The 5 W’s of World Class Customer Service Training
The preamble to the United States Constitution begins, ‘we, the people.’ I feel strongly that we, the people, are what make the difference in life, both personally and professionally.
The interaction anyone has at any level with your employees, including you, gives a customer-- whether current, potential, internal or external--an opportunity to make a judgment about you, your company, all companies like yours. I’m not just talking about call centers here-- anyone who is in the customer service business period.
With continued focus on customer satisfaction, customer retention, and lifetime value of the customer, it is no surprise that contact center operations continue to increase in importance as the primary hub of a customer’s experience. For the customer, the person on the other end of the phone is the company. The contact center is still the most common way that customers get in touch with businesses. It’s been reported that 70 to 90 percent of what happens with customers is driven by human nature, having nothing to do with technology.
In the food industry, the word ‘lagniappe’ is often used. Its definition is "a small present given to a customer with a purchase. For example, when you go to the bakery and buy a dozen donuts or bagels, you oftentimes get a ‘free’ one or a baker’s dozen. That’s what customer service should be about--giving the customer more than they expected! Let’s bring lagniappe into the contact center industry.
If we’re going to speak about world class customer service, let’s have a working definition so we’re all on the same page. Customer service is those activities provided by a company’s employees that enhance the ability of a customer to realize the full potential value of a product or service before and after the sale is made, thereby leading to satisfaction and repurchase.
Let’s look at the first W which is Why?
The state of customer service today is not good, be it over the phone or self service. Because 92% of people feel their call experience is important in shaping the image of a company, this reinforces the importance of centers in branding the image of their companies.
In a Mobius Management Systems Survey, here’s what happened because of poor customer service:
- 60 percent cancelled accounts with banks
- 36 percent changed insurance providers
- 40 percent changed telephone companies
- 35 percent changed credit card providers
- 375 changed Internet service providers
Are you one of these statistics? I certainly am.
Strategies for success for world class service should include:
- Respond promptly
- Handle requests through the customers’ choice of medium
- Be brief and clear
- Reduce back and forth communications (especially in writing, i.e., email, kick it up to a phone call if it goes beyond two)
- Personalized service
- Delight the customer
What do we mean by delighting the customer?
- Inform and educate them
- Establish your expertise and professionalism
- Offer options
- Diffuse upset, anger, when and if necessary
- Escalate, if required
- Take Ownership of the call
Remember we’re still on the first W – the Why. Today’s pressures on agents are different than in the past. They are asked to handle more customer, more volume, more complex and/or complicated calls. After all if we could handle our issues with self service, we probably would not call. But if we tried self service and it didn’t work, now we’re upset and it’s an escalated call from the get go.
They’re asked to provide more information, do it faster and be available and accessible. But they are to lower costs, generate revenue, incorporate new technologies, ensure closure and commitment, deliver ‘great’ service and when? Yesterday, of course.
The No. 2 W is Who should be trained?
We suggest front line agents/representatives, supervisors, team lads, managers, assistant managers, internal customers and other departments – anyone who is a touch point so that they can learn to speak the same language, and more importantly, not be in an adversarial position, but rather, together they are serving the external customer or end user.
The No. 3 W is Where should the training take place: offsite vs. onsite? There are advantages and disadvantages for both.
Certainly it is most cost effective to have training on site. However, distractions are rampant as is the participant’s availability to a person or problem.
Offsite is more costly. However, there are no distractions and the participants are unavailable to other departments, their managers, or any issues. I believe there is psychic value in taking people away from their work stations and off site to acknowledge the touch jobs they have.
The No. 4 W is What should be included in any training? We believe the following points provide a robust, powerful, and succinct training curriculum:
- Quality Customer Service
- Customer Expectations
- Perception Shifting
- Anger Management
- Stress Reduction
- Change Management
- Communication/Listening Skills
Further suggested is university certification to up the ante. The more professionally you treat your employees, the more professionally they will treat your customers.
The No. 5 W is When. We say for new hires, monthly, consistently, whenever change occurs, when stressors increase, and as needed.
We believe each employee should be given a minimum of 24 hours per year of ongoing training, spread out over time. We divide our trainings into two four hour sessions per day and deliver 6 days per employee. If there has been no ongoing training, we deliver four days once a month for four months and then a session three months later, and then another three months later. In this manner, training is customized, in real time, and can address whatever challenges are presented when they occur.