As a customer care trainer who works with companies of all shapes and sizes,
I’m well aware of the ‘extreme cautiousness’ with which most organizations
are approaching any purchases – especially when it comes to training their
employees to be and do their best. As I see it, there are three main challenges:
- They have a small training budget – or perhaps no budget for training
- They’ve downsized, making it difficult for anyone to be away from their
desks to attend training sessions for any length of time.
- Even if they’ve bounced back from tough times, they don’t completely
trust that the market will bounce back. As one of my prospective clients
put it, “I have to check with my boss when I want to purchase a pencil.”
Meanwhile, employees suffer from the stress of the worry and of the extra
workloads they carry. That stress affects their relationships with each other
and, of course, the experience they provide to their customers. And we all
know how negative experiences can erode the bottom line. The great news is,
there are simple, no-cost techniques managers can implement to maintain ongoing
training even as employees are behind their desks. They’re known as ‘Teachable
Successfully used by educators for years, Teachable Moments are spontaneous
opportunities to use an experience at hand to demonstrate a skill or
principle – to train your staff in some small yet powerful way. They’re one
of the best, most effective ways I can think of to support your staff in developing
top-notch ‘soft skills’ so they can create the kinds of customer experiences
that yield profits.
Here are six quick tips to illustrate how you can effectively use Teachable
- When you hear team members talk about their experiences as customers…
…ask them how they felt during and after they purchased the product or service.
Was the experience positive or negative? Was the service provider attentive,
friendly and responsive or cold and removed? If the service was poor, what
choices might the provider have made to make it better? Did the company
live up to the expectations it created? What word best describes the overall
customer experience? Will they return as a customer? Will they refer friends
to the business?
When they understand the emotional impact that their service providers have
upon them, they'll better understand the impact that they have upon your
customers – how everything they say and do can make or break a valuable
- When you see team members ‘walking the company talk…’ …acknowledge
and appreciate them for delivering the value your company promises to deliver,
being as specific as possible. For example, when you overhear an employee
patiently talk a customer through your company's delivery process, that's
the perfect time to say, "I'm really happy about the way you just showed
your customer how knowledgeable, thorough and dependable our company
is. Keep up the great work!"
If you notice that a team member is returning customer calls quickly, praise
him for demonstrating how responsive your organization is. You might add,
"Responsiveness is something that we promise the customer, and that's what
you're delivering. Super job!"
- When your radar picks up grumbling about customer complaints…
…gently assist your team in reframing their perspective of customer complaints
as ‘gifts’ to your company; they’re ‘free consulting’ that let your company
know where there are gaps in your service and problems with your products.
Questions will help you to positively shift your team’s focus (and decrease
their defensiveness). Ask your team:
- How is that information a gift to us?
- What opportunity does that information open up to us to improve our
- What gap in our service did our ‘free consultant’ just identify?
- How can we use this information to add value to our customer experiences?
- Wasn't it thoughtful of that customer to take the time to share that
- Wasn't it brave of that customer to approach us with that difficult
- When you become aware that employees are making tough choices that
will benefit your company in the long run… … praise them for thinking
ahead, for thinking about the effects and outcomes of their words and actions
and how they're impacting others. Say, "I like the way you think." It's
a simple statement, but it's packed with appreciation, motivation and affirmation
that will fuel your team to keep up their great work. "I like the way
you're thinking about that.”
- When you notice team members are visibly stressed… …remind them,
kindly, to “Breathe.” Taking a few deep breaths is one of the most simple
and effective ways to handle oneself in a stressful moment. Better yet,
give them a few minutes to walk away from their desks, stretch, or get a
glass of water. They’re likely to return with a fresh perspective, which
makes them better able to provide excellent customer care.
It’s also important that managers themselves handle their stress well. Remember,
when you’re a leader in any situation, what you DO is always louder than
what you SAY.
- When your staff needs a shot of empowerment or an attitude adjustment…
… ‘deputize’ everyone to be on the lookout for co-workers who are doing
things RIGHT – who are delivering value, who are creating the
kinds of feel-good customer experiences that keep customers coming back.
Have them submit their findings to you in writing at the end of each day,
and then post the ‘great news’ in a weekly ‘Brag Board’ email message or
on a poster board conspicuously displayed in a high-traffic area of the
While Teachable Moments alone can’t replace the benefits of more formal
in-person and online training efforts, they are a convenient and powerful
way to create and maintain a positive environment of continuous learning and
improvement. The more you make the most of them, the more focused everyone
will be on adding value and taking care of customers. And don’t be surprised
if improved soft skills yield hard, bankable results as customers become happy
and loyal, and talented staff sticks around because they love where they work.
JoAnna Brandi is the Publisher of the
Customer Care Coach® leadership program. She is the author of three books:
"Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em
Loyal, and Keep 'em Coming Back" "Building Customer Loyalty - 21
Essential Elements in ACTION" and "54 Ways to stay Positive in a
Changing, Challenging and Sometimes Negative World" JoAnna is an accomplished
public speaker and a contributing author to numerous business publications.
Her work in customer loyalty has been cited in Fortune Magazine, Sales and Marketing Magazine, The Executive Report on Customer
Retention, US Banker, the Retail Advantage, The Kiplinger
Letter, The Competitive Advantage and dozens of others.
can subscribe to her bi-weekly Customer Care Tip for free and find more
of her work at www.customercarecoach.com and http://joannabrandi.wordpress.com/ .