By Bryan K. Williams
It’s amazing how many companies waste their time and money on customer service training. Year after year these companies bring their staff together for an annual meeting. At these meetings, a hired speaker or company leader gives a keynote about exceptional customer service, and depending on the effectiveness of the speaker, the audience may genuinely be motivated. Hey, they might even learn a tip or two. Then…nothing. The staff returns to work, and absolutely nothing is different. The leaders hope that this periodic training will be enough to create a strong culture. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, if you are completely confused, I understand. After all, I am a customer service speaker, author, and consultant. I’ve written two books on the topic and have travelled the world providing the same customer service training that I’m railing against. So what’s the point?
Customer service training IS a complete waste of time and money…Unless…
There must be a clear plan in place to immediately reinforce the training points. The plan must include a process for daily reinforcement of the service message. After all, if you want your team to focus on service everyday, then the leaders have to talk about it. How often? Everyday.
The plan should also have processes for weekly or even monthly reinforcement. An example is to solicit and collect examples of service stories from your staff. Then, share those stories with everyone. You may even collect the best ones and compile an annual WOW book that can be shared with new employees, existing employees, and even in your marketing collateral.
Leaders must consistently model the service they expect to see. Now, I don’t just mean with customers. I also mean with their staff. If we are getting right down to the core of what service is, it means that you care for people, honor people and love people. Regardless if that person is called a co-worker, direct report, manager or guest.
Leaders must hold their staff accountable for consistently communicated service expectations. The key in the preceding sentence is, “consistently communicated”. If you don’t regularly communicate an expectation, then it won’t be perceived as a priority. And if it’s not a priority, then it’s unfair to hold someone accountable for it.
To be clear, when you organize service training for your staff, there is a silent hope amongst the staff, that things will be different. Yes, this time, the leadership will set high standards and not deviate from them. This time, they will model the service they expect to see. Even if your staff is a self-motivated group, it’s very hard to be consistently motivated if mediocrity is consistently tolerated.
So, customer service training really can be a powerful tool to help develop, transform and elevate your service culture. However, the training, by itself, will not create a sustainable behavior change on your team. Only constant reinforcement will. The training is the seed, and the daily reinforcement is the watering needed to grow the strong service team you are striving for.
My challenge to you is never again spend time and money on service training unless you are absolutely committed to daily reinforcement, daily modeling and daily accountability. Once the leader’s commitment is there, success is inevitable.