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Top-notch training keys customer service success

In today’s complex, fast-scaling work environments, competent and ongoing training is an absolute requirement to achieve customer service success. Without it, workforce attitudes and aptitudes suffer—with consequences impacting customers in frustrating ways.

To provide complete and accurate information to would-be as well as present customers, companies must ensure that their customer service reps know the terrain, are motivated to do well, and communicate information correctly. Somewhere, this system failed with my prospective Starry installation.

Hiring qualified people can be haphazard. Training them adequately can be even more hit-and-miss. Unfortunately, this has become more of the norm than the exception. Frankly, I’m semi-amazed anymore when I receive the right information the first time.

Forbes Senior Contributor Mitch Solomon frames part of the problem—rapid growth without commensurate commitments to customer service excellence. He notes: “If a parachute drifted behind the lines of your business today with a customer service consultant attached, what would they uncover about your customer service’s current state? Unfortunately, what they’d likely discover—particularly after a period of rapid company growth—is slippage in potentially company-killing areas of customer service, lapses that you need to get fixed fast, before your customers go into open rebellion.”

He continues: “The focus and attentiveness common when a business has only a few customers tend to slide when the customer roster begins to balloon. Employees stop signing their thank-you notes by hand. Managers busy themselves with paperwork in their office hideaways rather than coming out into the open to greet even longtime or VIP customers—and they’re certainly nowhere to be found if a customer conflict ever erupts and needs smoothing over.” 

Training is both an attitude and aptitude issue. Regarding attitude, Solomon points out that it’s important to train “for situational empathy. Training in situational empathy (a.k.a. “customer service-specific empathy”), the type of empathy that allows an employee to connect with customers phone call after phone call and email after email, is an essential element in improving and maintaining a high level of customer service.” 

In my case with Starry, “situational empathy” might have triggered the rep to understand my strong stance about keeping both Internet services operational—and look into the situation further to determine if my request could be honored before setting up the installation. Certainly, a preview of the wiring restrictions—either remotely or by having an installer check it out while in my complex—would have settled the issue. While I wouldn’t have been happy about the outcome, I would have appreciated the company going the extra mile to check it out.

There’s also the morale-enhancing factor that training brings to the workforce. A Zendesk.com report notes: “Studies show that ongoing training increases employees’ satisfaction with their jobs. That’s good news for any field, but it’s critical in customer service. Why? Because research also shows that happy employees lead to happier customers. Great companies put both time and money into their agents by offering the right tools and training. When you invest in support agents’ careers, they’re more likely to feel satisfaction in their jobs.”

In the case of aptitude, equipping customer service reps to know all the basics (and my situation certainly qualifies as a basic) is a major element in investing in support agents, in turn making them more satisfied. In my case, situational empathy for my strong concerns about keeping two Internet systems operational could have propelled the rep to dig deeper.

An internal check of system wiring options in my complex might have provided the necessary information. Or perhaps an installer could have checked it out while in the neighborhood and updated the rep. Either way, I would have appreciated the company for going the extra mile to fully and accurately inform about the situation.

And, in all likelihood the Starry rep would have felt more empowered and satisfied by covering all the bases. As it stands, I’m guessing my follow-up complaint as well as any action the installer took might have led to a reprimand.

Next up: Digging deeper into training particulars.

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Customer service representations that don’t hold up to actual performance are worse than no customer service at all. My Nextdoor post last week addresses my frustrating “Starry Snafu” experience:  “As a backup to CenturyLink Internet/landline, which I’ve had nearly 5 years, I ordered Starry on a trial basis. When I put in the order, I specifically asked about keeping both services–which was my plan. I was told there could be some interference if both routers were operating at the same time. At 11:30 on the scheduled install day, both my phone and Internet went out. I went to the phone room and found the Starry installer, who informed me that their install was going through the same DSL line as CenturyLink. I would have to choose one or the other. While I was looking forward to checking out Starry, I’m staying with CenturyLink. I wasted my time. The installer wasted his.”

Mark Lusky

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