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No One Really Needs Customer Service Training

I got a call the other day from someone visiting my website wanting to know if I offered customer service training. We had a nice conversation and before it was over the prospect and I agreed that there were deeper, underlying issues causing the service problems that needed to be addressed first.

We’re meeting next week to discuss the best approach to solve those problems.

Then, after hanging up the phone, it hit me!

No one really needs customer service training.

Especially from an outside consultant or trainer (with all due respect to my colleagues whom I know are great at delivering that type of training).

I mean, think about it!

What do company leaders want to see in most customer service trainings? Teach our people to be nice to the strangers that come in to use our service or buy our products.

Adults need to be trained to do this?

Please!

By the time you’re old enough to vote, you should know how to be nice to a stranger that wants to learn more about what you can do to help them solve a problem or serve a need.

What are the fundamentals of customer service, anyway?

  • Smile,
  • Make eye contact,
  • Repeat the person’s name in the conversation to make them feel comfortable,
  • Call people back in a timely manner to respond to their inquiry or request.

What else is there that someone needs to do to provide “customer service?”

Do you really need to pay someone from the outside, pay your employees to sit in a training room for a 1/2-day or even a full-day, pay for a catered lunch,and an off-site hotel training room, to teach people the fundamentals of treating strangers nicely?

I would argue anything over and above that has nothing to do with “customer service” per se, and everything to do with company culture and its Values, Vision and Purpose.

What flows from that may be a unique, differentiating customer service approach that clearly defines a company’s brand, such as a Ritz Carlton Hotels, a Disney or a Zappos.com,

But, that’s not basic customer service training. That’s company exclusive customer service policy, procedures, standards and expectations.

No one needs customer service training. If they do, you shouldn’t hire them. If they do they shouldn’t get past the first five minutes of the job interview process.

But, that’s just me.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Outstanding customer service comes when a company focuses on the fundamentals of creating a “championship culture.” There are 3 key strategies every business must follow, you can learn more about “The 3 Strategies of Champion Organizations: The Secrets to Creating a Highly Motivated, High Performance Work Environment that Delivers Champion Level Results” at this link and download a free white paper that outlines the whole process.

’til next time. Have a great weekend!

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results

 

 

There are 12 comments. Add yours.

  1. This is a great post- and one I’m glad to see someone say this “out loud.”

    I struggle with this issue regularly with my clients. They want me to “fix” the employee. No amount of training is going to fix a bad hire. You’re right, we shouldn’t have to teach someone basic customer service. Most basic customer service is simply the good manners we learned as children. Occasionally, people do sometimes need gentle reminders, as I noted in my blog post yesterday, “Is Please Still the Magic Word?”

    I do think advanced skills, such as resolving complaints and dealing with difficult or angry customers, may need to be taught–even to a good hire. However, for those employees who hate their jobs and see customers as an inconvenience, training is a waste of time and money for the client.

    A better investment for the client would be to provide training to the hiring managers in behavioral interviewing and other aspects of selecting the right candidate for the job.

    • Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert

      Amy,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Definitely agree there is a second level of communication training to deal with difficult or angry customers, resolve complains without giving away the store and conveying the message that “the customer isn’t always right, and let them know that and still keep the customer,” etc.

      You also make a good point that often how employees treat customers is a reflection of how organizational leaders/managers treat the employees. I think more emphasis needs to be placed on “internal” customer service (how employees are treated within their own work environment and how they serve each other), to build positive morale, motivation and attitudes, and that would go a long way towards raising the bar on “external” customer service.

      Here are two other blog posts that speak to those issues:
      “What’s More Important “Internal” customer service,” or “External” customer service?

      “Southwest Airlines President Speaks on “Servant Leadership”

      Thanks, again, Amy, for stopping by, commenting and adding value here, please come back again!
      Skip

  2. Cindy Stearns

    Just today I had 6 employees helping to fix another department’s mistake on a high profile project for the President of the University that had to be completed in 2 hours. 1/2 of the group thought if they did the project 95% it was “good enough” and the other 1/2 knew it had to be perfect and actually took tweezers to remove the little “hanging chads” left behind. These 3 did that not because it was the President’s project but because it was the right thing to do! Doing what’s right for the customer even if it takes more time is GREAT customer service.

    • Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert

      Cindy,
      Thanks for adding value to the discussion. So, the big question is, what is it about the 3 that went the extra mile that allowed (caused) them to do so? What prevented the others from not seeing the value in it?

