How Customer Service Training Is Like a Hollywood Love Story

August 8, 2016
How Customer Service Training Is Like a Hollywood Love Story | Lovers in Paris

Love stories in the movies, whether in the form of romantic comedies or more sentimental Nicholas Sparks-esque vehicles, have one similar device: the movie ends when the two love interests finally get together.

Usually, the couple has overcome obstacles that have kept them apart — either self-inflicted or environmental — and the movie closes when they are finally together, in each other’s arms, music crescendoing in the background as they start their new life together.

Romantic movies end there for one simple reason: what comes next is not romantic.

What comes next is bills and careers, crying babies and sleepless nights, and deciding whose going to leave work to pick up little Johnny from school.

What comes next is life, with its ups and downs, its highs and lows.

It can be messy, it can be complicated, and it is the reality that follows the fantasy at the end of the movie.

Customer Service Training: Onboarding Fantasy vs. Reality

Often when onboarding new frontline reps, the training stops at the movie’s end.

They are taught how to greet customers, how to use the CRM, and how to process transactions, but they are often not exposed to the challenges they will face in the field.

They are given sunny advice like “treat the customer as a valued guest and they will treat you the same” and told to go out there and delight every customer.

In general, they’re told how to function in a world where everything goes right, and while that’s incredibly important, it’s not enough.

Customer Service Can Be, Um… Challenging?

Let’s face it: customer service is no bed of roses, and nowhere is this more true than on the front lines.

In the post, You Need Customer Service, No Matter How Good Your Experience, we discussed how great customer experiences don’t prevent the need for customer service. Even if we deliver a “perfect” experience as designed, it will not be perfect for every customer, as each customer has different expectations and different experiential triggers.

You need customer service, no matter how good your experience!

Of course, our organizations don’t execute perfectly every time, and front line reps must be prepared for the fallout when we (or they) don’t.

Whether it be a difficult customer, the organization dropping the ball, or just bad luck, eventually, new reps will face experiences that are not positive, for them or the customers.

It does a disservice to reps to not prepare them for these inevitable challenges.

You see, in customer service, the movie doesn’t end with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally united on top of the Empire State Building, stepping onto the elevator together to live happily ever after.

Sleepless in Seattle never had any sequels, because they would have looked something like these:

  • Sleepless In Seattle II: Who Are You and Do We Have Anything in Common?
  • Sleepless In Seattle III: No, You Quit Your Job and Move Across the Country.
  • Sleepless In Seattle IV: I Met a Fighter Pilot Named Goose, and I Love Him.

In customer service, the movie always has a sequel.

Preparing for the Negative, Not Focusing On It

While most customer service training addresses difficult situations, I’ve found that the topic tends to be glossed over in initial trainings for new employees. (Unless you have a “complainer trainer” who does nothing but talk about how awful customers are, which is obviously even worse.)

The tendency seems to stem from a desire not to “scare off” the new rep or to have them focus on the negative parts of working with customers.

These are valid concerns, but they are best addressed by strategically training with the trainee’s mentality in mind, not by presenting a rose-colored picture of what the job will be.

We can use the book end technique to sandwich the tough stuff in the middle.

  • Train them on the basics of providing great experiences.
  • Shift to the top three issues they are likely to encounter. “Okay, so do you feel fairly comfortable with the system and the checkout process? Excellent. Now let’s talk about some of the things that typically go off course.
  • Once you’ve dealt with some of the difficult issues, pivot back to some WOW moments they can deliver or some great customer service stories from their more experienced colleagues.

New team members need to be prepared for difficult situations and difficult customers, but they don’t have to hear about it all at once. Effective training, as difficult as it might be to execute when you’re under the gun, simply doesn’t happen in an afternoon.

Start with the most common issues and expose them to more scenarios over the course of their initial training phase.

A Hollywood Ending Is Great When You Can Get One

When training frontline reps, it is important to talk about the Hollywood story, about how to create seamless, frictionless customer experiences to pleasant, appreciative customers. Because the more we focus on positive experiences, the more we will create.

When training for customer service, the more we focus on positive experiences, the more we create.

However, reps simply need to know that the story doesn’t end there. Reps need a realistic view of what they can expect and the service and coping skills necessary to help them succeed with customers.

Some days the music may not play at the end, but over the long haul, they’ll have a much better chance of living happily ever after.



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