Author Archives: Caroline Cooper

A-Z of service culture

a-z service cultureHere is a summary of my mini video series on the A-Z of Creating a Service Culture.
Find the full series here:


A for attitude

To help you create and maintain your service culture only recruit people with the right attitude who fit in with your service culture and you are confident can deliver excellent customer service skills. You can train people in technical skills, but you won’t be able to change their attitude so include this in your selection criteria.


B for Behaviours

Your service culture will be influenced by your actions and behaviours – towards customers and towards your team. Behaviour breeds behaviours so be a role model in tune with your service culture or the service culture you want to create. You must demonstrate first class customer service skills for your internal customers as well as your external customers if you want your team to demonstrate first class customer service skills too.


C for Consistency

To achieve a positive service culture, you must have consistency. Consistency of your expectations, your standards, systems. Everyone must be able to meet your standards, not just your exceptional team members. Systems should mean it’s easy for people to deliver your standards on a day to day basis making it easy for your team to contribute to your service culture.


D for Development

Invest in your team’s development so they feel part of your service culture. This isn’t just developing hem for a promotion, but about tapping into their strengths and stretching them to keep them engaged so they are more likely to deliver a wow customer experience and fit in with your service culture.


E for Emotion

More than 50% of a customer’s perception of your service will be down to the emotions you create i.e. how you leave them feeling. When building your service culture it’s important to identify the emotions you’d like to create for your customers at each touch point on the customer journey for the ideal customer experience. Recognise that you may want different emotions for different customers. Once you know the emotions you want to create it’s a lot easier to identify what needs to be happening at each touch point on the customer journey t achieve these.


F for Feedback

When building a service culture it is important to gain feedback from your customers as well as giving supportive feedback to your team members. Customer feedback will tell you what is important to them and how well you are meeting customer expectations – all important when shaping your service culture. Even if you don’t agree with their feedback ask what has led to their perception. When giving feedback to team members let them know what is good and where they can improve. Use the AID model to give supportive feedback.


G for Glue

One way to help your business stand out from the competition is by adding some GLUE. GLUE stands for Giving Little Unexpected Extras. To help build this into your service culture, start by adding some GLUE for your team members. When they experience this first hand, they’ll be far more likely confident to add GLUE for your customers. But to make it part of your service culture you must empower them to do this. Give them examples and a free hand to do this.


H for Happy

As Simon Sinek says “Happy employees ensure happy customers. And happy customers ensure happy shareholders—in that order”.

Your employees create your culture. So if you want a positive service culture it starts with positive employees. Not only do happy employees result in happier customers they are also more productive, less likely to leave and more likely to be ambassadors for your business. Here are 4 ideas to create a happy and engaged team


I for Interested

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

Showing you care is an important factor in creating a service culture. This doesn’t just apply to customers, but also to your team members. The easiest way to work out what’s important to your team members and show an interest is to ask them. Ask what they enjoy, what’s important t them about their job. But, it’s not just about work, what are their interests outside work. What do they value? Understanding these factors and taking account of them all helps create a happy team as discussed in the last video.

Take an interest in your customers too. Find out their priorities and what they value, so we can easily identify how to add extra value with things they will appreciate.


J for Journey

Map the whole of your customer journey from the very first touch point to the very last. Bear in mind the last touch point on the customer journey may be some time after they have bought from you. Consider how well you maintain the relationship with your customer after they have bought.

Once you have mapped you customer journey, define the emotions you want your customers to experience at each touch point. This becomes a useful training tool for your team.


K for Knowledge

Lack of product knowledge leads to frustration for both customers and team members who have to spend time seeking information.

Giving your team thorough product knowledge is key if you want them to be able to describe and promote your products or services, or do any ‘upselling’.


L for Listen

Your service culture will be impacted by how well you listen.

Listening to customers is of course important and will have an impact on their perception of your service; show that you are listening by responding accordingly – how many times as a customer do you feel your comments have fallen on deaf ears?!

It’s not just your customers though, but also your team. Failing to listen to them can be demotivating; which inevitably has a knock on impact on the service they give your customers.


M for Measure and metrics

If all your metrics focus on profit, productivity and sales that may be counter to your good intentions of creating a service culture. Put metrics in place that will help you measure your service. Whether these are based on repeat business, customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, recommendations, customer reviews, or any other metrics it’s important they are aligned to your service values and are compatible with metrics in other areas such as sales.

In the video I cover considerations to ensure your metrics do actually enhance service, not hinder it.


N for No no’s

Saying no to a customer can come across as if you don’t want to help. That doesn’t mean to say that you never say no, but there are ways of saying no in a positive way, and your team need to know how to do this.

In the video I cover 3 stages.

Always tell people what you can’t do first, before telling them what you can do instead.


O for Ownership

Failing to take ownership is frustrating both for customers and colleagues. This might be anything from taking responsibility for complaints, even when it’s not your department, passing on messages to colleagues, or even just picking up litter in the car park.

No customer ever wants to hear “I can’t help you, you need to speak to xxx” or “They’re not hear today; can you call back tomorrow?”

Or the manager, you don’t want to hear people complaining “that’s not my job!” or “That’s not my fault!“

It’s not just your customer facing teams who need to take ownership; your customers won’t differentiate between someone who has a direct responsibility to customers and those who are support staff or even third party providers. Either way, these people represent your business in the customers eyes, so it’s important everyone takes ownership.

In the video I cover 3 things you can do to get people to take ownership.


P for Perceptions

Recognise that your customers will often see things from a different perspective, therefore will have a different perception. This doesn’t mean they are wrong! They simply see things differently.

It’s therefore important to review the whole of your customer journey from a customer’s perspective, which often highlights things that can be improved or refined in some way, and gain more understanding for the customer.

It’s even more important when you’re dealing with problems or complaints. This is especially true when you don’t necessarily agree with them. Whether we agree with them or not , the first thing is to identify what has led to their perception.


Q for Quality questions

The ability to ask quality questions is a vital skill for anyone dealing with customers as well a key leadership skill, so plays a key role in creating a positive service culture.

Your team need to develop the skill of quality questions to understand your customers’ needs and expectations, so include this in your customer service training. This is particularly important when dealing with problems or complaints to really understand the issue so that they are solving the right problem! It’s important customers recognise that they’ve been understood, and the better the questions the easier this will be.

Good quality questions also help managers to get the best from their teams, to understand individuals within the team, and demonstrating you care about them. They are also a good way to involve your team to get buy in, to find out their ideas, and to aid their development by getting them to think things through for themselves, all of which helps with employee engagement and staff retention.


R for Recognition

Of course it’s important to recognise your valued customers and reward their loyalty. But building a positive service culture starts with your team and ensuring they feel valued and recognised. The more your team members feel proud of the job they do, the more this rubs off and gets picked up by customers so has a knock on effect on your customer service.

In the video I cover 7 ways to recognise your team which in turn will make them feel valued and aid employee engagement and staff retention.

“If you treat your employees like they make a difference, they will” Jim Goodnight, CEO, SAS


S for Smile

A simple smile is so easy, but can have a dramatic impact on your customer’s experience and how they feel. A smile is infectious, if you smile at someone 90% of the time they will smile back and it’s difficult to feel grumpy when you smile.

Create an environment where everyone feels they have something to smile about. A warm smile and a cheery good morning to your team is a good start and helps to engage your team. They are far more likely to follow suit with customers…


T for Trust

Do you do anything in your business which sends an unconscious signal to your customers that you don’t trust them?

What about with your team? If they feel that you don’t trust them, they might feel under valued, and can be a source of employee disengagement. Empower your team to do the job they are employed to do, and to do what’s best for your customer under the circumstances. Give them flexibility to find their own way of doing things, as long as the end result is achieved. Create an environment where it’s okay for people to make a mistake, as long as they learn from it; people will be far more likely to own up to errors if they are confident they won’t be reprimanded or punished.

Earn the trust of your team. Demonstrate personal integrity.

Be open with your team and how your own vulnerabilities, and admit your own shortcomings; the more open you are with them the more open they will be with you.


U for Unselfish

In building a positive service culture you people on your team who are prepared to go out of their way to help others, will go the extra mile for customer, even if that means staying late, or will help a colleague, even if it means getting behind with their own work.

Take account of this need for unselfish people when you are recruiting. Look for evidence and examples of them going out of their way to help others in their previous role. Do they get involved in any charity work, volunteer for organisations, or do any type of unpaid work such as coaching a kid’s football team. How do they feel about giving up their time, passing on their skills, or sharing their know-how for the benefit of others?


V for Values

Your customer service values are your way of saying “this is what’s important to us about the way we treat our customers”. They represent a way to share beliefs that relate to your purpose.

It really doesn’t matter if you refer to them as values, vision, mission, ethos or philosophy, just so long as you have something which acts as a guide for everyone within your business to relate to. You don’t need to a engineer, your values. In the video I outline 3 factors to consider to ensure your customer service values mean something to you, your team and your customers.

If you’re looking to create a positive service culture, start with defining what good looks like, I defining your customer service values. And if you already have, customer service values check how well they are understood and met on a day by day basis.


W for Watch your words

Your choice of words can influence people’s perceptions of you and your business, so they are bound to influence your culture.

For more on words and how they can shape your culture go to:

Be mindful of your vocabulary, terminology and the words you use, and the emotions they create.

In most cases over 50% of people’s buying decisions are based on emotions rather than logic, so if were not creating the right emotions, this can impact not only our customers perception of value, but also hit your bottom line (just as it did with Gerald Ratner a few years ago!)


X for Exceed expectations

In creating a positive service culture is not enough to aim for merely meeting customers’ expectations, we need to exceed customer’s expectations.

To meet and exceed customer’s expectations we need to:

  1. 1.understand their expectations, and recognise these don’t stand still; customers’ expectations are always changing and increasing
  2. Be continually making incremental improvements
  3. 3.involve your team in looking for opportunities to improve the customer experience: opportunities to add unexpected extras, pre-empt customers’ needs, solve their problems, save time and effort, adding a personal touch
  4. 4.empower your team to do whatever is best in any given situation to meet and exceed the customer’s expectations


Y for Yes

A positive service culture includes having people with a positive mindset and who will always be trying to find a solution for the customer, so aiming for a yes, rather than a no.

However, Yes, but can sound confrontational and doesn’t get you any further forward, whereas yes, and keeps the conversation positive, and shows you are listening.

Making the switch from ”Yes, but…” to “yes, and… “can take a bit of practice, so at the end of this blog post is an exercise you can do with your team:

 Z for Zeal

The dictionary definition of the is a great enthusiasm, eagerness or desire for a cause or movement. In this instance the cause or movement is for your customers have brilliant service and a fantastic experience. It’s not enough for you to have the enthusiasm, eagerness or desire, it’s also important to create that in your team, so everyone is striving for your customers to have a fantastic experience. When you are enthusiastic (and have zeal) this will rub off on to your team.



Ways with Words and how they impact customer experience and service culture

words impact service culture

Do you remember the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?

Won’t they?

Ask any experienced marketing copywriter and they’ll be able to tell you just how powerful words can be in creating both positive and negative emotions, and prompting people to take notice, put up barriers or take action.

In today’s video in my mini video series on the A-Z of creating a service culture (we are up to the letter W now) I talk about the importance of your choice of words, and how some can create a positive or negative emotion; not from a marketing perspective, but how they might impact how your customers and/or the team members feel and how this gets reflected in your customers’ experience and service culture.


Building Rapport

People generally like (and feel more comfortable with) people like themselves. Using similar words, terminology and expressions helps build rapport with customers and team members alike. So, listen out for the terminology others use and try to use their terms rather than yours.

