Customer Service Needs to be Taught

Shawnee Love   •   January 19, 2019

Over the past few weeks, I have encounter extremes in customer service in the shops and stores I frequent. From welcoming, helpful and efficient customer service to rude, incompetent and neglectful.

At both ends of the spectrum, I hold owners and managers accountable.  We need to teach our staff how we want them to represent our businesses (and us) in the market.  It’s our job to set expectations, teach staff how to meet them, and then hold them accountable.

Because customer service is not just common sense (which I hold to be as rare as unicorns), people have to be taught how to serve customers well. That means articulating the behaviours you expect including:

  • The words and tone to use when answering phones,
  • Email signatures and out of office email and voicemail messages,
  • How soon and how to greet a guest or customer who comes in your operation,
  • How to handle a complaint,
  • How to respond to a variety of inquiries about the product or company,
  • How to come up with solutions (within their sphere of responsibility), and
  • Many other behaviours depending upon the job and type of business.

It also helps if you explain the customer service policies which exist and the expectations for timing of responses, or service/ product deliveries.

There are plenty of people and organizations who provide basic customer service training and a worthwhile investment if you don’t have the tools to train in the basics yourself.

Once the basics are there, you can add on the specifics for your organization.

But be warned….

If you don’t teach your employees how you want them to deliver customer service, then the best you can hope for is what they learned elsewhere (i.e., from previous jobs and/or bosses, friends and colleagues).  If your new hire worked for Disney (or a similar star of customer service training and execution), then you can probably learn a few things from him or her regarding how to do customer service well. But for most organizations, customer service training is an afterthought or something new hires are left to pick up by osmosis from the people around them.  Unfortunately, on an increasing basis, I an encountering employees who despite positive role models, continue to behave as if they are immune to learning from more experienced co-workers. With these cases, spelling out the expectations very early in employment is imperative as is ensuring the employee can meet them. It also minimizes the likelihood that bad service will occur which as we all know, in this age of social media, riffs on bad service seem to go viral a heck of a lot more often than good examples.

Thus, I am an advocate for including customer service training in your orientation process (and perhaps even having a module on customer service in your operations or employee manual).  Teaching your people what customer service you expect as part of their new hire onboarding has two key benefits:

  1. Protecting your company’s reputation, and
  2. Immersing new hires in the organization (something necessary to successful retention and engagement).

Please comment if you have things to add.