Customer Service Training Class
Table of Contents
In the sphere of retail, customer service is an extremely crucial area, which determines the success of business. Therefore, an employer should always care about knowledge and skills of employees in the realm of providing services. Without any doubts, standards and approaches in customer service evolve and improve every year. Therefore, the best way to increase the awareness of employees in this sphere and make them acquire some useful skills is regular customer service training. The format of training is the most convenient in this situation, since, during a short period of time, it allows to provide a lot of useful information and overview of some practical cases, which might happen during the working process.
“People are major component of any organization, so it follows that organization with more productive employees tend to be more successful. Productivity increases when organizations hire and motivate employees effectively” (Stewart & Brown, 2014, p. 4). Therefore, training and recruitment of the personnel is an extremely crucial element, which determines the high performance of a company, especial in the sphere of retail.
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Before customer service training, a company management should assess the organization’s need for such class. This assessment will help the management to explore any deficiencies in performance. First of all, after the evaluation, the weakest spheres of performance become evident, and an employer can create a strategy how to combat a recession in such realms. Second, the assessment helps to discover employees’ individual needs. Such personalization is very useful for the development of the training program. Third, the survey allows determining which skills and knowledge are omitted in the current employers and create the list of such skills for increase the efficiency of the personnel recruitment. Furthermore, needs assessment provide the evaluation of general environment in the team and discover if employees are satisfied and feel comfortable with this environment. Finally, the evaluation helps to explore deficiencies in management and find ways how to improve the situation.
A Program of Customer Service Training. Justification of the Learning Method
There are at least two possible ways how to carry out customer service training for a retail company’s employees. To create an effective program of the class, HR manager should take into account and resolve several important issues. The first matter to be considered is a date or dates of the training. Because of participation in this class, employees have to miss some working hours, hence HR manager has to think how to organize this event without affecting the performance of a company as a whole or its particular department. Arranging the date of the training on one of the weekend days is not a reasonable decision. Consequently, it will decrease employees’ motivation to attend this class and will reduce its effectiveness. Therefore, a manager can choose one of two options – either regularly (for example, once per few months) spend one working day for such training or divide it into several parts and implement the training for three or four days. The first approach allows creating comprehensive and intensive training, in which all significant issues will be covered and discussed in a complex manner. The second approach gives a participant more time to study certain issues in details.
The second issue is a list of participants. To encourage communicational skills of employees and avoid a situation, when the majority of workers of the same department are absent because of participation in the training, it is reasonable to invite to one class employees of different departments.
After resolving all organizational matters, a manager can embark upon developing the program of the class. During a customer service training, along with theoretical aspects of the issue, practical assignments and cases must be accomplished. For such objectives, using of non-formal educational techniques and practices is the most convenient. Some of the key features of non-formal education are – “a focus on clearly defined purposes” and “flexibility in organization and methods” (Smith, 2001). Thus, such kind of learning presupposes an active usage of visualization while presenting theoretical information and high level of participants’ involvement in the educational process. While customer service training, such instruments as presentation, workshops, and games should prevail. The combination of all these methods will ensure the development of employees’ communicational, team-working and professional skills and will provide for their interest and motivation to participate in the learning process. The effectiveness of the class strongly depends on the manner of producing information; hence, for a trainer, it is better to alternate theoretical block and practical one.
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The following is the approximate plan of customer service training:
- Games to get to know each other. If training is organized for people from different departments, such games are needed, since participants are supposed to work in groups during workshops. If the class is held for people from the same department, there is no necessity to spend time on these games.
- Survey of participants expectations. Such a poll will help to create a direct connection between a trainer and participants; moreover, the first one will be able to adapt the class to the needs of employees. Evidently, it is impossible to make some radical changes in the program of training just before its beginning, but nevertheless, a trainer will know which aspects require more attention and which ones may be ignored. So such poll is excellent mean of communication between a facilitator and participants; it will help to create an atmosphere of trust and provide for mutual understanding and interest.
