If you were a general fielding an army, you’d know that no matter how good your tactics, success in battle eventually will ride on the quality and morale of your troops.
Business is the same, and especially that aspect of business in which your organization is most likely to run into “hostile forces.” That’s customer service.
Business consultants suggest that perhaps the first lesson for customer service training … and, in fact, for business in general, should be “the customer does not come first. The employee does!”
This rather startling maxim is based on sound reasoning. Ultimately, the success of any business derives from the attitude of its employees. Good-natured employees not only diligently carry out their assigned tasks, but do so positively and creatively. They project good feelings and may find solutions to customer problems even where solutions don’t currently exist. That’s something even the best customer service training can’t teach an employee to do.
Disgruntled employees, on the contrary, can sink a business, alienating all they come in contact with, including managers, colleagues, vendors and of course, customers. And all the customer service training you can do won’t likely change a basic bad attitude.
Think “Associates” in Customer Service Training, Not “Employees”
But how does one create happy, motivated employees. The answer, the consultants note, is not primarily with increased compensation or benefits. Instead, what’s recommended is re-conceptualizing management’s concept of its workers from “employees” to “associates,” with a clear share in the organization’s success.
To achieve that end, Management should accompany its customer service training with efforts to conduct business in an open and collaborative manner in an environment where every worker feels his or her ideas will be listened to and acknowledged, even if not ultimately used.
This, of course, is in direct opposition to micro-managing a business, says Myron Curry, President and CEO of BusinessTrainingMedia.com. “Micro-managing,” he says, completely kills the system.” Curry also calls allowing workers flexibility in such matters as setting work schedules or lunch hours. This, he says, is an additional tacit acknowledgement of the worker’s worth as a human being first and foremost, and a gesture of goodwill that the worker will reciprocate.
Customer Service Training Should Start with “Nice People”
One additional consideration should be entered in the mix before customer service training gets underway. That’s the matter of hiring “nice people,” those with good interpersonal skills across all their relationships.
To find such people, consultants suggest that, in addition to conducting formal interviews, companies see how candidates react in less staged settings Invite the candidate to play in a company softball game or ride along as the person drives a car. Aggressive tendencies and quick tempers you’d never see in an interview often become evident in such situations.
Candidates who remain cheerful and even-tempered under stress are likely to do well once they enter formal customer service training. “Nice people are easy to teach,” says Curry. “Nice people can learn anything.”