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<i>Dear Workforce</i> What Role Does Employee Training Play in Improving Our Customer Service Standards

December 22, 2005
Dear Recruiting for Results:

Let's begin with some detective work.
As a start, you'll want to identify the specific outcomes you are looking for. What does "best-in-class customer service" mean, for example? What does it look and feel like in your particular industry? How, and by what measures, will you know when you achieve that level of performance? Where are the gaps between current and desired performance? Then ask yourself: To what degree is training related to bridging each of the individual gaps?
Remember that training is not the silver bullet answer to all (or even most) performance deficiencies.
Armed with the answers to these questions, some hard data and, perhaps most importantly, a bone-honest assessment of how willing and able your organization is to make this journey, you should have a pretty good idea of the general direction your training effort needs to take.
Some specific suggestions:
1. On the premise that great cakes start with great ingredients, the only way you'll be able to deliver world-class service is through world-class employees who are playing their A-game every day. You should devote a large chunk of your training to ensuring that your managers are proficient at recruiting, selecting and leading.
Given that you will get the culture that you measure and reward, it is important to focus on things such as new-hire success rates, morale/engagement levels and bench strength. In the rewards area, if you're not linking at least 25 percent of each manager's variable income to the quality of his or her recruiting efforts, you're not serious about this.
2. Most organizations define their service standards and related training regimen too narrowly for each employee group. For example, bank tellers who are taught only to process deposit and withdrawal transactions will, through no fault of their own, cause the bank to miss out on making loans and selling other types of services. At a minimum, every employee--repeat, every employee--should be trained and required to periodically demonstrate basic knowledge of the organization's products and services.
This is good for human resources folks, too. (While at FedEx, I required our entire human resources staff, myself included, to periodically take and pass the same "features of service" test the company's couriers and service agents are given.)
3. Every organization needs to establish and vigorously manage a big internal scoreboard of its "service quality index," an amalgam of individual service-related metrics. Make sure your employees see this and understand its relation to their efforts.
4. Let your benchmarking efforts wander beyond the immediate playing field of industry peers and the same old tired metrics. Find out what you can learn and how you might compare your habits and results (both leadership and operational) to those of world-class service organizations like Singapore Airlines, Ritz-Carlton, Pebble Beach Resort, Amazon.com, Lexus, Starbucks and the like.
Most of all, have some fun with it. Good luck.
SOURCE: Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette, co-authors,Contented Cows Give Better Milk, www.ContentedCows.com, March 10, 2005.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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