I have nothing against big companies. Heck, I work for one and love it!
If you work for a large corporation, often you are looking to Headquarters or Corporate or Consolidated for your marching orders. That is often one of the best parts about working for a company of size – the robust amount of resources available.
That is a double edged sword to be sure. For every ten great programs or processes you receive, there is one lukewarm meeting-in-a-box that feels absolutely mailed in.
Don’t fret, though, as this presents a tremendous opportunity for you as a Leader. I didn’t say manager. . . I didn’t even say leader with a little “L.” I am talking about those of you who are looking to be capital “L” Leaders.
Training programs that aren’t very good don’t have to be a punishment for your teams. Your company probably isn’t in the habit of rolling out programs or trainings for no good reason – if they are, then please find someplace else to work because you are too good for that. But likely there is a legit need – such as a customer service training program.
So let’s take that example and run with it. How can you make the most of your company’s customer service training program?
Let’s start by recognizing that there are companies that do a fantastic job of customer service training and should be proud of what they deliver. If you work for one of those places, then carry on and make great use of these materials. If not, then read on. . . you picked a great day to stop by.
Often these programs come to the front lines fully baked and ready to roll out. And unfortunately they are often the most vanilla, bloodless programs you are likely to see. They cover the basics and are rolled up in a neat PowerPoint package with facilitator guide and talking points. Finally this program arrives in a Fed Ex box and is dropped on your desk. It clearly states in the roll out memo that this is a mandatory program and it’s your job to check the box. So this monster isn’t your fault, but it is your problem.
So what do you do now?
Well start by shaking off the notion that this is just a box to check. You have to find your personal connection to the program and bring the passion. If you don’t have any enthusiasm for the information you are sharing, your audience certainly isn’t going to either. At a base level, every program is going to cover pretty much the same items: smile, be polite, thank your customers, make great eye contact, suggestive sell, et al – the trick is to inspire your teams to do this. That is where you can differentiate yourself as a Leader to your organization and as a star to your Customers. This is where your passion will help you win. When you strip away everything else, this is you standing in front of your team asking them to treat your customers well. Much of what they do will be determined by their connection to you, the simplicity of the request, and the example you set long after training ends.
Practice and Rehearse. In my opinion, 90% of great customer service training is all about the presenter. Does this person make me feel good about what we are discussing; does it make me want to buy in? If you go up in front of the audience cold and rely on the facilitator’s guide as a crutch to support you during the presentation, you are cooked before you even get started. When you are in front of your audience, you are a professional presenter regardless of your “day job.” Own it and your audience will get engaged. If you want to improve your presentation skills there are books, online videos, and coaches out there who can help you. I’m guessing you know someone in your organization that is great at this, so reach out for help. This person can provide tips and tricks, and might even let you practice with him or her so you can get feedback. There is honestly no substitute for practice if you want to get better. If you want to really hone your craft, work on improv speeches. Have you spouse or best friend assign you a random topic, take one minute to prepare, then speak for five minutes.
Amp up the content. Now I am not advocating for wholesale change of a program you have been tasked to deliver, but can you turn up the volume a little? Can you bring some personal stories into the mix? What about a few fun videos from YouTube to both lighten the mood and drive home a key point? Finally, role playing is invaluable. If you can put your team into mock transactions designed to test their knowledge and let them experiment with what they have learned, you will see their confidence and skill increase.
Keep the information relevant long after training. If you pull your team in, deliver the content, then never mention it again, it would have been easier to just toss the money and time you spent into the river. It would be just as impactful. Once you thank the team for coming and you hopefully get a nice round of applause, the clock is ticking on the relevance expiration date. Now you must be sure that you are mentioning the principles discussed every chance you get. If you see someone really living them, then be sure to recognize them for those behaviors. Don’t be afraid to plaster these items throughout your employee areas and hand out whatever collateral was provided for reinforcement. If there isn’t a small pocket edition of customer service tips provided, then create one. Something no bigger than a business card should do the trick – and then encourage your employees to carry them, memorize them, and ask to see them often. You should set a great example and carry one as well. All of this is simply a way to integrate this into your cultural lexicon.
The ask is clear. Don’t make your Customer service training just one more thing on your to do list. Own it. Deliver it with passion. And live those values every day.
Best wishes for amazing presentations!
Tony Johnson -Customer Service Leader-
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