Ensuring Your Customer Service Initiative Will Be Successful: The Third Key


Share on LinkedIn

In pre­vi­ous parts of this series I’ve touched on the impor­tance of man­ager INTENT and how under­stand­ing and act­ing from intent will inspire your team. And I’ve talked about the impact of empow­er­ing your teams and ways to enable them.

The next key ele­ment – one that if imple­mented will ensure your strat­egy takes hold and flour­ishes – is to pro­vide “proper training.”

I recently came across an inter­est­ing post from Ben Horowitz who is cur­rently a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist but wrote the arti­cle, “Why it’s Cru­cial to Train Your Employ­ees” from the per­spec­tive of being the for­mer Direc­tor of Prod­uct Man­age­ment at Netscape. The arti­cle includes a quote from Andy Grove, for­mer CEO of Intel, from his book “High Out­put Management.”

“Most man­agers seem to feel that train­ing employ­ees is a job that should be left to oth­ers. I, on the other hand, strongly believe that the man­ager should do it him­self.”                                                                                              – Andy Grove

Although I might have added a “her­self” in there, the point is that man­agers have a lot to share and a lot rid­ing on the suc­cess of their teams so they should invest time train­ing their people.

Three impor­tant points were made in the article….

One of the things he pointed out, and I agree with whole heart­edly, is that if you don’t train your peo­ple, you have no basis for man­ag­ing their per­for­mance.

Hir­ing for cus­tomer ser­vice atti­tude is impor­tant but when it comes to cus­tomer ser­vice skills and, in par­tic­u­lar, any skills nec­es­sary to imple­ment your cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy – you bet­ter lay out your expec­ta­tions and train your team for the job.

Pro­vid­ing good, job spe­cific train­ing that sup­ports your cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy not only gives every­one a com­mon ser­vice vocab­u­lary and lets every­one prac­tice that which is required,  it also helps retain talent.

At Netscape, for exam­ple, Mr. Horowitz found that one of the two pri­mary rea­sons peo­ple quit the com­pany was “They weren’t learn­ing any­thing – the com­pany wasn’t invest­ing in the employees.”

Job train­ing is an impor­tant part of any employee reten­tion program.

Employ­ees notice when their com­pany makes an effort to give them some­thing that’s going to help them do their jobs bet­ter. They notice any sort of atten­tion and most respond with increased effort and enthu­si­asm. If they don’t, well, they may not be a good fit for the job.

The last point I took from the article—one that sup­ports this key ele­ment for imple­ment­ing a suc­cess­ful, last­ing cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy – was  to pro­vide proper train­ing or beware the mess you may have on your hands if you don’t.

Let me explain what I mean with an exam­ple. I was just talk­ing with a hi-tech client who bemoaned the chal­lenges that come with rapid growth. She wasn’t unhappy with the growth, just the headaches that came with it. The Horowitz arti­cle men­tioned the same thing. New engi­neers are some­times hired and set loose to fix bugs and write new code with­out any­one tak­ing time to let them know how code has been writ­ten in the past or the whys and where­fores of the archi­tec­ture – which leads to (and I quote) “incon­sis­ten­cies in the user expe­ri­ence, per­for­mance prob­lems, and a gen­eral mess.”

The same thing can hap­pen with ser­vice skills. We all know that the floor cre­ates its own rules if left in a vac­uum. Cre­ativ­ity reigns but it can be a mess  with incon­sis­ten­cies in the way things are han­dled and even the infor­ma­tion that’s given to customers.

For me, proper train­ing means that the train­ing fits the ini­tia­tive or job to be done and pre­pares the trainee in a mean­ing­ful way to do his or her job bet­ter than before the training.

At Impact proper train­ing trans­lates to “prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice” espe­cially if com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are involved. Don’t tell me what you’d do, let me hear what you’d say. Talk to me. Role play with me. I can hear the groans from those of you who would rather visit the den­tist than role play but, let’s face it, it is the sin­gle best and safest way to build con­fi­dence.  And, yes, I’m talk­ing about mon­i­tored prac­tice  fol­lowed by imme­di­ate feed­back not just get­ting into tri­ads to role play and using old inef­fec­tive (but totally comfy) habits. The idea is to build con­scious competence.

But there are other cre­ative ways to deliver results that don’t always involve eLearn­ing or a classroom.

For exam­ple, for a cus­tomer ser­vice ini­tia­tive aimed at show­ing cus­tomers you care, which approach do you think might be a more fit­ting and mean­ing­ful activ­ity for the team—to really get them ready to show they want to help cus­tomers? A ded­i­cated trainer like the one here on the left who is ready and able to explain what to do and why it’s impor­tant using great hand­outs and really inter­est­ing Pow­er­Point slides?  Or an assign­ment like the one pic­tured on the right that chal­lenges reps to go out and do ran­dom acts of kind­ness… like car­ry­ing gro­ceries for some­one or donat­ing cloth­ing to a shel­ter or serv­ing a meal at a soup kitchen.

This activ­ity, by the way, was some­thing a call cen­ter in Canada did as part of their new hire train­ing. It report­edly not only had an incred­i­ble impact on the reps but it also had a very pos­i­tive effect on the company’s rep­u­ta­tion in the com­mu­nity. To learn more about this idea, check out my blog post on the secret value of unortho­dox cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing at Impact’s blog.

The third key ele­ment that has to be in place in order to ensure suc­cess­ful imple­men­ta­tion of your cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy is to “pro­vide proper train­ing” – train­ing that let’s your staff know what you want, what you don’t want, how to do it, and gives ample prac­tice to build confidence.

Here are some ques­tions to consider:

  • What does a rep need to be able to DO to sup­port your cus­tomer ser­vice strategy?
  • What does he or she need to KNOW?
  • Does your train­ing address those two things?
  • What can be done dif­fer­ently to make it even more relevant?

MONITORING and GIVING FEEDBACK is the fourth key ele­ment and I’ll talk about best prac­tices in the next part of this series.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Monica Postell
Customer Satisfaction Expert @ Impact Learning Systems | Instructional Designer | Performance Improvement Specialist | Call Center Consultant | Artist | Global citizen and world traveler making the world a better place once class at a time.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here