Is Training Hopeless for Some Reps?

September 29, 2014

One of the (usually) fun things about being in the customer service/customer experience space is that friends, family members, and colleagues like to tell you about their newest customer service adventures — positive or negative. The following happened to a colleague of mine a few weeks ago. The setting has been altered slightly to protect the guilty.

Are some reps beyond training | Blue tissue boxMy colleague walked into an office building for an appointment and when she approached the reception desk to sign in, she was greeted by the receptionist. The colleague had just gotten over the flu the week before and had a small, irritated area at the base of her nose. As she began to grab the pen off the counter to sign her name, the receptionist barked at her, “You’re going to have to wipe your nose before I can let you sign in.”

My colleague was taken aback. She took a deep breath and replied, “It’s just a small scab.”

The receptionist said, “Oh,” and then looked back down at her desk.

This interaction fails on so many levels that it’s difficult to even list them.

Of course, one interaction does not an employee make, but my colleague found out a bit more about that receptionist, and it seems that this type of communication with customers and coworkers is nothing new.

It’s not exactly breaking news, but some people in customer-facing roles don’t care about customers that much. There are people like this receptionist in organizations both large and small. For leaders, the question becomes: what do we do with them?

Some believe that anyone can be trained to be good at customer service. I do not. Could the receptionist above be better with proper training? Of course. But does she have the ability to be good, even great, at customer service? It’s doubtful. If the receptionist doesn’t have the basic people skills to not insult customers (visitors) outright or even to attempt some form of tact in dealing with a delicate situation, then how will she ever have the ability to handle the deep waters of reactive customer service and issue resolution?

Is training hopeless for some reps? If you ask me, the answer is yes. However, the only way to really know if someone is beyond training is to give him or her the proper training in the first place. All frontline reps deserve the tools they need to succeed, even if you know they are going to use the hammer you give them to drive a screw.

3 thoughts on “Is Training Hopeless for Some Reps?”

  1. What many businesses fail to realize is that one employee like that receptionist can do extreme damage to their bottom line. One waitress who is rude or incompetent will run off your regular customers. An owner who is nasty or a serious downer can keep customers from coming back.

    I’ve seen this time and again where the owner being on site causes regulars to go somewhere else. One family member can make doing business with you painful. Sometimes the rest of the family being terrific can keep you going, but the real solution is to keep the bad people away from the customers (and ideally out of the business altogether).

    1. I’ve experienced that too Gail! It’s amazing to me as a small business owner, but sometimes the family members, who have the biggest stake in success, are the worst to the customers. I think it actually makes the point of the article: while it’s a small percentage, some folks just aren’t built for customer-facing roles.

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