World-class training

Acommon misconception
is that the only way to get
better people is to pay more than everyone else. There
are many great examples of
world-class companies who do
not necessarily pay better than
their competitors. In fact,
employees at Disney, Starbucks
and Nordstrom are hired from
the same labor pool every other
organization uses and are paid
the going rates. The real reason
why the customer service is so
good at a company like Disney
is how well they are transformed into Walt Disney cast
members during training.

Remember: In most cases, the
most recently hired, least-trained, lowest-paid employee
deals with the customers the
most. What determines the consistency of delivering the experience is the quality of the
systems and training that
every new and existing
employee goes through.

Inadequate training is definitely the biggest underlying
reason for the inconsistency
and scarcity of great customer
service. Companies skimp on
training because it costs
money. But companies
that invest in customer
service by training their
employees reap great financial benefits.

Why are you trusting a $100,000
client with $100 worth of training?

There are two types of
training when it comes to
training new employees:
hard and soft. Hard training focuses on the basic
functions of the daily job
while soft training focuses
on customer-specific
issues, such as dealing
with an upset client or acquiring
customer intelligence. Stop and
examine your own training for new employees and notice the
percentage of your hard versus
soft training.

More than 90 percent of businesses spend less than 10 percent of their training on soft
methods. It is the soft training
that allows front-line employees
to deliver personalized service,
which creates a memorable
experience, emotional brand
capital and, ultimately, repeat
business. If you do the math on
your own training and find that
your business dedicates just 10
hours of new employee training
to soft skills, then that means
you are trusting that a $10 an
hour front-line employee can
consistently satisfy one of your
$100,000 customers with a mere
$100 worth of true customer
service preparation.

To be a world-class customer
service organization, your training should include the following:

  • A company orientation that
    covers company policy and the
    company’s history

  • The functional components
    of the specific job

  • The operational procedures
    of the job

  • All technical training, including product knowledge, use of
    equipment/tools, software and
    other technology, and scope of

  • Experiential training on soft
    skills, especially how to create
    relationships and personalize
    encounters, how to prevent customers from feeling like transactions, and customer recovery

  • On-the-job shadowing

  • Testing and certification,
    including extensive testing on
    experiential skills

Map the customer’s experience journey

Identify all the significant
points of interaction — called
stages — that your customers
may have with your company
and get your employees
involved in helping create what
those stages should look like.
You then break each stage
down into four individual components:

  1. Service defects: all the
    things that can ruin the customer’s experience at this stage

  2. Operational standards: all
    the tasks or jobs for each stage

  3. Experiential standards: the
    actions that will create an
    exceptional experience

  4. Above-and-beyond opportunities: common situations
    that front-line employees
    should recognize and prepare
    for in order to make a customer’s day.

Once you have your final version of service defects, standards and above-and-beyond
opportunities, you can create a
training manual that all new
employees get trained and tested on during their first two
weeks with your company.

Action plan

It is imperative for companies
to ensure that every employee
truly understands what the
organization’s customer experience promise is. The customer
experience promise is what the
organization is supposed to
deliver to customers, consistently, at every stage of their

Organizations need to make
sure their customer experience
promise is structured in such a
way that all employees learn,
understand and execute it.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS is the best-selling author of “What’s The Secret? To Providing a World-Class
Customer Experience.” (Wiley, May 2008). He is also president of The DiJulius Group, a firm specializing in giving companies a superior competitive advantage by helping them differentiate on
delivering an experience and making price irrelevant. Reach him at [email protected].