Training employees in customer service is paramount for every business as it helps to improve its effectiveness by equipping its employees with the right questioning skills and listening skills, problem solving skills and good telephone manner. By training its employees, an organisation will be able to offer excellent customer service. This will result in improved customer satisfaction and loyalty thus increasing the organisation’s performance and profit margins. It has been said that “Acquiring new customers can cost five times more that satisfying and keeping your existing customers”. For the employees, it increases morale, self-esteem and motivation. There are several training methods that can be used to train employees such as class-room based, e-learning or web based, on-the job (observation) using different techniques and tools like handouts, flip-charts, DVDs. The method that each company selects depends on its training objectives, who is being trained, size of the organisation and its budget.
An instructor/trainer led type of learning with several participants that can be delivered at the company premises or another booked venue. This type of training is mainly used to train new employees on how to answer the telephone, questioning and active listening skills, how to handle difficult customers and sales skills. The Instructor uses a variety of training methods such as group discussions, quizzes, role-plays and written exercises to deliver the training. The Instructor utilises a variety of tools such as whiteboard and marker, flip charts, PowerPoint presentations and case study stories.
Advantages 1. It allows large number of participants to be trained at the same time. 2. It is more personal than web-based training and good for teaching soft skills like questioning and listening skills 3. It’s more interactive and encourages participation. 4. The Trainers can get immediate feedback by having question and answer sessions. 5. Case studies enable the employees to review real life scenarios and how they apply to their roles. 6. Role plays gives the employees an opportunity to practice their skills in a controlled environment before applying them in real life.
Disadvantages 1. Scheduling a large number of participants can be challenging especially if they’re in different locations 2. It can be costly to hire an external Trainer or employing full-time training staff. 3. The success of the training depends on the effectiveness of the trainer 4. It may be difficult to get participants to interact fully if you have a passive group
This involves completing the training on-line by going through modules that have been put on the company’s intranet or a vendor’s website. It is self-paced method of training. The employees complete the same type of training but could be in different locations.
Advantages 1. This type of training is flexible and easily accessible to the participant. They can do it away from the Office at their own pace. 2. It is easy to follow the module as they will be well explained. 3. It’s suitable for refresher training since the employees will already be familiar with the topic 4. The company saves money as the same material can be used over and over again and the training can be standardized. 5. It is easy for the company to keep track of what the participant has done and it also records test results.
Disadvantages 1. The employees will need to be computer literate and have access to a computer. 2. This method of training is not as effective at teaching soft skills like customer service that requires more personal communication. 3. There is no interaction with other participants or Trainer therefore they can’t ask questions or share best practices. 4. Retention rate could be lower due to lack of interaction and its effectiveness depends on the employees’ motivation to complete the training.
On the job training and coaching
This method involves the employee learning on the job how to use the system, take calls and handle queries via observation. A Manager or Supervisor meets with an employee regularly to discuss performance, listen and review their telephone calls, give feedback, answer questions and motivate them to do even better.
Advantages 1. It is more personal and therefore likely to be more effective at generating a positive outcome. 2. It is cost effective since the employee is immediately productive by working in a real life situation.
Disadvantages 1. It can take up most of the Manager’s or Supervisor’s time especially if they have a large team. 2. Productivity is lower during the training period
Which method is best?
Some HR professions are calling for organisations to adopt a training method that is best suited to their employees and their learning approaches. According to The Charted Institute of Personnel and Development ( CIPD) Learning and Talent Development survey 2012, “traditional methods of training are now considered the least effective, with 52% saying that in-house development programmes are more effective, 46% coaching by line managers and 39% mentioning on-the-job training.” However in reality most customer service organisations use more than one method of training as they find a combination of classroom, web based and on the job training keeps employees and trainers engaged.