Front-line employees such as reception, sales and service personnel are usually the first point of contact for customers. The success of your business depends in part on how well customers are received. Customers remember how a business treats them, especially when treated poorly. They will likely tell more people about bad experiences with your business than good ones. That’s why it makes sense to conduct training for your staff on the importance of positive customer interactions. Training must focus on customer needs, service standards and communication. For training to stick, systems must be in place to support and reinforce newly acquired skills.
Front-line staff must interact with customers, potential customers and other visitors in a professional and efficient manner. This requires strong communications skills. Training should focus on communications essentials such as active listening, positive questioning and verification techniques to assure the customer that she is being heard and understood. Communications training should also delve into voice inflection and facial expressions. How something is said to a customer sometimes carries more weight that what is actually said.
Customers have plenty of choices in the services and products they buy. When they choose your company, they deserve a level of service that meets or exceeds their needs. This type of service focuses on listening to the customer, solving his problems and providing positive interactions. Develop policies and procedures on expected standards of customer service for front-line staff. Focus your training on customer expectations and quality of service. For example, you might teach a restaurant's host staff how to properly greet customers, how to keep customers apprised of when they can expect to be seated, and how to communicate with the wait staff and management to make the seating process more efficient.
In dealing with difficult customers, it is important for front-line staff to remain calm and focus on the problem the customer is experiencing and not the customer's demeanor. Training objectives should help front-line staff recognize that some customers are more temperamental than others, but the goal remains to focus on their needs. Training should outline how to remain professional, determine the customer's issue and reconcile it in a fast and professional manner. In dealing with difficult customers, patience and professionalism are key to a successful resolution.
Training Best Practices
Front-line staff should not be the only ones receiving training. Company managers must be in a position to lead and coach front-line staff in their expected codes of behavior. Management should participate in some version of the training front-line staff receives to learn the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. In addition to communications skills, best practices in training also cover topics such as emotional intelligence, assertiveness skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork and stress management techniques.
Deb Dupree has been an active writer throughout her career in the corporate world and in public service since 1982. She has written numerous corporate and educational documents including project reports, procedures and employee training programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee.