More than a Sheep Dip

I occasionally get asked to deliver one off training workshops.staff-training

There’s nothing wrong with a one off workshop providing it’s not just a sheep dip, and everything else is in place to support delegates once they get back to the workplace.

I’m sure you too can think of occasions when you’ve attended some training, or seminar, or a workshop, and returned to work the next day and carried on exactly as you did before. You’ve probably seen this happen with colleagues too.

It’s such a waste!

Not just of precious training budgets, but of people’s time and talents.

If my 33 years’ training experience has taught me anything it’s that training (whether that be customer service orientated or not) seldom – if ever – works in isolation. It’s what happens before and after the training that’s just as important if you want to make a real difference and make lasting change.

Granted, to create magic moments for your customers your team need the knowledge and skills to deliver a 5 Star Service.

But it goes much, much deeper than that.

Customer service values

The first consideration is to identify the type of experience you want your customers to have. I met with a prospective client last week and she was able to define precisely how she wanted her customers to feel as a result of doing business with her. This makes perfect sense; how else can you convey this to your team?

However, this is more the exception than the norm!

Naturally your customer service values must tie in with the whole ethos, culture and brand identity of your business. The clearer these are the easier is going to be to define your customer service values, and the easier it is going to be to define these to your team.

Better still involve them in the whole process; this is by far the best way to get buy-in and clarity.

Of course once you’ve established these you need to ensure you are the perfect role model. Not just with your customers, but your team as well; treat them as you would like them to treat your customers!

Your customers’ journey

Next on the agenda is the customer journey and all the various touch points your customer experiences. I’m often amazed how frequently I come across employees who only know their tiny little bit of the customer journey, having never experienced anything else the customer gets to see or hear.

I strongly encourage all businesses to have every single employee experience every one of their customer touch points. It’s amazing what they pick up and the opportunities they see to improve the whole customer experience. Not forgetting the potential it opens up for spotting opportunities to add value or make recommendations to customers.

Systems and resources

Even your most talented employees will struggle if you don’t have all the right systems and resources in place.

The most obvious shortfall is when you’re short staffed; even your most enthusiastic team members have a limit on how long they can put on a brave face!

But do you have systems in place which avoid people having to reinvent the wheel every time they carry out similar tasks; putting extra pressure on them, particularly those which have a direct impact on the customer, so the customer doesn’t get a consistent level of service.

Or is there so much red tape and to-ing and fro-ing that slows everything down?

Do you have all the right equipment, tools, or even products?

It’s easy for us to become oblivious of how ineffective a system works or poor the equipment when we’re not using it every day. So test it frequently, and ask your team for their observations and any feedback they’ve had from customers.


Training is useless unless people are given full authority to make decisions that impact the customer experience without having to come and find you or seek authorisation from a manager or supervisor every five minutes.
Trust your team! People soon pick it up when you fail to trust or allocate any responsibility to them, leaving them doubting their own abilities.

Lack of confidence will only lead to people not getting on with things off their own bat, which can be both frustrating and draining for you and customers alike.

For example, giving your team what I refer to as a ‘wow budget’ gives team members the scope to make decisions that might have cost implications (e.g. giving a refund, upgrades or substitutions). Everyone in the team understands what level or value they can go to (without having to defer up the line) if they need to do something to put things right, go that extra mile or wow the customer.

As long as team members can explain how they’ve spent their wow budget you’ll seldom see it abused. It puts then in control and gives them ownership of the customer experience.

And back to the training…

With the best will in the world training and practice in a classroom environment will never be a substitute for direct interaction with customers. It’s this interaction that gives your team the confidence in their skills. Offer plenty of support and encouragement and plenty of positive feedback and recognition when they’ve done well.

Foster a supportive culture where people can learn from their mistakes, rather than be blamed. Encourage team members to come up with their own areas of improvement and how they will achieve these.
Recognise and reward when these improvements have been made even if things are not yet perfect!

Creating a culture of putting the customer first and providing amazing customer experiences takes more than a sheep dip training exercise. It’s about shaping, creating and embedding a whole way of doing things that’s like a stick of rock and runs through everything you do.

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