By Andrew Siegel, CEO of Payday and Author of Never Miss A Touch: The Search for Excellence.
If you are like me, you expect your staff — the representatives of your company — to provide great service and consistency. I’ve built Payday HCM around that expectation, that every Payday HCM employee be an outstanding service provider.
Yet, while businesses expect their employees to deliver pitch-perfect customer service, they often neglect to provide training on what good customer service means, why it’s important and how to do it.
Customer service is built into Payday HCM’s DNA. It’s what I brought to the table when I first opened Payday HCM’s doors. It contributed greatly to our early success and growth. With growth came new employees. The new employees needed customer service training. It was more difficult than I expected, but I had created a culture that required that we meet the challenge.
After some research we found that our local community college, Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), offers customer service training. We hired them and, now, we are in our fourth year working together. They visit our office, they learn our business and industry, and they customize the training to our needs. The training takes place over two weeks, with a four-hour session per week.
Eight hours per employee. Company-wide benefit.
We call it customer service training, and it’s geared to working with both internal and external customers. After all, while many of our employees have direct client contact, others work solely with their in-house peers. These engagements take place all day, every day. Whether they are external or internal clients, the expectation is that all interpersonal business be conducted with respect. Our employees need to care for their relationships. We recognize that can be an issue, so we also teach stress reduction exercises.
Our employee surveys come back rating the program as being “excellent.” They believe we should do it every year, and we do. As of 2016, our HR department will also conduct mini classes, once a quarter, so new employees can gain this exposure and not have to wait a year for the official program.
We talk about hiring people with “batteries included.” It is how we express our understanding that there are some elements of customer service that need to come naturally to the employee, because some things can’t be taught. The innate ability to provide customer service is either there, or it isn’t. The batteries are included, or they are not. Therefore, alongside an employee’s ability to adjust to our culture of service, and community support, we look for people with “batteries included” — someone who is up to the rigorous standards of our company’s culture.
It is important that employees display gratitude, and optimism. The importance of a pleasing personality at work, amongst coworkers and clients, can’t be overstated. They are role models, and they are representing Payday HCM’s attitude, where we see something positive in everything.
A lot of our training is based on a simple exercise around “tell us when you had a bad customer service experience.” How did it make you feel? Did you want to do business with them again? Aren’t there service providers that you avoid, because your past experiences with them have been unpleasant? Learn to see everything from the customer’s viewpoint.
Training plays to our ability to compete — especially on a national level. Great customer service may not be the reason people first sign on for our services, but it’s why they stay and why they come back…
Great customer service, however, absolutely also sells, because one-on-one relationships are what really engage. In addition to the technology, and analytics, it is what will continue to support the initiation and continuation of our professional relationships.
There are lots of “tricks:” don’t let the phone ring more than three times. Breathe deeply before responding to a situation. And remember: when you smile it’s hard to be mean.
There are also, however, reliable resources that employees should be empowered to access, to fulfill the customer service legacy you’re trying to build for your company. Without access, and training, such service is not sustainable.