I was in the IT group for an insurance company and our management felt that the organization needed to improve the way we interacted with internal groups we supported. This is a common deficiency for technology-centric IT groups that liberally toss around three-letter acronyms and trendy buzzwords.
What was unconventional and memorable about this training, though, was the instructor's approach.
He was a one-man shop, meaning he wasn't someone from a corporate training company spewing out the same best practices you'd find in a human resources video. Instead, he was genuinely enthusiastic about improving customer relations and hinted that his course wasn't your typical corporate training.
While his unconventional style generated some skepticism, we knew, at least, he wouldn't be boring.
The instructor had two main messages for us that I clearly remember to this day. In this post, I'd like to share those lessons and explain how they help us improve the IT experience for stakeholders at our company.
2 Customer Service Training Lessons
1. Get on the same side as your customer.
The first lesson was to “get on the same side as your customer”. He used the example of sitting at a table to prove his point. If you're sitting across from your customer you appear as being on the opposite side of them, both figuratively and literally.
His recommendation was to find a way to reposition yourself so that you're physically on the same side of the table as the person you are speaking with.
He even took it one step further by recommending that we adopt the same posture. If your customer is attentive — leaning forward with hands on the table — you should do the same. If your customer is slouching in the chair with hands in the lap, you do that also.
He had us role-play this, and, believe me, it probably was the silliest I felt during a corporate training. I'll never believe that subtly mimicking another person's mannerisms is a good idea, however, from that day forward I would read the body language of the person I was speaking with and try to connect with them if I felt we weren't in-sync.
2. Help your customers succeed.
His second message stuck to me so well that I think of it every time I provide customer service to someone.
It's simple: help the other person succeed.
Get into their shoes — figuratively sit on their side of the table — and think about how you can make that person successful. It may be helping them to reach a goal, making them look good in front of management, or resolving a problem that had been sapping energy from their team.
Most importantly, it's not only about the end goal; there are opportunities along the way to help someone realize success.
For example, suppose your client is tasked with supplying information at a critical point in their project and will need to address questions asked by leadership. The more accurate and complete the information you provide them is, the better they'll come across to their team. And, at that moment, the communication about the project may be as important as actually meeting its deliverables.
I saw this exact scenario play out at this same insurance company. Let's dive into that story in the section below.
Customer Service Training Lesson Example
A former employee of mine had trouble communicating the progress he was making with his project's deliverables. He would do great work but only update his customer when something was completed.
Along the way, his customer was at a loss for words when his manager asked how the project was going. Even though everything was going relatively well, the customer's uncertainty about the project's status left the impression that the project was poorly managed, which made the final result appear less successful.
Sometimes it's obvious what success means, and other times it's defined by your customer's perception. Usually, it isn't difficult to pick up on what's important to the other person but, if necessary, you can simply ask them for key criteria for their success. That will help you understand the expectations that were placed on the other person, which gives you a blueprint for what needs to be delivered to be successful.
I have taken many corporate training programs over my professional career and few I remember as well as that class on customer service. Now I am constantly aware of customer success and understand that it's an essential component to getting on your customer's side of the table — and much less awkward than changing one's seat.