(This extends to showing common interests, common goals and common values.  So, assuming you share these let them know, as these can help to bond you together.  A relationship with a customer or team member will be a lot easier if you share something you have in common.)


Adding Value

Do you remember how Gerald Ratner described the jewellery he sold in his (up till then successful) jewellery stores?

The words you use to describe your products and services will have a big impact on how people perceive them, and the value they place on them.

Describing something as ‘just…’ or ‘only…’ can work to play down the price, but when you’re describing a product or service you have the impact of diminishing its value. Instead, use powerful words which will create emotional appeal (bearing in mind that most buying decisions are based more on emotions than logic). Such as: gorgeous, luxurious, delicious, creamy, warming.

Teach your team to use such descriptions for your products and services. That doesn’t mean to say they need a script, but get them to identify what – for them – best describes that product or service, a description they are comfortable with when explaining to a customer.


Dealing with disagreements

Whether it’s handling complaints, dealing with poor performance, or simply having to say no to a customer or a team member, your choice of words can have a big impact. Some are like red rags to a bull. Here are a few examples we so often hear…

Yes, but… As soon as anyone hears the word ‘but’ they know they are about to be contradicted. See:

It’s our policy – no one cares about your policies, they just want to get what they want (or the next best thing).

You can’t, you have to, you must – people don’t like being told what to do; offer suggestions, recommendations, if you do X you’ll get Y (Y being a solution or something of benefit to them).

That’s not my job, that’s not our department, that’s not my responsibility.  Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do – even if this is simply helping to put them through to the appropriate person or department.


Blinded by science

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using industry jargon, but if your customer or team member is not familiar with this jargon, it can make them feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or patronised.

Don’t dumb down if you don’t need to, but just beware of using terms others either simply don’t understand or could be misinterpreted.


Common courtesies

Ensure your greetings are sincere; there’s a huge difference between a scripted, bland and robotic “how are you today, sir? ” without even bothering to look up or listen to the answer, and being greeted with a sunny smile and a cheerful “Good morning, Mr Smith! We haven’t seen you for a while; welcome back!”

Using someone’s name when you greet them makes them feel more valued. However, never shorten their name unless they ask you to. So, Mr Smith doesn’t become Fred, Andrew doesn’t become Andy or Deborah doesn’t become Debbie unless that’s what they request.

Never under estimate the value of a heartfelt “thank you” be that to a customer, team member, supplier or colleague.


If you only do one thing

Over the next 24 hours take stock of the words and language you use and listen the words your team use.

Ask: do these create a positive emotion or leave people with a negative impression, and how well does the outcome reflect the service culture you want to create.

Fluff Busting

Do you ever find yourself having conversations with a customer or team members and then they say to you at a later date, ” No, that’s not really what I meant!”and you realise that you have completely misunderstood them?

Or they misunderstand you; you’ve made a comment that’s been mis-interpreted? This may have been because we have been too vague or ambiguous in the way we express things.

Because we all filter or delete information it can mean the information we share or receive, or questions we ask can be very general or vague, making it difficult for others to fully understand the question, issue or action required.

We are all inclined to generalise, exaggerate or distort situations by the language we use, and this can easily take us off track when we are communicating with others.

In order to overcome this, we often need to drill down to get specifics; to recognise the ‘fluff’ in our communications and learn the art of clarification or ‘ fluff busting’.

Fluff busting can help in three ways:

  1. To help us to say what we mean as precisely as possible
  2. To help us to understand as clearly as possible what other people mean
  3. To help other people to understand exactly what they really do mean

This is particularly important at times when wires can get crossed – such as dealing with customer complaints.

Here are the four main areas of ‘fluff’ and ambiguity, and how to overcome them.

Generalisations, exaggerations and distortions

These include words like always, never, everyone, nobody. For example: “This happens every time!” Or, ’’Everyone is always so unhelpful’.

You want to challenge with respect and probe/explore their sweeping statements.

