Look for customer-pleasing personalities. The ability to empathize with others, flexibility, and emotional resilience under pressure are qualities that aren’t easy to teach. Design a structured, situational interviewing process to find those special people.
Don’t be afraid to emphasize the negative. Good service isn’t always noticed, but bad service invariably is. Use role-playing exercises and encourage trainees to discuss their own experiences as mistreated customers to help them understand the impact on the company’s fortunes when they don’t make a good impression.
Give employees tools for understanding their customers. Your training program should include training in techniques such as “active listening” and advice on how to interpret customers’ verbal cues.
Don’t neglect “hard” skills. A nice smile and polite telephone manners aren’t enough when a customer needs advice on which hardware to pick or help with a product that isn’t working. Make sure your customer-service people have a good working knowledge of whatever you’re selling.
Promote a service-oriented culture from the top. A company’s customer relationships are heavily influenced by the tone of the management/employee relationship. Sell your top leaders on the importance of company rituals that emphasize service as a core value -- for example, an employee tea or luncheon where executives do the serving.
Workforce, May 2002, p. 28 -- Subscribe Now!