When it comes to customer service training, or anyone else for that matter, many people in operations and HR make a fatal mistake. They believe people “need fixing”.
Over the last 10 years many organisations have reduced the level of structured training they provide. This drop in activity coincided for the majority with the financial crisis of 2007–08. Businesses looked at their costs, and due to the way much customer service training was delivered at the time and justified, it was an easy saving.
Why pay $1000s for a course when a $200 e-learning course can “do the same thing”? But can it? Are we believing our own hype?
Why customer service training was not working?
This is a complex situation, but can be summarised in these generalisations:
1) Customer service training was often “warm & fluffy”
2) Training was led by HR or training and not the business (operations)
3) Training was for the benefit of the individuals and not the job
4) No measures of value of success were made
5) Operations did not value training other than as a “reward”… or punishment!
6) Customer service training provided for the wrong reasons
Then the wrong focus
Since then there has been a drive to “reduce costs” rather than “increased value”. This cost reduction drive led to the demise of a lot of ineffective classroom customer service training and the introduction of many Learning Management Systems (LMSs).
This along with poor or weak content to populate the justification of online customer service training to reduce costs.
The reality is e-learning can help, but only when fully integrated with line manager and job based coaches. E-learning is a TOOL and not a SOLUTION.
Back to the point – why training fails.
I am sure I could write many articles on the context I have just proposed. But for the purpose of this piece will move to why I feel employee training fails.
In the world of “Customer Service” there are many common factors that can go wrong. These are often universal and cross many sectors. Look at your own company and see how you measure up:
1) Wrong people recruited – they may have skills – but do not fit the values or culture of the business
2) On boarding or induction is weak. People do not fully understand the business. What it is trying to achieve. What its measures of success are. The basic processes of the business
3) Basic job training. How to use the systems. What the system is attempting to do for the business, employee and customer. Who to talk to in the event of “what do I do know?” moments. Give too much info and the employee will not remember it! Give just enough to build basic confidence
4) Performance job training. Getting the basics are just the beginning. Not the end. The balance of what training and business scenarios that can be given in basic training are limited. Just enough to “get the employee started”. The come a period of support and additional coaching or training.
5) Make this “performance job training” on going and regular. For all employees “little and often”
6) Training needs to be “owned” by operations, not some central HR function. Training needs to be relevant and just in time.
7) Develop local champions and coaches. This is good for morale, career development and makes good business sense.
8) Keep material fresh. This may seem like a luxury, but the reality is people get blazay about familiar content. If it looks fresh their attention will be sustained for longer. But it must not be “emperors new clothes” either!
From very good to excellent
This is not just a philosophical statement, but an attitude. If people designing and delivering training believe their job is to “fix” people, then the tone of the materials provided will not hit the target. There is a simple reality that most people in our business overlook. The people we are training to be customer services staff already know what good and bad customer service looks and feels like. They are customers themselves. It is a rare employee that arrives at work thinking “today I am going to give bad customer service”. They arrive at work aiming to do their best.
Our job is not to “fix” them. But to ensure they are aware of the processes, procedures and tools we have available for them to GIVE excellent service. We need to PARTNER with our customer service staff. The goal is to help them develop their understanding of what excellence looks like in our business, given OUR constraints.
Soft Skills Training
Is much the same. Except for a small percentage of people in our population with learning difficulties. Most of us have excellent “soft skills”. What we might not have yet are “consistent standards” in how we apply them. One reason why all the major franchise fast food companies do so well has nothing to do with the “average” quality food. But the consistency of service we get. As business people if we can understand that people buy 2 things….
1) People buy people
2) People buy predictability
Of course this is on the journey to us “fixing their problem” – the reason they want us to supply them in the first place. Most of us at one time or another have had the experience of going into one store only to find out that they do not sell that product. Then they suggest a competitor that might… now that is a business I will go back to – rather than them try to sell me something I don’t want!
If you want to train your customer service people….
- Build their skills – don’t try to fix them
- Have the business own the skills needed
- Have a great induction process
- Give people the tools and processes to help them do the best job they can
- Remove barriers for them delivering excellence!
Customer service training can be a very effective business strategy for both the development of people, the improvement in performance and the sustainability of the business. But remember training is but one tool, often if there are wide spread performance issues it is often not a customer service training matter – but one of culture or processes!
See our Customer care training packs – great for induction and people new to work!