The ideal response to this type of statement on paper might be ‘Really? Everyone? Always?’ but when handling complaints it can seem sarcastic or patronising if we’re not careful, so better to ask for some examples and gather the facts.

Abstract nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs

These are the words which are often used to describe the type of service or response the customer is looking for, for example quick, quality, good fun, luxury, value for money. The problem with these types of words is that they mean different things to different people. What might be luxury to you may be very different for the customer; one person’s idea of value for money may be very different from somebody else’s.

So, check for clarity – what do you mean by that?

Respond to these types of words by asking for examples of what constitutes good fun, value for money, etc, or ask what criteria they would use to define these things.

Another example might include throwaway comments such as ‘Your receptionist was really unhelpful.’  So again, check what they mean by this or ask, ‘How specifically was he/she unhelpful?’

Or a comment from a team member such as saying, ‘I don’t feel confident to do that’. So again, check what they mean by this or ask ‘what areas are you unsure of?


These are the words that we would use to compare one thing and another for example quicker, faster, cheaper, better, best, bigger, smaller.

In order to be useful, we need to know what things are being compared to and any measurement involved.

To put this into context an example might be ‘I’d hoped for something cheaper than that’ your response might be ‘What is your budget?’ Or your customer asks “Do you have anything bigger?” You need to identify how much bigger? Are they looking for something 10% bigger, twice the size or 10 times the size?!

Rules & Blocks

Rules are often self-imposed and may be determined by past experience, or our own sense of values.  These include statements like “I couldn’t possibly agree to that.’ Or “I must get this sorted today.”  What you want to do is to identify where the pressure or barrier is coming from, so use questions such as ‘What is preventing you?’ or ‘What would happen if you did/didn’t?’ these replies open up possibilities in the other person’s mind and can create a new awareness.

For example, you ask a team member to carry out a task and they reply ‘I can’t do that”. This could be for any number of reasons: Is this because they don’t know how to? In which case is it because they haven’t been shown, or they simply believe they won’t do it well due to lack the confidence. It may believe they can’t do it due to lack of authority or access to the tools or resources to do it. Or they may simply say they can’t as they don’t have time.

A word of caution

This degree of precision would not be appropriate in every situation so only use it when it is important to really understand other’s meaning. Remember the importance of maintaining rapport when you are using this technique; it is not to make people feel they are under interrogation.

This is one reason why you should try to avoid using the question ‘ why?‘ When people hear that question they often react on the defensive and looking for excuses or justifications. Each of the above examples work better by using what we call ‘ softeners’ where you start the question with expressions such as ‘ I’m wondering what…….’

So remember to cut through the fluff when you are:

  1. Asking for help or give instructions
  2. Identifying customer needs and expectations
  3. Handling objections or responding to customer complaints

to ensure you are really clear on what you mean and you fully understand what other people mean.

What’s Makes Them Tick?

When I ask managers what’s important to their team members it’s usually quite revealing when I get an all too common responses of “money and a quiet life”, or “I don’t know what makes them tick”.

The former might sometimes be the case to an extent, but sadly it’s often an assumption. The only reason managers don’t understand this is because they’ve never asked the question. They then wonder why they have a problem with employee retention!

Spending time with team members and finding out what’s important to them is just as important as you or your team spending time with customers, finding out their needs.

Ask what they enjoy about certain tasks and why; how they feel about particular aspects of their job. Conversely ask about the things that disappoint or frustrate them, and what they’d change if they could.

Whilst some love the sense of achievement or recognition others get a buzz from supporting others. Some love to have their say and see their ideas put into practice, whilst others are happiest when they’re learning or being stretched.

Finding out about what people value outside work as well as in work can often be an insight. Ask casually about their weekend or what they have planned for the evening ahead or their day off, and show an interest in what they get up to in their spare time.

Talking about interests amongst the team can be useful for you, but can also elicit a sense of pride in the things they do outside work and helps each of your team understand what’s important to their fellow team members.

