Question: What resources can best help us enhance our customer service training/programs to be more scalable and employee-driven?

We are a privately held B2B service organization. Service is core to our culture and is a competitive advantage. Net Promoter Score is used to measure and improve customer loyalty. Today, service training primarily happens through informal mentoring; improvement activities are driven from top-down.

We're hiring at historically high rates and NPS recently began trending down.

We're looking for ideas to evolve our service training/program capabilities to better sustain & enhance our culture of service excellence with rapid growth, and drive activity/ improvement ownership further down in the org.

4 Expert Insights

There was a white paper some years ago that demonstrated that every training was improved up to as much as 72% when followed up with coaching. 1-1 is best but group coaching can also work. I call the process accelerating application for integration.

Basically , many trainings are data driven content vehicles telling people what they're supposed to do, but customer service has many nuances and shadings that are happening in the moment that can throw people off their game. It's beneficial for them to have someone who can help them process how they may move the scenario better.

Mentoring is useful but its a 'do as I do/did' event which doesn't allow for style differences in each person. Coaching will draw out their natural methodology of handling it thereby making it much more organic which equates to sustainable. Because ultimately no matter how much they try to emulate the mentor, they are not them so there will be adjustments that the mentor would make automatically unconsciously that are not teachable they need to be grown/developed in accordance with the individual.

Earlier this week, I was part of a live LinkedIn webcast in which we discussed the urgent need for both companies and their employees to be more nimble and responsive to market pressures.

Providing training only through informal mentoring sends the message that your company isn't serious about helping employees  to learn and constantly "up" their game. For more on this, you could read my article this morning about how Peyton Manning's seven touchdowns last night will only buy him five days of glory, then he'll have to prove himself again:

In addition to being a customer experience specialist, I'm a passionate skier and on winter weekends I coach young skiers at Stratton Mountain, where they also use NPS. The first time I went through the early season training, management kept mentioning that we need to increase our NPS score. By the end of the training, it was obvious to me that most instructors had no idea what "NPS" meant. Don't assume that everyone is onboard with what you are doing, or how your system works.

You are growing far too fast to depend on an invisible training program. It's time to get serious.

The reality is customers are not calling your service group to discuss-how great everything is going. They are frustrated or may want to complain or may just have a question. The first recommendation is hiring people who are not just technically capable but have certain communication skills.

The question to ask is this "How do you know when you have made a good decision?" There are two ways to answer this "I just know" or "When I get feedback" The first is called an internal and the second is an external. Externals do better in a customer service role because they know they have a done a good job...when the customer let's them know. The internal knows better than the customer and can sometimes not show empathy.

I would suggest you need communication training from someone trained in NLP to teach the communication and motivation triggers people have and how best to communicate with them.  

One more perspective.  You comment that improvement activities are driven "top down."  While it is really important that the senior levels of the organization are committed to customer service, you may be missing key issues experienced by those who work directly with customers.  A little more analysis may be helpful.  Who are the people who are interacting with customers?  Are there problems across all segments or are there some areas that are more burdened?

In some organizations, those people who are the "face to the customer" are those who are least trained, least supported and least powerful.  Have some meetings  with those who serve customers to generate lists of what the challenges are in customer service.  Ask what issues they can resolve themselves and where they need help.  Sometimes answers lie in the spaces between functions.  Sometimes up-line communication systems are blocked.  It's hard to know but providing training on how to be more responsive, how to actively listen, and all the other "how-to's"may not be the answer.  The answer may lie in the systems within the employees work.