A Customer Service Training Technique That’s Easy as 1, 2, 3


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Training customer service employees doesn’t have to be too difficult or time-consuming.

I recently wrote a post that demonstrated how performance checklists can be used to quickly create highly effective training programs. This post is about a three step technique you can use to deliver training to your employees.

It’s call the Tell, Show, Do Technique

This technique may be the oldest technique in the book. That’s probably because it’s highly effective. You don’t need an advanced degree in adult learning to use it and it’s perfect for one-on-one training.

Here’s how the Tell, Show, Do Technique works:

Step 1: Tell the trainee what they should do and why. 

Imagine you’re training a new employee on the proper way to greet customers. The trainer should start by explaining the proper greeting. The trainer should also explain why this is important to good service, such as describing how a good greeting creates a positive first impression.

A lot of training fails because the trainer stops here and never completes steps two and three. They just tell and tell.

There are three problems with relying on telling alone.

  1. Most people don’t learn best by listening.
  2. It doesn’t require learner engagement, which makes memorization difficult.
  3. You never get confirmation that the learner as actually learned anything.

As Harold Stolyvitch pointed out in his outstanding book on employee training, Telling Ain’t Training.

Step 2: Show the trainee how to do it properly.

Most people are visually dominant learners. That means seeing an example is an extremely important part of the learning process.

Even for those that aren’t visually dominant, an example can show them what success should look like.

If you’re training someone on how to greet customers, you might demonstrate the proper greeting. It’s best if you can do it with a real customer, but you can just give a demonstration if that’s not feasible.

Step 3: Have the trainee do it

We don’t really know whether someone has learned something until we see them do it.

This makes step three critical. The learning process isn’t complete until the trainee can demonstrate the expected performance.

If you’re training someone on how to greet customers, this is when you ask them to demonstrate the proper greeting. Ideally, they can do this by greeting real customers, but you can also role-play if that’s not feasible.

You might be asking what happens if they don’t do it correctly. This is a real possibility since we all struggle a bit when we try something out for the first time. 

A good trainer will provide coaching and feedback to help the trainee understand what needs to be improved and then have them do it again. This process should be repeated until the trainee can demonstrate the desired performance correctly.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Another step in the process would be to become. In other words making the new skill apart of who they are as employees.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Richard. I think I know what you mean, but don’t want to assume. Can you explain a bit more what you mean by that?

  3. I have seen in many organizations that training becomes a program that everyone participates in and then when the attention to the program ends so does the behavior. I have mentioned another step called “To Become” meaning that participants have internalized the new skill by becoming convinced of the new skill’s importance and desire to make sure, on their own, to use the new skill and adopt it as thier own.
    This step takes time to internalize and be adopted. New skills taught should become expected new behavior to always be retianed and not forgotten.

  4. Richard – got it! Thank you. Yes, I see that happening a lot.

    Perhaps one of the biggest problems is we design training to be an event. In other words, the training is considered done when the event is complete. I prefer to design training as a process that’s not finished until participants are actually using the new skills.


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