, weddings, separations.  Letting your employees know they are not just an employee matters.
  2. Be transparent.  Clearly outline your expectations.  Don’t keep your employees guessing what you expect from them and what the priorities are.  Performance standards need to be clear, they need to be understandable and they need to be shared with employees.  Team members who know what is expected of them enjoy their job more.
  3. Provide the tools needed for success.  Now that you’ve reviewed and updated your performance standards, be sure your employees have the tools they need to successfully perform to those standards.  Start with training them; then ask your team members what else they need in order to perform to a higher standard and get them whatever you can.
  4. Provide regular feedback. In addition to making sure your employees clearly understand expectations, be sure to let them know if they are meeting or exceeding those expectations. Working in a vacuum is frustrating and de-motivating. Provide both positive and constructive feedback as close to the event as possible or it will lose its impact.
  5. Provide opportunities for your team to make a difference.  We all want to feel that we matter, that we are valued and that our contribution matters.  Ask your employees to contribute ideas and suggestions on how to improve customer service or increase sales or choose a local charity to support.  Knowing they were part of the solution and are making a difference increases buy in and commitment.

What do you think? What are some other high value, long-lasting gifts leaders can give their team members?