Let’s confront the truth about customer service training.
The latest ATD State of the Industry report lists customer service training as the fifth most common training topic for U.S. companies. Despite widespread popularity, it often fails to help teams significantly improve their performance.
Many customer service managers describe a temporary bump:
- Employees attend training.
- They get motivated for a week or two.
- Gradually, they settle back into their old patterns.
You can avoid this problem and supercharge your customer service training by applying these six tips.
Tip #1: Target your needs
Skip the generic training. Send your team to a customer service program that targets their specific needs.
The best way to do this is to create a customized program in-house or hire a professional customer service trainer to assist you.
However, you can still customize your training even if you’re using an off-the-shelf product like my Customer Service Fundamentals course on Lynda.com.
- Determine your team’s specific training needs.
- Select the modules that are most appropriate.
- Hold follow-up discussions to help your team make the modules relevant to them.
Tip #2: Prepare your team
Make sure your employees are fully committed to the training. One way to do this is to focus on how the training can help them do their jobs.
I always ask my clients to make sure their employees can answer these three questions before the training begins:
- What’s the training about?
- How is it relevant to me?
- How will I be able to apply what I learn back on the job?
Tip #3: Follow-up
Researchers estimate that as much as 50 percent of learning happens after the training class. That’s when employees try out their new skills. In many causes, employees need support and encouragement to change old habits.
This makes it critical to incorporate some sort of follow-up activity to help them out.
- Review topics in team meetings
- Provide individual feedback
- Subscribe employees to the Customer Service Tip of the Week newsletter
Tip #4: Make sure it’s a training need
Before sending employees to training, make sure training is what they really need. Many customer service problems are misdiagnosed as a training issue. In many cases, another issue is the real problem.
Examples include a poor product, an unfriendly policy, or a toxic culture. Whatever the cause, your service can only be as good as the weakest link in the chain.
Tip #5: Eliminate role-playing
There’s a persistent myth that role-playing is an effective customer service training method. It’s not.
Role-playing actually hurts learning because it divides the employee’s attention between learning the new skill and acting out a role. To make matters worse, most employees don't enjoy it.
You can fix this problem by utilizing an experiential learning approach that helps employees apply new skills in a realistic setting.
Tip #6: Follow the 70-20-10 rule
A 2009 study by the American Society for Training and Development popularized what’s now known as the 70-20-10 rule for training.
- 70% of learning comes from experience
- 20% of learning comes from your boss
- 10% of learning comes from formal training
The percentages aren’t hard and fast, but the concept is illuminating. Since formal customer service training only accounts for 10% of learning, leadership messages and on-the-job experience need to be aligned with the training or the training will fail.
You can fix this problem by ensuring that formal learning, leadership, and on-the-job experiences are all pointing employees in the same direction.
- Ask employees to help create the training
- Run a pilot program so participants can tell their peers about the results
- Use the Workshop Planner to map out ways to involve the team
Customer service training can make a big difference when done right.
One client recently leveraged the Delivering Next Level Service program to help achieve a 93 percent customer satisfaction rating. Training was a big part of their success strategy, but they incorporated many other steps to achieve their goals.