“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” Henry Ford
Are your employees old? Well according to the quote, if they desist from learning then they must be! However, have you considered that maybe the customer service training your company provides is probably boring and a series of rote and bad conducted programs? If this is true then is obvious that your customer service training sessions will have low attendance and or low energy with minimum participation. Rather than attend training your employees would probably prefer to feign illness or find other means of ducking the training each time it is held. The fact is that customer service is a challenging role given the nature of job and unless the requisite training is provided, the agents could succumb to the pressures of it. If companies pay a trifle more attention they can make customer service training fun, interesting and highly interactive. Training programs must be altered, updated and tailor made for the audience. A good customer service training program must have these key ingredients to ensure the audience is taking note and will use the techniques in their jobs.
– Keep the training program more interactive and less talking and theory based. The audience, in this case, the customer service agents are already required to sit and listen to the incessant complaints and queries of customers. They would rather attend a training program that provided them with fun based ways of dealing with customer issues and be provided with the tools right away that would enable them to do their jobs better. They would like to hear of new ideas that they can easily implement and also be given the opportunity to present their ideas to make their work simpler, more effective and a lot more fun.
– Get them talking. An interactive training program is always more fun as it allows the participants to feel like they are contributing rather than being treated as half-wits who need to be talked down to. For example if one participant asks a question, the trainer should ask someone from the audience to answer it. This makes the participants feel like they are contributing and also their opinions matter. Such an approach also helps to draw out particularly shy or laid back employees who could have the knowledge, but since no one ever asked them they choose to remain quiet. It is also an excellent way for the participants to know each other’s capability and respect the differences.
– Make customer service training fun by adding dollops of humor and entertainment. Adding a funny slide to the presentation, or showing funny customer service situation video, proves to be very effective in keeping the attention of the participants. As an example – This trainer friend would ask the participants to play act – as customer service agent and one as a customer. The faux conversation would then be recorded. She would then play the recording for all. The first reaction was always the same – the participants would be in splits. It was funny to see one of ‘their own’ on screen and playing the role of a ‘difficult’ customer. Post the laughter, she would ask them to correct whatever seemed wrong with the interaction and also point out the positives. This method worked with 100% accuracy each time – she got the participants involved, eager, having fun and gaining implementable lessons for their job. It was humorous, yet extremely beneficial.
– Ask questions that may be seemingly straightforward but are aimed at creating hype. The participants must be roused enough to enter in to healthy discussions and even some bit of argument amongst themselves. Hearing a different point of view can very often prove to be an eye-opener and fosters an environment of acceptance. The way to start such a debate would be ask other participants if they agree with what one participant just said. Throw open questions pertaining to whether a certain idea would work in the company, how it would impact their job, what can be done to improve and build team spirit and the likes.
The thing for trainers to remember is that at least 75-80% of the time of the training program should be spent with the participants talking and discussing. Every one of the participants must be encouraged to speak and ask questions. Every group typically has some more active participants who tend to overshadow the quieter or lesser interested participants. It is the trainer’s responsibility to ensure that each participant benefits and takes away some learning from the program. Customer service is tough for all – so customer service training must be fun for all!
The company must ensure that the trainer is either a very well-versed person from within the company or must hire a professional trainer who understands the nuances of customer service well. Plus the trainer must be able to ‘take along’ all the participants and encourage them to share their ideas, have discussions and sort out any differences that may arise. No participant must be expected or allowed to be a mute spectator in the program.
– Trainers must ‘break the ice’ by either a game or an anecdote from their own experiences to help the participants to connect. A funny incident or a mistake the trainer made before getting better is sure to strike the right chord with the participants. Instead of being intimidated by the trainer, they should be able to see the trainer as one among them as this will relax them and allow them to be more forthcoming with their opinions.
– Conduct the program like a conversation. As we said earlier, don’t talk at them talk with them. The customer service training program will be more fun when there is healthy interaction and the participants can learn from their own opinions and the thoughts of their fellow participants.
– As a trainer it would help to have done some homework. Pick up some common words or work language the participants use regularly and use them while delivering the training. This would help them grasp the essence of the program better. Ask the participants to share more such office lingo with you – they will be amused and will also start paying more attention.
– During the session breaks reach out in an informal way with the participants. Play some fun music and share some ‘dumb’ stuff you may have done before you found your feet. Let the participants see you as a real person rather than someone who has a ‘holier than thou’ halo.
– Encourage conversations and debates but as trainer your job is also to ensure these discussions remain fruitful and do not veer off in the wrong direction. The best way to keep to timelines without sound regimented is to have a ‘rotating timekeeper’ from the participants. The job of the timekeeper would be to ensure that each session keeps to the mentioned time limit. This engages the participants and also does not allow the trainer to be seen as bossy.
– Look like you are enjoying delivering the training. This must be a genuine ‘look’ since after a while participants would see through the façade. Be enthusiastic, smile, be friendly and be truly happy to be conducting the program.
– Participants are responsible working persons from a reputed company – treat them so. While training program house rules must be abided by, it is alright to let them make their decisions. If someone comes in late post a break, ignore it and move ahead. They would have missed a portion that could have been important for them – they will deal with it. However, do not tolerate disruptions and deal with them immediately.
Remember to ask the participants to fill out a feedback form at the end of the session. The form should ask for feedback on both the training program and the trainer. Irrespective of how long someone has been doing a task, feedback is always vital and helpful. As a bonus, you may get some really good ideas to help improve the program and your skills as a trainer. Making customer service training fun is the combined responsibility of the company, the participants and the person conducting the training. When training becomes fun, everyone will benefit and especially the participants. They will become more adept at listening and appreciating the strengths and shortcomings of others and their own. The company will forge ahead with a cohesive task force and gain sustainable success.
“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.” ― Ann Voskamp