Developing The Best Kind of Customer Service People

First things first; Smile training doesn’t work. A one-day programme covering how to serve customers better, establish rapport and ‘show you care’ doesn’t deliver any real change or lasting benefit. But there are things you can do to really improve front-line service delivery.

Below we produce a checklist to test your own practices and cultural norms against:

  1. Get the recruitment policies right. It is much harder to develop the right mind-set than it is to improve skills. Whether you use psychometrics or other assessment tools or just really good interviewing techniques, make sure you recruit people who want to engage with customers.
  2. Get induction right. Customer service starts with expectation setting. What are the minimum standards this organisation considers to be acceptable? Create a success metric for this training phase. Performance, rather than attendance based induction drives the improvement of customer satisfaction levels.
  3. Obsessively product train. A customer would rather be sold/advised on the right product in an unfriendly way, than their new best friend talking enthusiastically about the wrong product. John Lewis takes product knowledge/product application understanding very seriously.
  4. Design service processes that support the front line with minimum bureaucracy and maximum freedom to engage with customers.
  5. Use technology effectively. See article Integrating People With Technology.
  6. Deliver transparent success failure criteria, with clear performance metrics linked to service outcomes that the person feels they have some control over.
  7. Incentivise for the service outcomes you want.
  8. Use service champions as role-model coaches, sharing their expertise and motivating others to put in the extra effort that makes all the difference.
  9. Get directors to champion service, raise the profile and status of front-line people. Develop effective recognition schemes.
  10. Only embark on customer service training when all the previous points have been delivered on. This creates a positive, aligned environment for the training to succeed.