When you think customer service, you might think about such industries as retail, hospitality, and restaurants. In these industries, training workers in customer service is essential. At the same time, almost every industry could benefit from workers who have customer service training.
An angry or dissatisfied customer can wreak havoc on your business's reputation. The customers who make a fuss aren't the only ones you have to worry about. You might also be losing customers who walk away quietly, or go out and complain to their friends about you. Either way, they're hurting your business, and you may not even know it.
Customer service has gotten some bad press in recent years. As businesses try to save money by automating customer service, customers complain that they can't find a real person, problems aren't being solved, and getting their needs met takes too long. Adding real people to the mix should help in theory. Anytime an employee interacts with a customer, they have the opportunity to help build your business build a positive relationship with customers and clients.
That only happens if employees have customer service training adequate to the demands of their jobs.
Some have argued that poor customer service is actually profitable. After all, if a customer can't get to a real person to complain, they certainly can't demand a refund. That approach is dangerously short-sighted. A customer who can't get their needs met is going to look for help elsewhere in the future. So while you may have saved your business the cost of a refund or other appeasement now, you've lost what could have been a lifetime customer.
Keeping customers happy should be among your top priorities as a business, which means customer service must be one of your primary training goals. According to a Walker research report, by 2020, customers will prioritize customer service over cost and even over the product itself in choosing between brands. In that environment, you can't afford not to train your employees in customer service.
Customer service industries
The overall dissatisfaction around customer service is a symptom of a broader issue. Customer service requires soft skills like communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. Some employers even recognize customer service as a soft skill in itself.
With online shopping becoming more popular, the human touch is one way that brick and mortar retail stores can differentiate themselves. Technology is changing retail in other ways as well. It has automated tasks, which also frees up workers to interact directly with customers.
But retail isn't the only industry that demands customer service skills. Employees in technology, allied health, and the trades can do their jobs more effectively when they have the soft skills they need to provide great customer service.
According to a LinkedIn survey, communication is the most in-demand of the soft skills. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively underpins all customer service interactions. If employees can't communicate with the customer, they can't understand the customer's needs or effectively meet them. Similarly, unless workers have soft skills and are trained to apply them, they can't offer quality customer service.
Even if new hires come to your business with solid customer service skills, training them to provide customer service your way is still essential. Customers judge your business based on the customer service they receive. It's not enough to quickly meet the customer's needs, employees must do so in a way that also communicates your company's brand.
What your business can do
Make customer service a top priority. From hiring to training to daily interactions with employees, you must make it clear that customer service is a top priority. Employees should be able to see the connection between improving their customer service skills and advancing within the organization.
Offering, and in some cases, requiring, customer service training will ensure that every employee builds these essential skills. Employees should be trained in customer service as part of their new hire training. They should also be offered plenty of opportunities to hone and develop these skills throughout their time with the organization.
Blend the following training options to create a system that works for your employees:
- Skills coaching - You can assign managers or senior employees to observe employee customer service interactions and provide skills coaching. This approach helps build strong relationships between employees and allows managers to directly address the unique training needs of each employee.
- On demand training - Follow the National Retail Federation Foundation's lead. The NRF Foundation has opted to deliver its training using Penn Foster's proprietary learning management platform. The NRF Foundation's training on customer service and other retail-related skills is effective because students can study at their own pace and from any internet-connected device. Your business can offer similar training opportunities available to employees on-demand.
- Micro-courses - Another way to target specific areas of weakness is through micro courses or micro credentials. These are most useful for employees who have a shortcoming in a specific skill, or for those who don't have much time to devote to learning something new.
- Skills playlists - These collections of short, online courses focus on teaching specific skill sets. You can choose from pre-packaged playlists or build a playlist to meet the unique needs of your workforce. With skills playlists you can make sure employees have all of the skills they need to succeed.
Whether you want ready-made courses or a way to deliver your own content via a flexible, mobile-friendly platform, Penn Foster can help.