A number of organisations spend big on customer service training with the hope that the business will benefit in terms of new business and customer retention. However, in reality, the benefits are very minimal if any. The reason why customer service does not work in most cases is due to the approach used to deal with customer service issues.
The first challenge is how we define customer service and what causes the poor service. In the majority of cases, we rush to train people when the problem has nothing to do with the people concerned. In some cases, we train people because your competitors are doing so. There is popular customer service training program locally that have been embraced by people when there is no value and a lot of organisations are going back to the drawing board.
Before you train your people on customer service, be sure there is a problem and that the training will solve the problem. Let us assume we have found that there is a problem with customer service and customers have complained about poor service. You need to go deeper to understand from the customer’s perspective the nature of the problems, for example, are the employees rude and unhelpful to customers when they need help, are employee failing to explain and solve customer queries due to lack of product knowledge, are the employees slow when servicing customers, are employees displaying an unhelpful attitude? You must also understand if the problem is coming from all the employees. Having answered this you are able to tailor make your training to the exact needs that will bring results.
Having dealt with the questions highlighted above, you need to go a step further. One important point to note is that before you spend money on training the best way to deal with customer service issues is to recruit and select employees who have the personality profile inclined to serve others. There are certain people who should never be in the role to meet or deal with your customers due to their personality makeup. Do a personality assessment of each person who is going to be dealing with your customers. So what kind of personality is required for someone who is going to be in customer service?
Please note that the personality profile of a customer service employee and someone in a sales or business development role are so different. Therefore, do not assume that a person who is good in sales will be good in customer service. A person in customer service must be an individual who is high on agreeableness (one of the big five personality dimensions.) These people are capable of taking negative feedback from customers without feeling negative about it. Such individuals have high frustration tolerance. They do not argue with the customer no matter how wrong the customer is. Even if the customer shouts at them, they maintain a genuine positive demeanour and tolerance. They use less aggression when handling issues. People who have an opposite personality to this should never be near your customers as they will not be able to provide good customer service. No matter how much training you offer such people they will not change. Remember personality is a permanent disposition that rarely changes.
The other type of personality that should never come close to your customers are those high in neuroticism. Such individuals are very volatile emotionally. They are less able to handle negative life events. These same people will shout at your customers at a slight provocation by the customer. Over and above the above personality dimension that are important for customer service staff you also need individuals who have high conscientiousness, as they are able to get the job done. Individuals low on conscientiousness, struggle to plan their work and get things done. You may also need to get individuals who have a high openness to experience and they are less rigid and accept new ways of doing things. The extroverted individual will likely be better at interacting with customers than introverts. As you can see from the above profile, there is an ideal personality profile for a customer service employee and that is the person you need to recruit first before you worry about training.
Over and above the right personality profile, you need to make sure the person has the right skills for the job. For example, if an individual is going to be a till operator, bank teller, or call centre staff where they are going to be operating machinery as they serve customers, you need to make sure they have certain abilities related to this job. As an example, no matter how pleasant or good customer oriented the individual is in any of the roles above, they will frustrate customers if they have poor perceptual speed and accuracy, poor hand-eye coordination, poor figure dexterity etc. These are a must-have for each of these roles. Select people who have such abilities at entry as you cannot train for such skills. How do you know if a person has such skills? That is the role of Psychologist to test such people using standardised assessments and match their profiles to the job.
Besides the above issues that need to be addressed before you waste money on training, you also need to assess the service climate in the organisation. Does the organisation have a service climate? This has nothing do to with the individual providing customer service. It has everything to do with the culture in the organisation, the policies and the values practised by the senior leadership in the organisation. If these are misaligned with the theme of customer service employees will struggle to provide the right customer service.
In other cases, poor customer service emanates from employees who have poor product knowledge. Instead of training those in customer care, educate them about your products and services. When armed with product knowledge employees are more confident to dialogue with clients.
In summary, before you train people on customer service first check if you have the right people in those roles. Check if the people have the right product knowledge to enable them to serve the customer well. Check if your organisation’s culture supports customer service. Check if the policies that you have are aligned with customer service or they are an impediment to customer service (as many of them are.) Finally yet importantly how authentic is the leadership in relation to customer service? When all these issues are addressed, you will save money instead of wasting money on training. Only train those that deserve to be trained that way you create value.
Memory Nguwi is an Occupational Psychologist, Data Scientist, Speaker, & Managing Consultant- Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. He is the president of the Zimbabwe Psychology Association. He hosts a radio program HR Perspective every Thursday at 1900hrs on Capitalk 100.4FM. https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/ Phone 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com