So what?

But, how does knowing what’s important to someone outside work help you with employee retention or engagement, or help them in work? Obviously it’s not going to be possible to have them practising their hobbies all day long!

But by looking at the attributes and skills for their activities when they’re away from work can give us an inkling as to where their strengths lie and clues on how these can be applied in the workplace.

For example, do they have a creative streak in them; do they get involved with highly competitive sports or activities; do they have a role of helping the community, supporting and caring.

Of course, it won’t always be practical or possible to fully incorporate their interests but if you aim to do this wherever you can you’ll soon start to get the best from the team, which will invariably have a knock-on effect on customers too, notwithstanding making your life easier into the bargain!

So, stop trying to suss out what makes team members tick. Ask them!

A Crazy Commitment

Creating a Service Culture

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you’ll know I love sharing ideas and tips to help you engage your team and/or make your customers experience even better.

So earlier this week I made a crazy commitment…

That I would share a video a day for 26 days on my A-Z of Creating a Service Culture.

So we are up to the letter C.

Which means only another 23 to go!

You can view the latest video here.

It’s short and sweet (just 2 minutes and 28 seconds to be precise).

If you enjoy the video please leave a comment or feel free to ask a question or add your own tips!

You can view the full series on my A-Z of Creating a Service Culture by subscribing to my YouTube channel here

Delivering Customer Service Skills in House

customer service skills

I sometimes hear managers and even business owners commenting: “What’s the point in training people if they then leave?

They might also ask the question the other way round, and ask “What if I don’t train them and they stay”!

A lack of investment in your team might even be the very reason they leave.

When it comes to core skills such as customer service skills, having the resources to deliver your training in-house means that you get a far greater return on investment.

What this means to you is…

Far greater flexibility to:

  • Tailor the content to reflect your own challenges
  • Deliver the content in short sharp sessions to maintain participants’ interest, and suit your own schedules
  • Personalise or brand the content and materials to match your internal image and service culture
  • Develop the material to use as and when you need a top up
  • Keep all your new starters up to the same standard as everyone else to maintain your customer service skills standards

You can involve your management team in the training which means:

  • They have a vested interest in seeing it implemented
  • It’s fantastic development of their day to day leadership skills
  • It raises their profile and respect from their team
  • You get consistent messages
  • It’s easier to relate the training to people’s individual roles

And importantly it means your training budget goes so much further!

Developing Service Superstars gives you just that. It’s a ready-made customer service skills training programme giving you everything you need to get started on delivering your own customer service skills training. tomorrow

In short, it’s ideal if you want to deliver your own customer service skills training in-house but don’t have time to create a programme from scratch. So you save time, money and effort on course development

Ensuring you still get the training delivered, enabling you and your team to develop excellent customer service skills and deliver memorable customer experiences every day.

Plus, if you sign up to the programme by midnight on 5th February you will receive my special bonuses which will give you a massive head start in delivering the training and seeing the results.

So if this sounds appealing head on over here to learn more.

Inject some energy

employee productivitySo here we are at the end of the first full week back to normal after all the festivities. How good has employee productivity been so far?

As a business owner you’ve probably plans, hopes or dreams for the year ahead. But for some, being back at work in January doesn’t always have the same attraction.

Whether your team have been working flat out over the Christmas and New Year period, or they’ve taken time off to take a well earned break, either way it’s often tough getting back into the swing of things in the new year.

It’s time to inject some new energy. Give your team something to work towards so they’ve a sense of purpose and focus, which will in turn improve employee productivity.

Here are 6 actions you can take to get you going…

1. Thank You

Simply say thank you to show your appreciation for their input and contribution over the past year. A thank you and an acknowledgement of a job well done is far more sincere if you’re specific about what you’re recognising, so pick out some specifics.


2. Celebrate and share successes.

Remind your team of all your achievements over the past 12 months. What milestones have you achieved as a business and individually. What were the highlights, and what’s been their contribution?

