If you want to position yourself as a service leader you need
to launch 2005 with a process in place that will educate and train
every employee to excel at customer service. Many organizations
work on the assumption that employees have been previously trained
to excel at customer service.
Too many organizations believe that telling employees in a January
memo to love customers and take care of them will solve the problem.
I just returned from snow skiing in Vail Colorado. Skiing is great
but difficult for beginning skiers. If we told you to go to the
top of the mountain and just ski down, most would panic, break out
in a sweat, and never be willing to ski down. Virtually all skiers
take lessons before they go skiing. The lessons will take several
days. Really great skiers take lessons every year.
Skiing is a little like customer service. Not overly complicated.
Eventually you get better and better. No one in their right mind
would consider snow skiing in Vail without ski lessons. How many
would consider hiring an employee without customer service training?
Donald Trump in his book, Trump, Think Like a Billionaire, writes:
"Gary Stephan, the golf pro at the Trump National Golf Club
in Briarcliff Manor, New York, feels that good golfers need to put
in two to three hours per week of practice, whether it's on the
putting green, or playing rounds, or at the driving range. Serious
golfers looking to improve their game should also devote an hour
a week to instruction. Golf, like everything else in life, requires
If you want great customer service you should
provide the following:
1. All new employees should be trained on the art of customer
service before they start or within the first week.
2. All present employees need to be trained with a NEW customer
service training program at least every six months.
3. Ideally all employees should go through 40 hours of training,
on customer service, every year.
4. Use new training materials every six months. Never put employees
through the same program unless the previous one did not stick.
5. Use training programs that are built around experiential learning.
Ideally, 80 percent of the time.
6. Use tools that are fun and exciting, to hold attention.
7. Build people from within. Help them believe in themselves. Expand
their self image and self concept.
8. Work on the basics and fundamentals. Execution of the basics
is the hardest thing to master and the most critical to use.
I have a Vail Peaks ski pass that is electronically scanned. My
card has my photo and name. The employees at Vail are incredibly
good at service. About 90% of the time employees would say, after
scanning, thanks for skiing Vail today John, or thanks John. They
always used my name. This is what I call the fundamentals.
How often is an employee trained to read your name and use it?
When is the last time you were at your bank and the employee recognized
you and called you by your name? How hard is it to read a deposit
slip or check? A customer's name is the most precious thing they
Some of you are thinking why spend good money and valuable time
training people on the basics. Simple things like recognizing customers
and calling them by name. An organization that is mastering the
service culture will have highly trained people who love customers.
Service leaders have flawless execution.
It's expensive to find new customers. It costs a fraction of that
investment to keep the customer through great customer service.
Customer service is marketing. It should be funded out of your
marketing and advertising budget. Organizations have huge marketing
and advertising budgets but spend very little training employees
on the art of service. Many firms believe 60 minutes of training
is all you need.
The problem with this is increased employee turnover because they
can't handle the verbal abuse from customers for poor service. Customers
defect, which takes all your profit and throws away your marketing
money. A person in Vail, with 60 minutes of lessons, would still
panic and have a miserable time on the slopes.
Creating a service culture takes commitment from top management.
It needs to be funded and the results measured. All employees need
to be trained. No exceptions. The employees that need customer service
training the least will learn the most and enjoy it the most. Those
who desperately need the training will do everything within their
power to skip the training or complain. These are the candidates
that you should help find a new career with your most favorite competitor.
Employees who do not love customers cost you $50 an hour. How
many under performing employees can you afford to pay this type
of compensation to?
Editor's Note: John Tschohl, called the "guru of customer
service" by Time and Entrepreneur magazines, is a best selling
author and president of Service Quality Institute, a global leader
in customer service. For more information, visit www.customer-service.com.