by Christine Hill
There are always questions about whether or not people can be trained on the finer customer service skills or is it just innate in nature for someone to be ‘service savvy’. Unfortunately, the detailed answer, like so many things these days, is a little more complicated. But in short, the answer is a resounding “YES”. People can be trained in the art of Service Delivery. However, there are a few conditions on the road to success for creating an ultimate advantage or ‘value’ through service.
Here are — points to consider:
- Start replacing Lip Service with a Commitment (in all actions and deeds) to service. In all these years of working with various companies and organizations, large and small, we have never heard anyone say: “Well, we really don’t care about customer service!!!” Well off course no one will make that statement. But when you look into the organization (and we do!), and unfortunately, more often than not, the only commitment is a commitment to Lip-Service about Service!
- Commitment to Service is way of life. It has to become a part of the fabric and soul of the organization. This type of commitment is about a lifestyle. It is not only about who you want to be, but what you are day in and day out. Just like someone who joins a health club but never goes there to work out. Yet they claim that they are committed to living a healthy life. And no, you cannot show up at the health club or fitness center once a month and claim to be healthy–that’s Lip Service. So the quality of the commitment is a critical part of succeeding at elevating a service culture through training. How you can ensure the commitment is real: Pronounce and announce as loud as you can that you have a genuine commitment to improving your services. Say it so loud that you cannot take it back AND most importantly, make sure it is backed up with everyone on the team’s actions—-day in and day out!
- Define what your organization should look like as it relates to Customer Service. This is very important to do in any organization or business whose core value is Service Delivery—defining what that service looks like. Every business or organization is different. The idea of once size fits all in customer service is absolutely deadly. Unfortunately, many people immediately revert back to: Good service means smiling people and the “be nice” thing!!!! The definition needs to be well thought out and personalized specifically to the organization or the business. If the commitment is too general, then everyone will be happy with some hotel’s training or a customer service training program from an amusement park. What makes your service unique and something that customers cannot live without? Having a well thought out, planned strategy is paramount to succeeding in elevating your services. Otherwise, we will all just be well entertained.
- Identify key components of the Customer Service plan The components of the Customer Service Plan have to match the value proposition. Ask the question “What specific areas of our organization would benefit from our value proposition for our customers or users?” Improving everything all at once is unrealistic and probably not as beneficial. Trying to improve everything ends up being overwhelming and then underwhelming. Granted, certain standards are always required. The basics and non-negotiable items must be defined. However, do not go too far in developing another Customer Service Standards manual that is 10 inches thick and and/or umpteen gigs of memory. Pick basic manageable standards.
- Find out what is truly of value for your customer or users. If this step is missed, then you will not know what brings value and your service delivery will be a hit or miss. You may even be training on skills that are not truly designed to serve your customers or not important enough for them.
- Build a Service Culture. Once all the above steps are recognized and in place, your organization can begin the wonderful and ever-challenging journey of reaching new heights in delivering exceptional customer experiences. One of the biggest challenges about CS is communicating the CS vision to the team. It is at this point that training begins to play a major role. Training will project an intentional focus on improving services especially if it is at the beginning of a new initiative to advance the service culture. But continuation of the learning plan will project a culture shift which is much more permanent.
Leadership absolutely must be a part of the training/learning plan in order to get buy-in from those that they mean to influence. When attempting to create a culture shift, leading by example is an understatement. Leaders must be participating and facilitating the change. Only at this level will we see tangible change and shift in service behavior.
Consider this a project (if you have to) that has a beginning but no end. The ongoing plan (which will hopefully/ultimately become the culture and result in behavioral change) requires patience and absolute dedication. This could be hard on an ongoing basis. Economics and budgets will impact the plan from time to time. But the Service Culture enhancement effort should always stay alive and well. CS may very well be the instrument for improving the economics and budgets.
In conclusion, specific customer service skills can be trained, but only in a culture where the focus is service.