Create a Top-Notch Customer Service Team with Effective Training
By Amy Castro
“Hire for attitude. Train for skill,” is a philosophy of many customer–focused organizations. However, too many organizations don’t provide the structure or effective training programs to actually accomplish the “train for skill” part. Once you’ve got that great employee hired, you have to provide high-quality training—especially customer service training—and follow up on that training to ensure employees are implementing the skills they learned.
There are many factors that go into creating an employee customer service training program, but here are some steps to get you started:
1. Identify what types of client interactions your employees will encounter. There’s no point in sending employees to telephone skills training or having a phone skills trainer come into your boarding or daycare facility if the employees attending spend little to no time on the phone with your clients. It’s critical that you look at how each employee spends his or her time interacting with clients and train accordingly.
Will the employee be your clients’ “first contact” at the front desk when they check their pet in for a week-long stay or when they drop off for daycare? Does the employee spend a good part of the day on the phone confirming appointments, or is he or she responsible for your email marketing campaigns and social media, with client contact happening virtually in writing? If more than one type of contact applies, what percentage of the employee’s time will be spent on each? Once you identify the need, you can start searching for the appropriate customer service training.
2. Identify what your clients expect from your employees. Hopefully you’ve already done this as part of your hiring process. But if you haven’t, you’ll need to know what your clients expect from your employees and your facility. Is it punctuality? Friendliness? Courtesy? Scheduling skills? Organization skills? Technical skills? It’s easy to say that all clients expect all of these. However, the reality is, your business type, focus, size, geographic location and other factors impact your client base as well as your clients’ needs and expectations.
A pet resort in a big city like Los Angeles will likely have clients with different expectations than a boarding facility in a small town in Georgia. Knowing what your clients expect will help you identify if your employees need training in time management, etiquette, conflict resolution or other customer service skills.
3. Find quality training programs that are aligned with your business. There are so many approaches to training these days it can be hard to identify what direction you should take. Should you seek online programs? If so, should they be self–paced or live–scheduled? What about those $99 all–day, off–site mass seminars offered by the big, international training companies? Or should you hire a trainer to come to your location and present a customized program just for your staff? The answer will depend on your employees’ schedules, learning styles, your budget, and your employees’ willingness and ability to implement skills learned.
Either way, be sure to get references, check out testimonials, and confirm that the training you’re purchasing contains quality content that is taught by a subject–matter expert, and that the content will help you achieve your goals. Additionally, be sure that the training is in sync with your business’s values, policies and procedures.
4. Create training plans for each position in your business. Just like every position in your business should have a clear and specific written job description, every job should also have a sequenced list of required training and a time–line for completion for an employee to be considered “competent” in customer service for that position. Training shouldn’t be one–size–fits–all. If you do steps 1 and 2 above correctly, you’ll quickly realize that your dog handlers and kennel attendants will likely need different customer service training than your front desk receptionists.
Additionally, it’s a great idea to also seek your employees’ input about what skills they think are needed to perform their jobs optimally. Let your employees research training opportunities and present you with the information for you to discuss. This empowers employees to take a role in creating the direction for their careers.
5. Reinforce training once employees have completed it. It’s always amazing to me that business owners and managers will send employees to training and then never follow up with the employees once they’ve completed training. If you want to make the most out of the money you spend on training your employees, follow up. Here are some things you can do:
- Meet with employees once they’ve completed training to find out what their top take-aways are and how they plan to implement what they’ve learned.
- Ask employees to present an overview of the training at your next staff meeting and share with your team how everyone can implement new processes and procedures they learned.
- Have employees who are thoroughly trained and who have embraced the lessons learned act as mentors to new employees. It’s critical that new staff members have a great role model to follow in creating the face of your business.
- Reward those who complete training and implement new skills. Good work that gets recognized is likely to be continued!
6. Don’t forget to seek training for yourself. The greatest training in the world will not help your employees if you don’t set the example for great customer service behavior yourself. Employees are not going to “do as you say, not as you do.” They’re going to follow the example you set. Therefore, if you’re not modeling great service behavior and participating in the same or similar training as they are, they’ll never embrace the new skills learned and your training money will be wasted.
Amy Castro is a communication, customer service and management expert, speaker, author, and animal advocate. She holds Master’s Degree in Communication Studies/Human Communication Theory and is Certified Speaking Professional (CSP). Amy is also the author of the books “Practical Communication,” and “The Secrets of Effective Leadership Communication.” Amy’s passion for working with animals started when she worked for a veterinarian/boarding kennel/groomer, and she’s been an active shelter volunteer and foster for many years and has personally fostered more than 500 abandoned pets. In 2017, she started Starlight Outreach and Rescue, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to helping Houston area animal shelters provide resources for pets in need.