3 Reasons Your Customer Service Training Isn’t Sticking

One of the biggest issues with customer service training – all training, in fact – is that it often doesn’t ‘stick.’ To steal from John Wanamaker’s famous quote about advertising,“Half the money I spend on training is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Over the last 20 years of our company’s work in customer service consulting and training in virtually every industry out there, I’ve seen my share spectacular successes – and many initiatives that just didn’t seem to go anywhere. There are a lot of reasons this can happen, but here are the top three:

1. The training is unsupported

Repeat after me: “Training cannot change behavior. Training cannot change behavior. Training cannot change behavior Training cannot change behavior.” Now say this again a thousand times more. Training can transfer knowledge and introduce skills. It can provide a forum for discussion, practice and new perspectives. If it is good training, it can motivate, stimulate, energize and create a desire to change. But change of performance in a live environment only happens when four other conditions exist:

a. The individuals are willing to change

b. The new behaviors are required, measured and supported by management

c. The company’s processes and policies are changed to mirror the expectations of the employees

d. The company is willing to stay focused on the new expectations

Unfortunately, most companies see training people as though it were re-wiring a house – thinking that once you’ve done it, you’re set for life. Sorry folks, we humans take a bit longer to re-wire.

2. Your employees aren’t taking the training seriously

In many ways, customer service is one of the hardest things to train. Not because the individual skill sets are hard to understand or execute, but because so many people believe: a) they’re already amazing at customer service; b) customer service is unnecessary ‘fluff’, or; c) a combination of ‘a’ and ‘b’. Now combine this with the common sense that management doesn’t really take it seriously, and you have a recipe for indifference.

3. Your training is lousy

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “I could be training this,” in reference to how simple someone thinks customer service training is, I’d own my own private tropical island. The truth is, there is a lot of horrible training out there (often created by the people referenced above). It is either simplistic, condescending and trite, or focused on things that the audience really doesn’t care much about, but the trainer thinks they should care about.

Good customer service training is only half about the skills and behaviors that create wonderful customer experiences. The other half is about getting people excited at the prospect of connecting with other human beings in a positive manner. It’s about connecting with the audience in the same way we want our employees to connect with their customers. It’s about appealing to people’s emotions. Because of this, good customer service training needs to have solid content, and amazing delivery. The trainer can’t just be a ‘trainer’, or a teacher or a facilitator – he (she) needs to be part evangelist, part salesperson and and part entertainer. He needs to connect with the audience at a level far beyond rote skills.

Great customer service training, when all of these roadblocks are removed, can have immediate and profound results that can be measured in a myriad of ways. The payoff in relation to the cost is absolutely huge. Poor, even mediocre customer service training, can actually have a negative effect as employees get the message that you really don’t take it very seriously at all.

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