If there’s one thing all customer service workshops have in common, in my experience, it’s the big picture stuff: why customer service is important, the costs and benefits, the organizational philosophy around customer service. And the basic skills that customer service providers need, like active listening, courteous communication, anticipation of needs, managing non-verbal behavior, etc.
All that is certainly important. But what front line employees also need are the nuts and bolts of specific techniques for specific situations. Here are a couple of examples:
1. Telephone silence: When someone is very upset on the phone, they may talk incessantly. Say absolutely nothing, not even “uh huh”. Eventually the customer will stop and say, “Are you there?” and this will allow you an opening to respond.
2. Distraction: Designed to break the anger cycle by getting customers to shift their attention away from their anger and toward a physical object. For example, “If you’ll take a look at the computer screen (swivel the screen toward the customer) you’ll see that we have your policy expiration date as November 6th”.
3. Questioning instead of stating: Questions can be used to soften a statement or command. Instead of saying “Do this online” you can say, “Did you know that this can be done online now?”
The next step after giving class participants these kinds of practical techniques is to have them apply the techniques to realistic workplace scenarios. Make sure the workplace scenarios are written for your workplace, and deal with the very types of challenges your service providers are faced with on a regular basis. Nothing is a bigger waste of time than using generic scenarios that are written for another organization in another industry and address different challenges.
Some people say that you can’t just teach customer service providers how to deal with specific situations because you can’t cover everything that could possibly come up—so you have to teach them to think in ways that allow them to solve any problem on their own. I agree to a certain point, but I think in order to teach them how to think critically you have to work with real scenarios. Then they learn to adapt the techniques for those scenarios to fit others.
What do you think? Customer service trainers out there, what has worked for you?