Staff are more likely to be loyal and work harder for a business they believe in.

Give praise where it’s due to create a buzz for the year ahead!


3. What’s your Why?

Remind people of your purpose and values. now as a good time to review your purpose and values. Are these living breathing and evolving and referred to and reflected in your day to day activities? Or simply a statement that’s tucked away and forgotten?

Be passionate about your purpose – if you aren’t how can you expect anyone else to be?


4. Fresh Focus

Time off often gives people time for reflection and can prompt them to start thinking about other options, career moves or even career changes.

Share your plans for the coming year with your team so they feel involved.

Schedule one to one reviews early to discuss individual contributions and where they fit in with your plans for the year ahead. Ask for their input to demonstrate you value their contribution.

Encourage everyone in your team to have their own goals too. Even if these don’t include working for you long term, discuss how you can help them achieve their goals together.


5. Getting stuck in

It can often feel as if you’re not achieving much in the first few days or weeks back at work. Set some short term goals or mini projects so that everyone can get stuck in and can see some results within the first few days back at work.

It will certainly help focus attention back onto the job in hand, and get everyone back into full flow as quickly as possible.


6. Plan your training and development

As well as your routine refreshers, look at where you can be

  • Upskilling and cross training people to cover other’s responsibilities
  • Capitalising on individual strengths to enable people to really excel
  • Look for opportunities to stretch team members within their current responsibilities so they don’t get stale
  • Discuss how you can add variety, set new challenges or stretch them
  • Identify what development people need to work towards future roles and aspirations.

So inject some energy into your team to improve employee productivity.

Freshen up your refreshers

customer service training ideas21 customer service training ideas to help freshen up your refreshers

If January is a quieter month for you now might the time to address your refresher training. Refresher training is important in any area, and customer service is no exception.

Without reminders it’s easy for service to stagnate and standards to slip. Consistency in your service ensures your customers won’t be disappointed on their second, seventh or even 70th visit.

But how can you make this engaging for everyone, especially your long-serving team members who have seen it all before?

Instead of thinking refresher (as some will simply see this as a boring repeat of the same old messages) focus on different aspects of service.

By Creating a culture of continuous improvement, and putting the emphasis on making things even better, it’s less likely to be dismissed as unimportant and repetitive.

Here are a few customer service training ideas to help freshen up your refreshers (or any other training)…

  1. Challenge your team members to come forward with suggestions on how things can be improved, not just for the customer, but to make their lives easier too. Shaving 5 minutes off a task in one area can free up 5 more minutes to spend caring for customers elsewhere..
  2. Add variety. Do something different to what people are used to, to make the sessions interesting or memorable, so everyone remembers the messages.
  3. Stop thinking about training purely as a classroom activity; get creative with your training. Recognise people’s different learning styles and vary the ways you communicate with your team to appeal to different preferences.
  4. Ask the team what training they think they need and how they’d like to learn it.
  5. Make learning a part of the day-to-day activity, by using everyday activities as opportunities for development and where it’s second nature for people to help and support one another, and to learn on the job.
  6. Use short sharp ‘coffee break sessions’ to delve deeper to explore how you can make things even better. What can you do to add more value for your customers and really wow them?
  7. Assign tasks or projects on real business issues to develop team members.
  8. Get everyone’s involvement. Avoid the chalk and talk’ lecture, it’s not as if they are hearing this for the first time. Use team exercises to encourage interaction, get opinions, and generate ideas so everyone benefits from each other’s insights and suggestions.
  9. Use team meetings to direct focus and reinforce messages. Most customer facing roles are ever-changing, and every day there will be specific and individual options, events, and situations.
  10. Use refreshers as an opportunity to give your team up to date product knowledge.
  11. Celebrate and share successes. Remind people of the importance and significance of what they do; everyone likes to be appreciated, and when they hear about refresher training they can see this as a criticism, implying they are not doing things well enough.
  12. Recognise and reward team members who go the extra mile and contribute to exceptional customer service to reinforce what makes a good customer experience.
  13. Act on customer feedback. Ask for direct feedback from your customers so you learn first-hand what they value and where you can make improvements in your service.
  14. Share positive customer feedback. It can be a really big boost for the team. Use it to reinforce good practice. Even for those not involved or contributing directly, it helps illustrate the impact of good service and a great customer experience.
  15. Keep things light hearted when discussing customer service issues; it is a serious subject, but people are more receptive when they are happy and relaxed. Reinforce messages with quizzes and games to add an element of competition and fun.
  16. Add in fun energiser activities and ‘right brain’ exercises. These might seem trivial, but getting your team involved keeps them energized and in a better state of mind for learning.
  17. Take people away from their normal environment (as long as this doesn’t make them uncomfortable or become a distraction); go outside, use music; alter the layout, introduce unusual props.
  18. Use role plays. Despite people’s reluctance they are a great way for people to practise what to say and how in a safe setting. Make these less intimidating by running in small groups with colleagues acting as an observer to give feedback.
  19. Capitalise on people’s strengths, and utilise those with talents in specific areas to share their skills and expertise with the team. This is not only good for people’s development, it also helps the team respect other’s roles and share the burden
  20. Involve your support teams in refresher training, identifying what they do or not do which impacts the customer experience, however minor, and ask for their input on how these can be developed.
  21. Ask your team for feedback on how you are doing in their eyes. It can feel uncomfortable for people to give feedback to their boss, so ask in a more conversational way such as “What could I be doing to make customer service easier?“. Be sure to accept any feedback with good grace, and thank them for an honest response!