  3. Skip,
    Having lived and worked in the States under normal circumstances I would agree with you entirely.
    Enough people in the USA understand the nuts and bolts of customer service so it should only be necessary to hire people who are not curmudgeons and are pleasant to be around.
    Step outside of your borders as many US multinationals have to do and you will find these assumptions about customer service and how people should behave tested to destruction.
    A call to the old British Airways customer service centre used to be greeted by someone who would growl the word “Reservations” at you in a tone that suggested that they would have preferred you to find a Japanese Samurai sword and commit Seppuku(ritual disembowelment).
    Go to a British supermarket and you will have food literally thrown at you as fast as you can bag it,stand by the self service area barcoding your own purchases and try to ask a question and much of the time you will meet with studied indifference.
    Better still try telephoning your local police station if you live in a market town 36 miles out of London as I do.
    Probably your local police station will have been closed so your call will be routed to a call centre whose workers will make you feel that you are a suspect and that you are bothering them.
    Even in large hotels,(I travel quite a bit to see clients),unless it is a Marriot or a Holiday Inn you will feel like a time traveler watching people in slow motion almost as if you were watching a plant grow from seed on a David Attenborough nature programme fimed using time lapsed photography.
    The operation of the till and the speed at which your credit card is processed is however so fast that you would think the receptionist was a stage magician pulling rabbits out of a top hat.
    Go across the Channel to France and whilst there will be service it will usually not be with a smile and in some establishments waiters will make you feel(or try to),that it is a great privelege to be allowed to eat in their restaurant.
    As I travel more widely I see more of this sort of thing although there are exceptions like the local garage I use for servicing my car and a particularly good Indian restaurant where I know the owner.
    In most large establishments,store chains,local government,the tax authorities,smaller hotels etc I think they not only need customer service training but business process re-engineering of their brains to boot.

  4. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert

    John,
    Thank you for your comprehensive comments regarding the state of customer service internationally. I agree alot of what you said. In vacationing in Australia in 2010 my wife and I experienced outstanding service in virtually every location, in 2080 in Paris I definitely noticed much of the indifference you mention regarding service in the French restaurants, although in visiting and touring Normandy we found excellent interaction with smaller, bed and breakfast proprietors and tour guides, etc.
    Thanks, again for your comments, please come back and continue to add value to these discussions.
    Skip

  5. People absolutely need customer service training. They either need it or need to be reminded. Inconsideration, bad behavior and rudeness is at an all time high.

  6. I believe that Amy says it well in her comment that it is about good manners. Its the things that they teach you in kindergarten, like wash your hands before eating and leaving the loo or saying please and thank you. We just dont do it. Its common sense stuff!

    There are however far deeper structural issues at play that impacts service. I think that customer service is impacted by the values and culture of organisations. When an organisation places little or no value on its employees, their (employees) resulting service to the most valuable customer will reflect how THEY are valued and affirmed. If they are valued in the organisation, it will reflect how they perform and serve your customer. Simple.

    No amount of customer service learning, no matter how brilliant will solve this. If the structural issues in the organisation are not in place and your EVP is just lip service, you will experience “Revenue Leakage” through poor customer service. It will show up in your bottom line, but it is an intangible, sometimes seen, but always felt through the feet that walk away from your Value Offering no matter how brilliant.

    If you look at successful organisations, key to their success is the “happy quotient” of their employees. You cant beat that for building a brilliant service ethic for your organisation. We all know the Mahatma Ghandhi quote. I want to share the foundation that talks to the lived value of “the customer is the most important visitor to your premises” It goes something like this:

    “The employee is the most important investment in your organisation. They are not dependent on you, you are dependent upon them. They are not an interruption to your leadership they are the purpose of it. They are not tradable commodities of your business, they are your business. We are not doing them a favour by giving them a job they are doing us a favour by sharing the depth of their gifts and talents by serving the most important visitor to your premises. Your customers. The value experience that your customers receive is a direct reflection of the value the employee receives from your organisation and from your leadership.”
    (taken from “Leading the Future:The Impact of a Business Ego-Culture as anathema to Talent: http://www.commonsense.blogspot.com)

    Thanks for raising an issue that should be close to the heart if every organisation in the way that you articulaed it.

    Derrek

  7. Skip is 100 percent correct. If a company wants to use customer service as a competitive differentiator, they need to hire the right people. People that will automatically make the customer feel welcomed, important and appreciated,…. not because they went through a training class, but rather because they enjoy helping people. Delivering good customer service is about “helping” . Everything else is secondary. Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention

  8. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert

    Richard,
    Thank you for stopping by and being inspired to leave a comment. I also am pleased you agree with my concept. As I believe I articulated above I think customer service has to be an integrated part of an organization’s culture and is integrated from the very beginning stages of interaction with potential team members during the hiring process.

    You are welcome to come back and add value to the discussion anytime, thanks, again!
    Skip

  9. Brandon W

    Skip,

    What you are saying does make sense, however it appears that you (and the rest of your supporters)need a little enlightenment on the subject of customer service! Yes, you do need to smile, make eye contact, uses names twice, and resolve issues, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Service is how you deliver a certain product to the consumer, however, hospitality is how you make that consumer FEEL as a result of that delivery. The goal of great customer service is to make your guests feel a sense of community with your business. In a hotel, truly great customer service is being able to read a guests body language and respond accordingly, always providing solutions to their problems, knowing your area to provide the most accurate answers and suggestions, going the extra mile to provide and memorable stay for each and every guest so that they become ADVOCATES of your property. The majority of hotels and restaurants do not have the luxury of choosing the perfect candidate. The hiring process should not only be looking for someone who already knows great customer service, but should be looking for someone with the determined motivation to LEARN it.

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