In all of history, it has never been more important to properly train customer service than it is right now. The speed at which bad news can spread to other potential customers is measured in seconds, not days or weeks as it was ten years ago. According to Socialnomics by Eric Qualman:
- 60 million status updates happen on Facebook daily
- If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest – just behind China and India
- It took radio 34 years to reach 50 million users; Facebook added over 200 million in less than one year
- There are currently over 200 million blogs on the internet
- 34% of bloggers post opinions on products and brands – that’s 68 million
Do you like what people are saying about your brand?
As Qualman says, Word of Mouth has become World of Mouth. There are posts all over the internet about how to be prepared for a social media disaster. The best solution? Do your best to not have one in the first place. How do you do that? Train your people well.
There are some key things to remember when training customer service skills and standards to new staff.
- Avoid slogans. Slogans are dumb and they do little to motivate people. I talking things like: There is only one boss, the customer, or The customer pays our paycheck, or Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. These and others like them just don’t work anymore. They are tired and worn out.
- Use stories. Jesus Christ is widely considered to be the greatest teacher in recorded history. There is a reason he used parables to convey his lessons. Stories are memorable. They help the learner empathize with the main character and internalize the message. They provide a way to relate to material that no lecture can. All training needs more stories.
- Role play. Nothing can replace experience, but you don’t want new staff fumbling with real customers. Get experienced employees to play the role of customer and use scenarios they actually faced. Then, if the new staff really foul things up, they are doing it in a safe place.
- Have clear policies. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given as a young manager was to tell my staff that up to $100, they could do anything they felt was necessary to make a customer happy. It gave them guidelines and protected the company from excessive cost. 15 years after I told my staff that, one of them came back and thanked me for being so trusting and giving them the freedom to help people. The key? Clear, simple, understandable policies, with a healthy dose of trust thrown in.
- Be forgiving. There is an old story about Jack Welch, in his time at GE as CEO. One of his Vice Presidents made a mistake that cost the company $300,000. After it came out, Jack walked into the VP’s office to find him packing his belongings . When he asked what the VP was doing, the VP responded that he thought he was fired and he was packing up. Jack said something like “Fired? I just spent $300,000 training you.” Forgive and retrain as necessary.
- Don’t assume knowledge. Common sense isn’t common. People often don’t know what we think they know. Check for understanding throughout the training to ensure the new staff members are getting it. Any teacher will tell you there are stupid questions and there are stupid people. But that doesn’t mean we can leave them behind. You hired them. Give them a fair chance to succeed.
- Allow enough time. There are some subjects you can rush through – customer service is not one of them. Too much permanent damage can be done by a well-intentioned employee without the proper training.
By following these seven keys when training customer service, and combining them with a well thought out training plan, you can better prepare your staff for the bumpy roads that lie ahead.