Why Customer Service Training Fails and How to Avoid It

Why Customer Service Training Fails and How to Avoid It

Today we are excited to share with you a guest blog from Jeff Toister.

Experienced customer service managers give it two weeks.

That’s the maximum amount of time you see employees increase their effort and service focus immediately after the typical customer service training class. However, it is often much less.

Most employees have good intentions. Usually, the training just doesn’t stick or it’s not powerful enough to override ingrained habits. In some instances, employees resent having to go to training and consider it a waste of time, so they don’t bother applying any new skills.

I’ve facilitated thousands of customer service training workshops over more than 20 years. During that time, there is one lesson I’m forced to acknowledge—most customer service training fails to generate a lasting improvement in service.

That’s the bad news. On the bright side, the good news is that there are clear reasons why the training fails. Here are the top three and what you can do to avoid them.

#1 No Goals

Many customer service training requests I receive are too vague.

One client told me she wanted her team to get back to the basics. Another client asked for help serving angry customers. Still another client wanted his employees to deliver world class service.

The challenge with all of these requests is they are ill-defined. When pressed for details, each of these clients struggled to articulate precisely what they wanted their employees to learn or what specifically they wanted employees to do.

You must set clear goals before you schedule customer service training. Without them, the training becomes generic or even random.

For example, my “back to basics” client went back to her executive team and asked them to define the basic customer service skills they felt employees were lacking. The leaders soon realized there were many differences of opinion regarding these skills, even among themselves!

The leadership decided to put the training on hold and work with employees to create clear and specific service standards. Once they complete this process, the organization will be able to set much clearer goals for training.

#2 No Buy-In

There are two groups where a lack of buy-in can sink a training initiative.

The first group is the employees who are being sent to training. Imagine an employee attending a customer service training class merely because her boss told her to be there.

Employees in this situation are unprepared for learning and might even be uninterested. They’re not sure what specific knowledge or skills to concentrate on. Some employees even think they’re being sent to the training class as a form of punishment for doing something wrong.

Your training participants should know the answer to three questions before training begins:

  1. What is the training about?
  2. Why are we doing it?
  3. How will I be able to apply what I learn back at work?

Which brings us to the second group that needs to buy-in—managers.

Employees take their cue from the boss. That means the boss needs to whole-heartedly champion a training initiative or else employees will think the training isn’t really important.

The best customer service leaders take the training right alongside their employees to send the message that the training is worthwhile. This also helps the manager know how to reinforce the specific content learned in training once the training has ended.

#3 No Follow-Up

We’re conditioned to think the training ends when the class is over.

There’s an evaluation form to fill out. A definite end time. Some classes even provide a certificate of completion.

In truth, the training has only just begun. The real learning happens when employees go back to work and apply their new skills. Here, a lack of follow-up can ruin even the best training program.

For example, imagine a training class on serving angry customers. Employees might hear about a few new techniques. They might discuss their own experience and then participate in a role play.

None of that matters if they don’t use those new skills the next time they serve a real-life angry person. The tough part of the equation is employees won’t encounter an angry customer until after the training program has ended.

This is where follow-up is critical.

A manager, trainer, or mentor should be available to help employees apply what they learn. In the case of an angry customer, did the employee try new skills? Which skills worked? Which did not?

There are many questions that require reflection, coaching, and additional development.

Conclusion

Customer service training typically requires a large investment in time, money, and resources.

There’s too much on the line not to do this right. Setting clear goals, getting employees (and their managers) to buy-in, and providing structured follow-up should be an integral part of any training initiative.

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Jeff Toister helps customer service teams unlock their hidden potential. He is the best selling author of The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service. More than 140,000 people on six continents have taken his video-based training courses on LinkedIn Learning (a.k.a. Lynda.com). Jeff also holds a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification from the Association for Talent Development. Jeff Toister

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