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By Shep Hyken, Shepard Presentations
This article is by Featured Blogger Shep Hyken from his LinkedIn page. Republished with the author’s permission.
Customer service is not a department. It is a philosophy to be embraced by every employee – from the CEO to the most recently hired.
I’ve been preaching this for years. Yet it still surprises me that many companies don’t recognize the value of training their employees – all employees – in the area of customer service. No, not everyone is trained the same. Someone on the front line, who has direct contact with customers, will be trained differently than someone in the warehouse, who has virtually no contact with a customer. But here is the point: At some point, everyone is going to impact the customer.
Front-line customer service is obvious. People who interact directly with a customer must have a skillset and mindset to meet or exceed a customer’s expectations. Some of the more important traits and abilities might be friendliness, empathy, communication skills, problem solving, patience and more. Companies spend hours and days – sometimes weeks – training the people on the “front line.”
Yet the people who aren’t trained are often the people who could have the greatest impact on the customer. As an example, the warehouse team member who improperly packs a box will create a problem for the customer when the package arrives and the contents are damaged or a part is missing. Sure, that warehouse employee never talks to the customer, but what he or she does every day, picking and packing products, has a big impact on the customer. At a minimum, the warehouse employee needs to understand the impression the company is trying to create for the customer, and how he or she fits into a culture that is customer-focused. And, that takes training.
Training should start on the first day. There are some companies that won’t let an employee start doing what they were hired to do until they receive basic training. Disney is one of the best examples of this. All employees, also known as cast members, regardless of what they are hired to do, must go through what is called Traditions Training, where they learn the basics of the Disney philosophy, which is genuinely focused on the customer/guest.
Zappos is famous for its onboarding of employees with extensive training that starts immediately when employees come to work. At the end of their basic training, new employees are offered a financial incentive to leave the company if they don’t think they will fit into the Zappos culture. If you’re not willing to live the Zappos mantra, which is Powered by Service, then you are encouraged to leave.
Sure, Disney and Zappos are legends in the customer service world, but what about the rest of us? There are plenty of companies that deliver an amazing service experience that goes unrecognized. I recently was introduced to Businessolver, a benefits technology company that helps HR professionals and employees select, manage and engage with their company’s benefits. I was impressed with how they handle onboarding and career development. And, customer service is a big part of that. It’s mandatory that every new employee receives the training.
The first week for new hires is not spent filling out paperwork or getting a nameplate for their workspace. Rather they dive into a week-long training program called Orientationsolver, where employees get an in-depth look at the business – including the technology system that supports it and the service model that drives it. New hires are trained in customer service best practices and actually shadow experienced service center representatives as they take calls from customers. This hands-on, up-close training gives new hires an immediate appreciation for and better understanding of how their own role ultimately supports the business.
I’ve written about shadowing customer service and sales reps before. If a company wants to take this concept a step further, consider letting the employee actually handle some customer service calls. Yes, it may be a bit early in a new hire’s career to take a call, but remember this: Employees must realize that customer service training isn’t something they did, just once, on their first day or two after coming to work for the company. Customer service training is something they do, ongoing, to reinforce good habits and principles. So, when the time is right, let the employee go from shadowing the customer service rep to actually taking support calls.
Businessolver has seen success with this approach. Annual benefits enrollment is the busiest time of year for the company and its customers, so the entire Businessolver team – from executives to interns and everyone in between – fields customer service calls to ensure every customer receives timely support and every employee gains a greater appreciation for the challenges customers face.
For a company to be truly customer-focused, an employee must understand how important customer service is to the company, how service fits into the culture and how he or she plays a role in it. That doesn’t happen spontaneously; it requires training. Every employee needs customer-service training. And now you know why.
Originally published on Forbes.com