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Home > Lowe's for Pros > The Importance of Customer Service Training

The Importance of Customer Service Training

The Importance of Customer Service Training

Good customer service can be difficult to quantify as it is based primarily on an individual's overall experience with and impression of your company and employees. One thing is clear, however: A job well done can be marred by the negative impression that a customer is often left with after receiving poor customer service. As such, many companies view customer service training as essential to growing and retaining their client base.

A common problem

When it comes to questionable contractor behavior, Scott McCurdy, vice president of Coastal Reconstruction, has seen it all: from tracking mud into the home, to working with the radio cranked up, to commenting on the client's daughter.

In the past, training at Coastal amounted to tossing the contactor the keys to the truck. But the company recently launched a year-long, customer service training program. "It's probably the best thing we've ever done," says McCurdy.

Why bother?

If the economy is stopping you from providing this kind of training to your staff, maybe it shouldn't. "Customer service is the only thing that enables you to survive when times get tough," McCurdy says. "There's not a single person that doesn't respond positively to someone who's glad to be working for you."

Since they began training each new plumber, dry wall painter and mason, McCurdy says there has been a significant drop in customer complaints.

Weighing the options

According to Steve Coscia, president of Coscia Communications, a residential and commercial customer service consulting and training company, there are numerous training methods, including DVDs, books, seminars, webinars and even interactive workshops.

Coastal opted for a trickle-down, personal approach in which executives attend training sessions with a consultant who provides CDs, electronics, workbooks and a facility where they can meet once a month to review their progress.

These executives, in turn, train their superintendents using a similar format, including role play and breakout groups to discuss their impressions.

Finally, in quarterly meetings, the superintendents review the lessons with their contractors. This helps reinforce the message that the company is only as good as the people working for it. "It gives people the sense of being part of something bigger than themselves," McCurdy says.

Lessons learned

If you think social skills don't pay off, think again.

A superintendent on a Coastal remodeling project once wrapped the client's wine cellar in plastic, intending to protect it. The cellar overheated and shut down, threatening to ruin $100,000 worth of wine.

But what nearly cost Coastal the job was the superintendent's reaction.

"He became defensive and argumentative," recalls McCurdy. "All he did was exacerbate the problem." McCurdy met with the client and assured him it wouldn't happen again, and because of his negative response to the situation, the superintendent was let go.

Cooking up great customer service

If any of these key ingredients are lacking, that could be a sign your customer service isn't the best it could be. Your customer service training should instill these values in your employees:

  • Preparedness — This starts before you ring the doorbell. If the customer sees you putting out a cigarette on their sidewalk, "that whole interaction is off to bad start," says Coscia. "They'll call the company and say, 'I don't want this guy in my house.'"
  • Appearance — A neat appearance conveys professionalism and respect. "If his shirt isn't tucked in, that's a reflection of my company," says McCurdy. Coscia also recommends keeping a fresh shirt in the truck so a contractor can freshen up at a moment's notice.
  • Attitude — Contractors should be trained to stay cool in a variety of situations. "If the property manager comes out to yell at a mower, the mower should be trained at problem containment-conveying an apology, being empathetic and taking corrective action. If things are already bad, it's the mower's job to make sure they don't get worse," says Coscia.
  • Listening — If there is a problem, allow the client to voice their concerns without interruption. "Then, you're ready to discuss how to fix the problem," McCurdy says.
  • Reconciliation — "It involves acknowledging the fact, if I were them I'd feel exactly the same way," says McCurdy.
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