It’s all well and good to pontificate about “the customer comes first” or “deliver outstanding service” but oftentimes it’s hard for your team to wrap their heads around what that really means. You can say these things until your jaw muscles are sore and post all the “customer service rules” you want on their cubicle walls but only a small percentage of the teachings will stick.
I come from the school of learning by doing. When you see something first-hand or participate in the activity, retention of such information is exponentially higher. Training your people this way provides them a situational context to refer back to. They can articulate and remember the concepts and precepts you’re teaching much better than if you talked their ears off in a classroom. If you want them to retain the information, let them live the lessons. It’s sort of like telling a kid the stove is hot. They kind of understand the concept “hot” but don’t have context around that. Let them touch it and they’ll never forget the definition of “hot” let alone the event.
I was helping an organization move from mediocre service levels to trying to provide outstanding, individualized service to over 400,000 customers. We’d bring our managers in for training and talk AT them all day. Some of the information stuck. A lot bounced off and fell on the floor.
I wanted them to truly understand what “customer-focused” means. I had a choice – I could either talk AT them first thing in the morning in a classroom or I could show them and have them live it. I obviously chose the latter.When I walked in the training session, I told them to get their coats – we were going on a field trip. Puzzled looks abounded. We headed to a chain fast-food restaurant first. I told half of them to order the beverage of their choice (on me) and instructed the other half to watch and observe. I didn’t tell them what to look for though. The half who made a purchase got their orders in good time and at a relatively low price. The cashier robotically took their orders and mechanically provided them their cups or drinks. I then instructed everyone to saddle back up and we went down the street to Starbucks.
I gave the same instructions in Starbucks (but with the other half of the group who didn’t get a beverage at the first restaurant). Each individual ordered. The Starbucks barista asked the person’s name. They asked how their day was going. They smiled and made eye contact. They confirmed the order, told the customer where they could pick up their coffee and thanked them with a genuine and sincere “Thanks. Have a great day.” Incidentally, the thank you at the end of the transaction was always different – they weren’t reciting from a phrase book.
I rounded everyone up and we went back to the classroom. I asked “why did we just do that?”
“Because you wanted to show us the difference between individually focused service versus production-focused service (or lack thereof).”
“How did you feel in the first location?”
“Like a number. Like I was somewhat inconveniencing the cashier.”
“And at the second?”
“I felt like a person. I made a real connection with the cashier. They were really nice.”
Another student piped up. “Yeah, but it took so much longer in Starbucks. We don’t have the time in our locations to provide that kind of service. We’ll never get our production done and hit our revenue targets.”
“Okay folks – here’s the big insight… At the first location, it cost $13.57 for all the drinks. It took 9 minutes and 30 seconds for everyone to order and get their drink. At Starbucks, it cost $46.29. Here’s the kicker – it only took 8 minutes and 45 seconds to complete the same transactions.”
The audience was somewhat stunned. They couldn’t reconcile the time delta.
“Folks, how long does it take to say ‘Hello. What’s your name? Mike? Nice to meet you.’ 3 seconds. And those three seconds are worth almost 200% more in pricing power not to mention the retention effects of that customer coming back again and again because they feel like a person rather than a number. Spend the time. Treat your customers like you were treated in Starbucks. The numbers and results will follow.” (For some great insights on how Starbucks does it, check out The Starbucks Experience by Dr. Joseph Michelli).
Everyone who attended that event still talks about it a year later. Some of them went back to their locations and did the same thing with their teams. They remembered. They learned. They had context to discuss true customer service. The hands-on and experiential nature of the training (versus only discussing abstract concepts in a classroom) has aided understanding and retention of those lessons dramatically.
Try this with your teams if you want them to really see what great customer service is. Provide them a baseline (a fast-food restaurant) and give them a great experience (Starbucks, Whole Foods, etc.). It doesn’t cost very much but you’ll get an incredibly high return on the investment. I love doing this training. I get to see the light bulbs go off. People get it. Plus, it’s a great excuse for me to get my quad shot venti caramel macchiato…
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC