How to Train Your Employees in Customer Service

The constant change in customer engagement may make you wonder how to train your employees in customer service. Focusing on customer experiences is a start.
President and Founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.
August 24, 2017

When you consider how to train your employees in customer service, you may want to take a step back for a moment to think about the overall customer experience instead. In this hyper customer experience economy, it's important to focus on helping everyone in the company see the importance of the end-to-end customer experience.

How Does Customer Service Training Differ From Customer Experience Training?

One of your first steps in how to train your employees in customer service is to be clear about the difference between customer service and customer experience training. A superb customer experience is made up of the total series of memorable moments in the entire customer service cycle.

In the 2016 McKinsey & Company report, "Customer Experience: Creating Value Through Transforming Customer Journeys," McKinsey shows that best-in-class companies optimize customer journeys, not just touch points. That's because customers experience companies through end-to-end experiences, not just through touch points.

So how does customer service differ from the end-to-end customer experience? Customer service is but one component of the overall customer experience. To use an analogy, customer service training is focusing on the trees, while training on the customer experience is focusing on the forest. One is operational, the other is strategic.

Let's take a hotel experience as an example. The customer rep who takes the reservation is friendly and helpful, providing additional information regarding transportation from the airport and answering all your other questions. She even goes the extra mile to search for a better room rate for you within the hotel categories. This is a sign of good customer service training. You're feeling pretty good about your hotel choice.

Customer service training is focusing on the trees, while training on the customer experience is focusing on the forest. One is operational, the other is strategic.

When you arrive at the hotel, the porter rushes to open the car door, welcomes the children—he even bends to collect the child's toy and hands it to her with a smile. This is also a part of good customer service training. You continue to feel that you made the right choice indeed.

But then you arrive at the reception counter, the clerk who greets you has a frosty expression. He interrupts his interaction with you to discuss an issue with another hotel employee who approached him. He answers your question about the Wi-Fi while continuing to look at his screen to process your information. He never mentions your name, but he does all the other expected bare bones aspects of customer service: he explains the hotel amenities, asks how many keys you need and hands out the keys. Then, with a blank expression, he wishes you a happy stay at the hotel.

You head to your room, not feeling quite as sure about your upcoming hotel experience as you felt before. Nothing bad happened, but your "feeling" about the hotel has changed. The complete, end-to-end experience you had in this partial encounter with the hotel was not seamless. In a series of open doors, this one touch point felt like a closed door.

How Do You Conduct Customer Service Training Within the Framework of the Overall Customer Experience?

To focus on the end-to-end customer experience when embarking on customer service training, consider these three important areas:

Focus on the Emotions

The mechanics in customer service transactions are easily copied and may even be surpassed by your competitors. Training people on how to create a positive emotional experience every step of the way may make you stand out from the competition.

A 2016 ROI Of Customer Experience study by The Tempkin Group involved feedback from 10,000 U.S. consumers regarding their emotional experience with 294 companies across 20 industries. The study had this to reveal: How a customer feels about an interaction is the most significant driver of customer loyalty. Compared with customers who have a poor emotional experience, those with a positive emotional experience are more than six times as likely to purchase again, more than 12 times as likely to recommend a company, and more than five times as likely to forgive a company for mistakes.

Bottom line: Train people to care about the customer's emotions.

So, when you think about how to train your employees in customer service, ask yourself this: How does everyone who comes in contact with our customer makes that customer feel?

Raising everyone's awareness of this key point can be an integral part of any customer experience training. As Harley Manning of research and advisory firm Forrester says in a video, "the very best customer experiences are enjoyable. They're emotionally engaging. And this is something that businesses forget. They forget that their customers have emotions and that emotions lead them to make decisions."

Educate Employees to Share in the Vision

Part of your customer service training can serve to help employees see that each customer service touch point, no matter how small, is a golden link in the overall customer experience chain. This can help employees see that emotions are key in brand loyalty. Sometimes all it takes is one broken link to lose a precious customer for life. In a sense, you are as good as your weakest link. Ask them not to be a part of the weakest link.

In your plan on how to train your employees in customer service, consider illustrating the "why" behind the customer service training, not just the "what." The "what" is customer satisfaction. The "why" is about the overarching purpose of customer attraction, retention, company growth, not to mention company survival. Doing well while doing good.

With that in mind, consider training people beyond all the customer service transactions. Involve them in the overall mission by sharing data about the connection between the customer experience and customer retention. Enlist everyone as partners, from the boiler room to the boardroom, in the quest to beat the competition.

Hire Brand Ambassadors

Your initiative on how to train your employees in customer service may be more successful if you have the right people in the right jobs. Hiring right in the first place can help achieve great customer service and positive customer experiences.

Let's take our hotel example. It's safe to say that individuals who don't like people probably shouldn't be in the hospitality business, or for that matter, in any business where there's extensive customer interaction. You can train waiters on how to set a table or how to explain the day's menu, but you cannot train them to be genuinely warm to patrons.

For customer-facing jobs, look for people who have a friendly, naturally warm personality and who seem to truly enjoy people. The emotional labor of having to smile, and being friendly and warm may not be a burden to them because that's a part of their general make-up. (Emotional labor is the work of managing feelings and expressions in order to fulfill the requirements of a job.)

You can help make it easy for employees to be your brand ambassadors by aligning the brand with the right employee personality. Look for those who are a natural fit for the job and they may make people feel good about doing business with your company.

Read more articles on customer relations.

Photo: Getty Images