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Insights

Not Ready for Customer Service Week? Try This One-Hour Learning Event!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
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National Customer Service Week 2018 runs October 1-5—it is an event started by the International Customer Service Association (ICSA) in 1984 and proclaimed an annual event the first week of October in the United States via Presidential Proclamation in 1992.

Your favorite coffee shop is offering pumpkin-spiced drinks, candy bags line the entrance shelves at your supermarket, and there is a crispness in the air—it must be October. And (uh-oh!) that also means it is National Customer Service Week—how did you overlook this? If you need a ready-to-roll-out, compact employee learning event to complement your plans to demonstrate customer appreciation and recognize employees’ service accomplishments, I have help for what could become a new October tradition in your workplace.

Last week, my Insights article, “Beyond ‘Tell Them to Be Nice’” offered ideas and inspiration for developing or repurposing service-related training for this week’s event. It also introduced the idea that even when service providers are doing all the "right things" (behaviors), there can be a lot of displeased customers because service behaviors are only one part of the equation—service strategies and service systems are equally critical.

If you missed that post, were caught off-guard by October’s quick arrival, or just didn’t know about National Customer Service Week, I have good news: It isn’t too late to provide training related to service behaviors, strategies, and systems. Here you have the process for a one-hour, face-to-face, hands-on learning event that highlights all three that you can implement this week—all you need to add is the participants, a flip chart, index cards, blank paper, and envelopes! Another option also awaits you at the end of this post.

If you own a copy of Customer Service Training, in place of this modified version, you can refer to page 65 of the book—where this process is included as a one-hour variation—and use Learning Activities 13, 14, and 16; Handouts 15 and 16; Assessment 1; and the related One-Day Workshop slides.

This one-hour program—The Service Delivery Framework—is intended to be facilitated with participants sitting together in groups of five to six and requires 18 index cards, four sheets of copy paper, and one envelope per group (plus some extras). If you have more time for your event, this can easily be expanded without adding additional content.

In three activities, participants will:

  • Construct a framework for three aspects of service delivery as they identify examples of each—behaviors, strategies, and systems.
  • Elicit organization-specific examples of the three facets.
  • Create personal action plans for enhancing service delivery through one or more facets.

Welcome (5 minutes)

Invite each group member to share one positive and one negative service encounter they have recently experienced as the customer in the interaction and what specific actions or procedures led to their perceptions of the experiences.

Activity One (15 minutes)

Step One: Prepare and display a chart entitled “Interconnected Service Facets” with these bullet points:

  • Behaviors = person-to-person skills
  • Strategies = a step in a system (within your control)
  • Systems = processes.

Referring to the prepared chart and the content below, facilitate a discussion on the interconnected service facets (behaviors, strategies, and systems). Record participants’ examples of each on additional chart paper—encourage them to think of their recent experiences as well as the organization’s service delivery.

Service Behaviors
Explain: The actions we take to meet customers' needs and how we conduct ourselves in performing those activities are our service behaviors.

Ask: What are some examples of service behaviors? (Answers may include calming upset individuals, probing to clarify customers' requests, smiling, using a conversational tone, being patient.)

Service Strategies
Explain: Strategies go beyond "being nice." They are particular ways to deal with things. When done well, they may make our processes easier for the customer or may even mistake-proof them. Typically, strategies are within the control of the individual service provider—you!

Ask: What are some examples of service strategies? (Answers may include logical sequencing of actions from the customer's perspective, streamlining the customer experience, or preventing possible mistakes—such as a web interface that requires a complete address before submitting an order, or following a checklist of all actions needed to make an apartment move-in ready.)

Service Systems
Explain: Unlike service strategies, systems typically involve groups or multiple departments. Director- or leadership-level approval may be needed to change systems.

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Ask: What are some examples of service systems? (Answers may include software, policies, procedures, interdepartmental transactions, levels of sign-off required for approvals.)

Step Two: Share a brief story of an industry-specific example that integrates and highlights all three facets.

Transition by asking: "What questions do you have on the differences among behaviors, strategies, and systems? We are about to apply these concepts in a group activity." (Tip: Ensure all are clear on the distinctions of the three categories before moving into the application activity.)

