Customer service excellence and customer service training is about more than just being polite!
One of the challenges in many businesses today is improving “customer services”.
We need to look at how organizations set up and manage their customer service teams. Often people that are customer facing are the most junior in the business. They have the least amount of job or life experience. They are often the lowest paid.
Of course these are massive generalisations. But you get the picture, as this is often our starting point.
All too often firms seek to improve their customer experience by training their front line staff in skills like:
- Adding value
- Body language
- Cross cultural etiquette
- Doing the right thing
- Establishing rapport
- First impressions
- “Go large” increasing the sale value
- How to answer questions
- Interacting positively
- Non-verbal communication
- Principles of customer service excellence
- Rectifying problems
- Saying hello and goodbye effectively
- Solving customer problems
- Telephone techniques
- The close
- Understanding customer expectations
- What makes good customer service
- What to do when the customer says no
- Wow’ing the customer
These are great skills – but will it really make the difference firms are looking for?
Offering and providing this type of training can help lift things a little, but often this type of training can feel insulting or patronising to employees.
If we need a consistent approach to how we do things within a brand, then that is a reasonable approach. But that approach needs to be aligned to the brand and brand values, not some off-the-shelf training program. The approach need appropriate measures and feedback to ensure that over time the approach remains appropriate and does not slip or change into something that is not desired.
Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with building competence. But often this approach to customer service training puts a tick in the box, but does not improve the service or experience the customer gets.
Putting a tick in the “we have trained them box” gives managers that reassuring feel that they have “done something”.
Real change is personal and uncomfortable. If the change or solution is not uncomfortable to EVERYONE, then things will go wrong!
Solve the real customer service problem
Unfortunately in many situations the approach to providing customer service training is much like the boy putting his finger in the dam. It stops/ slows the flow but does not solve the problem.
Generally speaking most people that are truly customer facing aim to do a good job. They have to. It is inbuilt in us as humans. Our customer facing staff want to do the best for the customer. If they don’t, it is often not a lack of skills that is the issue. The real issue could be one of the following:
Lack of clarity in goals & purpose
It is often stated that communications, or rather the lack of it causes problems in organizations, but do we proactively do things about it, or do we try to work around these issues? Typical symptoms of a lack of clarity include:
- Tension in activities between behind the scenes activities and customer facing time
- Conflicting work priorities
- Balance of the need to service the customer and up sell
- Lack of skills or knowledge to use the tools provide (Till/ Point of sale/ POS , CRM software etc)
When these things happen, it doesn’t matter how good your people are, if you do not let them do the job!
One person or the organisation
If Customer service is poor (or lower than competitors) across the organisation, then the problem is probably management. If the issue is with one or two individuals, then it is probably a skills or attitude issue.
It’s the managers stupid
Often the biggest barrier for businesses to offer good customer service is management and business processes. The further managers are from facing a customer, the less they are aware of the impact of decisions. Inherently “people want to do a good job”. So why as managers and HR do we spend much of our time putting barriers up, rather than taking them down?
Other than at induction (onboarding), the types of skills mentioned above do not have a place in everyday training for all customer service employees. Of course having occasional reminders to keep certain things aligned to brand and the desired approach to customer service are important.
NPS or Net promotor score
“The Net Promoter Score, or NPS®, is based on the fundamental perspective that every company’s customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors.”
– source http://www.netpromoter.com/why-net-promoter/know
This is where:
- Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
- Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
- Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth
Many firms use NPS or similar tools for measuring the effectiveness of their customer experience. In order to be successful this model recognises that it is about more than just customer service skills, but the culture of the organization. In other words how aligned the organization is to SUPPORTING front line staff in performing their role of serving the customer!
Does management help front line employees focus on the right customers for the business? Do employees have metrics to know how well they are doing? Do employees know how engaged their customers are?
Have you noticed a theme here? It is about GIVING the customer service people tools and knowledge – NOT skills.
How do you approach your customer service training or customer service excellence?
Is your first step to train people, or to look at the organizational and culture blocks that stop good customer service by your front line people?
See our Customer care training packs – great for induction and people new to work!