Customer service has become the dominant driver in businesses across all categories. And more and more companies are investing in customer service training programs. But what should a customer service training program look like? Whether you are developing the program internally for your company, or contracting an outside training firm to build and deliver it, here are the eight must-haves to make it successful:
1. An entertaining trainer
While instructional designers might take issue, this is unquestionably the most important element in a customer service training program. A large part of customer service delivery is about attitude, passion and the ability to connect with people. The trainer has to be able to display all that and then some.
2. Content that targets non-negotiable customer service behaviours
Before you begin your program, decide what behaviors are non-negotiable and target them. Don’t just throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks – pick 3-5 core things, and drive them home.
3. Content that is not cutesy
Far too many customer service training programs are built around awkward acronyms. Someone comes up with a word, like “Stellar Service”, then tries to turn ‘stellar’ into a training program: (“S”ay hello; “T”ake your time; “E”voke a response; etc…). This approach is absolutely unproductive. Choose the content based on “2” above. Period. If it coincidentally turns into an acronym, that’s fine – but don’t build your content around a random acronym. This is too important to play games with.
4. Content that includes service recovery skills
“Wow” customer service is often thought of as people going ‘above and beyond.’ Research tells us that this is not usually the case. Service that creates positive word of mouth is most often when a bad experience gets turned into a positive one. That’s a critical set of skills that needs to be in every training program
5. A format that is 85% interactive
Lecture is not an appropriate delivery mechanism for customer service training. We are, after all, talking about interpersonal skills here. Get interpersonal!
6. Delivery that’s not cutesy
Too many trainers rely on games and ‘icebreakers’ that seem to come out of a 3rd grade classroom. Exercises need to be plentiful – but enjoyable on an adult level. The moment people feel an exercise is trite or simplistic, the whole program begins to lose credibility.
7. Mechanisms to transfer skills into practice
Customer service skills, at their core, are often perceived as ‘common sense.’ Because of this, people often believe “I already do that,” and consequently don’t make the effort to change behaviors in the live environment. Make sure your program has built-in mechanisms and metrics for measuring and promoting performance. Rewards, consequences, etc.
8. Participation by everyone
Customer service delivery has to be consistent throughout an organization. If you really want to send the message that everyone is involved and buying in, everyone, from the CEO on down, has to be part of it.