One of the biggest issues with customer service training – all training, in fact – is that it often doesn’t ‘stick.’ To steal from John Wanamaker’s famous quote about advertising, “Half the money I spend on training is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Over the last 25 years of our company’s work in customer service consulting and training in virtually every industry out there, I’ve seen my of share spectacular successes. I’ve also seen far too many initiatives that just didn’t seem to go anywhere. There are a lot of reasons this can happen, but here are the top three:
1. The Training is Unsupported
Repeat after me: “Training cannot change behavior. Training cannot change behavior. Training cannot change behavior. Training cannot change behavior.” Now say this again a thousand times more.
Training can transfer knowledge and introduce skills. It can provide a forum for discussion, practice and new perspectives. If it is good training, it can motivate, stimulate, energize and create a desire to change. But actually changing performance in a live environment only happens when four other conditions exist:
- The individuals are willing to change
- The new behaviors are mandated, measured and supported by leadership
- The company’s processes and policies are changed to mirror and support the expectations of the employees
- The company is willing to stay focused on the new expectations – not for days, weeks or months – but for years
Unfortunately, most companies see training people as though it were re-wiring a house – thinking that once you’ve done it, you’re set for life. Sorry folks, we humans take a bit longer to re-wire.
2. Your Employees Aren’t Taking Customer Service Training Seriously
In many ways, customer service is one of the hardest things to train. Not because the individual skill sets are hard to understand or execute, but because so many people believe:
a) They’re already amazing at customer service;
b) Customer service is unnecessary ‘fluff’, or;
c) A combination of ‘a’ and ‘b’.
Now, if these same people get the sense that their leadership isn’t really championing it or taking it seriously, you have a recipe for indifference.
3. Your Training is Lousy
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “It’s just common sense,” in reference to how simple someone thinks customer service training is, I’d own several of my own private tropical islands. The truth is, there is a lot of horrible customer service training out there (often created by the people referenced above). It is either simplistic, condescending and trite, or focused on things that the audience really doesn’t care much about – but the trainer and training designers think they should care about.
Customer Service Training Is about getting people excited at the prospect of connecting with other human beings in a positive manner
Good customer service training is only partly about the skills and behaviors that create wonderful customer experiences. The other part is about getting people excited at the prospect of connecting with other human beings in a positive manner. It’s about connecting with the audience in the same way we want our employees to connect with their customers. It’s about appealing to peoples’ emotions.
Because of this, good customer service training needs to have solid content, and amazing delivery. The trainer can’t just be a ‘trainer’, or a teacher or a facilitator – he (she) needs to be part evangelist, part salesperson and part entertainer. He needs to connect with the audience at a level far beyond rote skills and best-practice content.
The Payoff To Great Training Is Huge
Great customer service training, when all of these roadblocks are removed, can have immediate and profound results that can be measured in a myriad of ways. The payoffs in relation to the costs are absolutely huge. Poor, or even mediocre customer service training, can actually have a negative effect if employees perceive that their tie is being wasted.
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, a global leader in customer service training, measurement and consulting.