So instead of rolling out the same old training, take one, two or all 21 customer service training ideas to help freshen up your refresher training.

If you need help with this, find out how to get this here

Big Rocks

Complaint handling

Complaint handling  – It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. That’s because it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

But, before you get onto “Big Rocks” I have a big rock of my own, and could do with your help, please.

I’m currently working on a new programme to help businesses deliver their own customer service training in-house. I need to make sure I have considered everything, and this is where you come in. If you could have a private conversation with me about developing customer service skills, with your team, what 2 questions would you like to ask me? Just click here and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.

As you plan for the year ahead here’s something to bear in mind…

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s idea of the rocks and the jar. In case you haven’t it goes like this…

Covey takes a jar, into which he places a few big rocks. Then he adds a bunch of small pebbles, and finally some sand, which fits in around the rocks and pebbles.

The jar symbolises our time, the rocks represent our important priorities, the small pebbles represent things that matter, but that you could live without, and finally the sand which represents busy tasks that aren’t important, and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

When you place the big rocks in the jar first, then put in the pebbles, and finally the sand, everything either fits in, or the only thing that won’t fit is excess sand.

The metaphor here is that if you try and do this in the reverse order putting sand in first, then the pebbles you can’t fit in the big rocks.

This holds true with the things you let into your life. If you spend all your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important.

While you can always find time to work or do chores, it is important to manage the things that really matter first. The big rocks are your priorities, while the other things in your life are represented by pebbles and sand.

One such big rock is scheduling time for staff development, such as setting aside time for developing customer service skills, or any activity which helps develop your service culture.

Let’s take complaint handling as an example. It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. If team members had been trained and coached in complaint handling in advance such a situation could probably be avoided. But it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

One of the challenges is that we see these big rocks as scary overwhelming tasks. But if your managers and supervisors have the skills to deliver training in-house (be that identifying customer needs, complaint handling, managing customer expectations). It means you can break down this training into bite-size sessions which you can schedule in over several days, several weeks, or simply make part of your weekly/monthly routine.

So, the moral of the story? As you plan for the year ahead, put in the big rocks first – the things that are important, such as staff development and training, even though they are not necessarily urgent yet, or else they won’t fit into the jar. i.e. schedule these into your calendar first.

p.s. please send me your questions- what 2 questions would you like to ask me about developing customer service skills? Just click reply to this email and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.