- Games and activities combined with presentations of theoretical information considering customer service. To increase the effectiveness of presentations and make theoretical material more clear, understandable and interesting for employees, each block of information should be preceded by some short game or activity. For example, Kate Zabriskie (2012, p. 3-8) in the brochure “Customer Service Training Games and Activities” suggests five different options of activities, which introduces such aspects of the job as importance of service standards, problem of saying “no” to a customer, need to explain to a customer all employee’s actions, difficulties in communicating information and importance of general environment. All games are very easy to hold and do not require special equipment or knowledge. Moreover, they do not take a lot of time, but they involve a lot of participants and allow them due to their own experience realize specific issues of customer service. After each activity, it is reasonable to make short presentations, either digital or on a flip chart, considering the issues raised during the games. Such alteration between activities and informative presentations will help employees to be active and engaged during the whole class.
- Workshops. This is a vast area for a trainer’s creativity. Workshops are indispensable because they help to learn from practice, so at the end of the training, to strengthen the acquired knowledge, it is recommended to organize a few workshops. These activities presuppose resolving real cases related to customer service practice and team work. To encourage participants, a trainer may apply competition format and set any form of reward.
- Coffee breaks and lunch. In case the training is long, organizers should care about small pauses in the class to let participants relax. Coffee breaks have to be in a form of “open-space,” which allow employees to have some useful conversations and establish business contacts. So, it is better to use round tables to provide free movement of participants. Also, if the training lasts all day, employees should have a pause (at least half an hour) for lunch.
- Final opinion survey. At the end of the class, it is necessary to conduct a small poll about participants’ impressions after training, ask them if their expectations are fulfilled, what information was the most valuable, etc. Such small discussion will show that the opinion of employees is extremely important for organizers and will close the circle of communication between a trainer and participants established by expectation poll.
How to Motivate an Employee?
Evidently, it is hardly possible to achieve 100% motivation of employees who take part in the training. However, motivated employees highly contribute to the success of the class, so HR manager should pay attention to the way how to encourage an employee, who is not interested in attending the training. The first possible way is to invite as a trainer really experienced and interesting practitioner. A manager should create an appropriate advertising and arouse the interest of employees to the speaker. Workers must be aware of his or her achievements and experience, so that they will understand that the training is a unique opportunity to get as much useful information from this person as possible and increase self-efficiency. However, if because of financial or some other reasons a company cannot hire as a trainer high-quality practitioner, there can be implied a second way of motivation. In case training is held for employees of different departments, an employee will be interested in visiting such an event just to establish new business contacts with other workers. Also, such training provides considerable change in usual working environment so it is enthralling.
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To develop a new training program and analyze advantages and some mistakes made while the previous class, it is necessary to create the tool to collect the feedback of employees, who attended the class. Evidently, that short discussion after the training is not enough, so organizers should send some questionnaires by e-mail to each participant. It is more effective to hold an opinion survey after a few days or even a week following the training. Right after the class, employees might be quite tired because of the intensive program, so they will be unlike to spend a lot of time for filling questionnaires and providing their comments.
In the “Manual on Training Evaluation” (n.d., p. 14), the following areas for creating questions are determined – content, materials, teaching method, work of trainer/facilitator, program relevance, the level of understanding, time of the training, etc. According to this, after customer service training the following questions may be asked:
- Was the content appropriate/interesting/useful?
- Was the teaching method effective?
- How can you evaluate the work of a trainer?
- Was the program relevant for you?
- Did you manage to acquire new knowledge and skills during the class (if possible specify)?
- Was the information introduced clearly and understandable while the training?
- Were the activities useful/did they enhance your understanding of the topic?
- Was the timing of the training appropriate?
Depending on the purpose of evaluations, it may be expanded by additional questions. Taking into account the form of foregoing questions, the answers should be provided in the form of scale, for example, from 1 to 5. At the beginning of the survey, it is reasonable to indicate each point, for example, 5 for “excellent,” 4 for “good,” 3 for “okay,” 2 for “satisfactorily,” 1 for “unsatisfactorily.” In addition, below each question, there should be made one line or more for comments. Such multiple choices will allow getting the comprehensive and clear image of employees’ opinions.