A big thank you to Michelle McKenna, Customer Experience & Training Manager at Sealed Air, for her kinds words of recommendation.
“I have worked with Gary and his team from GB Training & Consulting Ltd since 2005. During that time they have worked with us on various projects related to coaching, training and equipping our own staff with the knowledge and ability to train others. Gary and Belinda designed two Customer Service Excellence Programmes that were initially used in the UK, then across Europe, Middle East and Africa. The measure of success of these programmes is that they are now used globally within Sealed Air to train our Customer Service teams to ensure we have a reliable and consistent approach that our customers demand. Their approach to understanding our business as we have evolved over the years is outstanding and the bespoke training programmes reflect their true understanding of what is required in the fast changing world of Customer Service.
Most recently in November 2012 they delivered their 5th Customer Service Excellence Train the Trainer to a global group of participants. The style they train in is highly facilitative with a learning centred focus on course objectives, whilst still maintaining high energy and creating an excitement in the participants about their future in training and the benefits it brings to us. We now have over 31 members of our Customer Service team, across 15 countries with the ability to train their colleagues in Customer Service Excellence. We pride ourselves on our high standards of service and believe that our Customer Service training programme gives us a competitive edge. I highly recommend Gary and his Team and thank them for the benefits they have brought to our people, our customers and our organisation as whole.”
We took some time out last week to visit the Contact Centre Expo at London’s Olympia. These events are often a good barometer of what is happening in the sector and, as a training and development organisation, provide us with a valuable insight in to the current thinking.
We weren’t surprised to find the usual array of large, impressive and, no doubt, costly exhibition stands from some major players in the industry. These companies were all related to IT solutions – from sophisticated IVR systems through to cloud based call handling technology.
We had gone expecting there to be a similarly impressive range of learning and development suppliers showing their wares, since surely, the contact centre business remains highly dependant on attracting, recruiting, training and maintaining a high calibre staff capable of providing the best possible sales and/or service solution to both the client and the consumer. It was both surprising, and disappointing that we came across just two such vendors. One a large global customer service training organisation (offering an identical solution to every one of their potential clients) and what seemed a much smaller company with a more tailored approach.
More worrying was that both of these stands were tucked away at the far end of the exhibition hall and despite there being many visitors, they seemed to be the only ones that weren’t attracting much attention.
There could be good reasons for this – maybe this particular exhibition was aimed more at the ‘technical’ side of the operation and attracted potential visitors that were interested in finding new and innovative IT solutions. Maybe it’s only the big IT companies that can afford to exhibit in these large venues. What worried us was whether the focus on training and development has slipped. In the past, training budgets have often been the first to be slashed in difficult times.
Whatever the reason, we just hope that those investing in the future capability of their contact centre don’t forget that, in most cases, it is staffed by people. These people need to work in harmony with the IT. That requires a focus and commitment to helping them be the best they can possibly be.
Spending so much of my career helping individuals and companies to deliver better service to their customers, I sometimes think I must be the world’s worst customer to have. I am quick to complain if something isn’t right but I’m equally as quick to praise when my expectations are met.
There are so many elements in providing excellent service including the need for slick processes, ensuring value for money, making it easy to buy from and do business with, having an easy to use on line presence and of course recruiting and training the right people. If just one of these areas fails to deliver then the customer is destined to be disappointed.
I am aware that the ‘non-human’ elements are increasingly being done really well. I recently went on holiday from Gatwick airport and was very impressed by every aspect of British Airways’ booking and online check-in process. It’s easy to use and gave me the power and control that I want when travelling. Even at the airport I was able to print my own baggage labels and boarding cards. No antiquated ‘Disney’ style queues – just a simple walk to a free desk to drop off the luggage. And that’s where it started to go wrong. It seems that as soon as there is human interaction the risk of upsetting the customer increases. The transactional and surly approach spoilt my impression completely. No longer was I bowled over by the slick and easy to use processes and IT, now I felt under-valued and disappointed.
The human side of customer service shouldn’t be difficult. Our ethos is to basically treat your customer how you would like to be treated – with respect and empathy. So why does it go wrong so often?
Today at our local leisure centre, I reported the coffee and food machine ‘out of order’ to the receptionist. She was immediately defensive and clearly felt I was suggesting it was her fault. All I really needed was a show of empathy, a quick apology and to feel convinced that she cared enough to make a note of the situation and would raise it with her manager. Her reaction alone moved me from a state of disappointment and minor frustration to one where I felt compelled to tell you about the experience!
So why do some find it so difficult? The reasons are many and varied – ranging from not being cut out from a customer service role, inadequate training, poor levels of reward and recognition and, I’m really sorry to say, but maybe just not caring enough!
Personally, I feel the blame rests totally with those in customer service management positions. If they are not looking after their staff, coaching and developing them, acknowledging them for a job well done, addressing poor performance and providing suitable levels of reward (not just financial) and recognition, then it is no wonder that employees are letting them, and their customers, down.
John Lewis (the UK based department and grocery chain) this week posted exceptional profits which were 60% up for the first half of the year compared to 2011. How have they done this in times of such economic challenge for the retail sector? Commentators were quick to attribute much of this success to their staff who are all Partners in the business. Every one of them owns a share of the business and is financially rewarded for success. However, they are looked after well in many other ways too and being valued and able to contribute to the company’s direction undoubtedly gives them a level of ownership which is so often lacking.
Some years ago Harvard’s Service Profit Chain model was all the rage! Put simply, this focused on the fact that if you treated your staff well, they would treat your customers well, with a direct correlation to the bottom line.
It seems that John Lewis has proven the model’s validity once again.
More information about the Service Profit Chain model can be found in this Harvard Business review article.