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The 5 W's of World Class Customer Service Training

Jan 29, 2008
The preamble to the United States Constitution begins, 'We, the people.' I feel strongly that we, the people, are what make the difference in life, both personally and professionally.

The interaction anyone has at any level with your company, your employees, including you, gives a customer-- whether current, potential, or internal or external--an opportunity to make a judgment about you, your company, all companies like yours in the industry.

With continued focus on customer satisfaction, customer retention, and lifetime value of the customer, it is no surprise that contact center operations continue to increase in importance as the primary hub of a customer's experience. For the customer, the person on the other end of the phone is the company. The contact center is still the most common way that customers get in touch with businesses. In fact, Gartner reports 92% of all contact is still through the center. And its been reported that 70% to 90% of what happens with customers is driven by human nature, having nothing to do with technology. State of the art technology is certainly a necessity today, but it is meant to enable human endeavors, not to disable them.

I often talk about taking customer service and kicking it up a notch. In the food industry, the word lagniappe is often used. Its definition is a small present given to a customer with a purchase. For example, when you go to the bakery and buy a dozen donuts or bagels, you oftentimes get a free one or a baker's dozen. That is what customer service should be about--giving the customer more than they expect! Let us bring lagniappe into the contact center.

If were going to speak about world class customer service, Here's my working definition so were all on the same page.

Customer service is those activities provided by a company's employees that enhance the ability of a customer to realize the full potential value of a product or service before and after the sale is made, thereby leading to satisfaction and repurchase.

Let's look at the first W which is Why?

The state of customer service today is not good, be it over the phone or self service. Because 92% of people feel their call experience is important in shaping the image of a company, this reinforces the importance of branding the image of your companies.

In a Mobius Management Systems Survey, here's what happened because of poor customer service:

60% cancelled accounts with banks
36% changed insurance providers
40% changed telephone companies
35% changed credit card providers
375 changed Internet service providers

Are you one of these statistics? I certainly am.

In a study done by Purdue University/BenchmarkPortal, in answer to (1) how did agents satisfy your needs and handle the call, and (2) based on any negative experience, would you stop using this company in the future? the findings reveal a strong correlation between the participants age and the tendency to stop using the company after a bad experience.

What does this mean? Younger participants were less tolerant and more likely to move to the competition. People over 65 were found to be more demanding than those in middle age.

What can you do? Give younger callers a wow experience--maintain their loyalty. People over 36 probably have more of an emotional bank account with the company they are dealing with. Maybe they had some good experiences and therefore are more willing to forgive.

In a recent study (CRM Magazine/PeopleSoft Web Seminar on How Usability Helps to Drive a Profitable Contact Center), the number of applications required for agents to access customer inquiries were:

3.7% just 1
81.5% 2 to 5
7.4% 5 to 10
7.4% more than 10

As you can see, the majority of applications are 2 to 5. The goal? Link every point of contact to one central location for a customer-centric, synchronized approach satisfying customer experiences with every interaction.

It's important to point out that today's pressures on employees are different than in the past. They are asked to handle more customers, more volume, more complex and/or complicated calls. After all if we could handle our issues with self service, we probably would not call. But if we tried self service and it didn't work, then were upset and its an escalated call from the get go.

They are also asked to provide more information, do it faster and be available and accessible. But they also are tasked with lowering costs, generating revenue, incorporating new technologies, ensuring closure and commitment, delivering great service and when? Yesterday, of course.

The #2 W is Who should receive customer service skills training?

We encourage front line agents/representatives, supervisors, team leads, senior reps, managers, assistant managers, internal customers and other departments--anyone who is a touch point so that they can learn to speak the same language, and more importantly, not be in an adversarial position, but rather, together serve the external customer or end user.

The #3 W is Where should the training take place? Offsite vs. onsite has advantages and disadvantages for each. Certainly it is most cost effective to have training on site. However, distractions are rampant as is the participant's availability to a manager or project

Offsite is more costly. However, there are no distractions and the participants are not available to other departments, managers, or any issues. I further believe there is psychic value in taking people away from their work stations and off site to acknowledge the tough jobs they have.

The #4 W is What should be included in any training? The following modules provide a robust, powerful, and succinct training curriculum:

Quality Customer Service
Rapport Building
Customer Expectations
Language Skills
Perception Shifting
Conflict Resolution
Anger Management
E-Mail Protocol
Stress Reduction
Empathetic Responsiveness
Change Management
Communication and Listening Skills
Interaction/Role Play
Service with a Smile

Further suggested is university certification to up the ante. Ultimately, the more professionally you treat your employees, the more professionally they will treat your customers.

The #5 W is When. We urge training not only for new hires but monthly, ongoingly, consistently, whenever change occurs, when stressors increase, and as needed.

We further recommend that each employee receive a minimum of 24 hours per year of ongoing training, spread over time for the most optimal absorption/retention. We deliver our trainings in two four hour sessions per day and deliver 6 days per employee. If there has been no ongoing training, we do four sessions once a month for four months and then one three months later, and then another three months later. Or, every other month providing sessions for the entire 12 month period. All training is customized, in real time, and can address whatever challenges are presented when they occur.

Together we can raise the bar in the area of world class customer service. Take great care of your employees and they will take great care of your customers. Everyone wins.
About the Author
Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D., customer service expert, provides needs analyses, customer service training; authors Wake Up Your Call Center, Customer Service & the Human Experience, Lay Your Cards on the Table, Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch; a tips newsletter at http://www.HumanTechTips.com
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