Activity Two (30 minutes)

Step One: Explain that, working in teams, each group will create a challenge activity for another team to complete. First, teams will brainstorm seven to 10 examples of each service facet (behaviors, strategies, and systems). Second, they will choose five from each list to write on individual index cards as well as transfer to an answer sheet. Finally, each group’s set of cards and answer key will be placed in an envelope and passed to another team—that team’s challenge will be to correctly sort the cards into three piles—service behaviors, service strategies, or service systems—without looking at the answer key.

Step Two: Have groups brainstorm examples of the service facets on three separate sheets of paper (distribute four sheets of paper to each group). Encourage them to focus on behaviors, strategies, and systems that are specific to the organization and that go beyond the obvious, so the activity provides a challenge. As they work, visit groups and offer direction as needed.

Step Three: Call time and distribute index cards (18) and envelopes (one) to each group. Direct teams to choose five examples from each brainstorming sheet to record on individual index cards as well as on their answer key—the fourth sheet of paper. (Tip: Using their three extra index cards, have them create label cards that say service behaviors, service strategies, and service systems that will serve as category headings during the next part of the activity.) Instruct teams to place the 18 shuffled cards and answer key in their envelope.

Step Four: Ask teams to pass their stuffed envelope to the next table. Upon receiving an envelope, teams remove the cards—but not the answer key—and work together to sort the cards into three piles: service behaviors, service strategies, or service systems. Tell teams to place the cards face-up and beneath the appropriate label card.

Step Five: Have teams rotate to the next table—where the cards they created were sorted—and confirm if the sorting agrees with their expectations (no cards are to be moved). Then have teams rotate again to another table and determine if they agree with how those cards are sorted (again, no cards are to be moved). Rotate groups to as many tables as time allows or until all teams are back at their original tables. Having seen other teams’ work, ask the teams to review their cards’ groupings and consider if any should be realigned. Once finished, tell teams to remove the answer key and check their work.

Debrief: Clarify any questions from the large group as you debrief the exercise.

Activity Three (10 minutes)

Step One: Invite participants to independently reflect on their service behaviors, strategies, and systems and create a personal action plan for improving one or more facets.

Step Two: Close the event with each person sharing one action they will implement this week during National Customer Service Week (in small groups or as a large group if time permits) and encourage everyone to extend their plans beyond the week—through the month, this quarter, and the coming 12 months!

There you have it—a National Customer Service Week learning event in your pocket!

This process was specifically selected to meet your needs for this week, and to initiate a long-term learning focus on the three service facets—service behaviors, strategies, and systems. Supporting staff in providing exceptional service and refining strategies and systems that govern the customer experience is an ongoing endeavor, not a week-long “one and done.” Just as organizations expect employees to consistently deliver—employees expect organizations to consistently support.

For ready-to-use customer service training to support half-day, full-day, and two-day learning events, you can turn to Customer Service Training—from the bestselling ATD Workshop Series and the source of this post. It includes three complete workshops applicable to any industry and any employee, whether they deliver service to external or internal customers (such as co-workers) and comprehensive solutions complete with downloadable facilitator guides, participant handouts, and visual aids.

Editor’s Note: This is a modified excerpt from Customer Service Training by ATD facilitator Kimberly Devlin, CPLP. Her most recent book is Same Training, Half the Time.

To learn more from Kimberly, join her in one of the ATD courses she facilitates:

About the Author

With her combined passions for effective communication and relevant workplace learning, Kimberly's focus is always on providing direct, complete, and compelling deliverables.  In the training room, her focus is on supporting each learner in meeting their specific learning goals.  She achieves this, in part, through engaging and interactive learning that is purpose-driven, enjoyable, and immediately applicable as well as sharing real-world examples and stories.  As a seasoned employee and organizational development professional with a Masters Degree from the University of Miami, she was among the first in the industry to attain ATD’s CPLP certification and has authored Same Training - Half the Time, and two titles in ATD's best-selling Trainers Workshop series: Customer Service Training and Facilitation Skills Training.  Kimberly’s experience extends to city, county, and state government agencies as well as Fortune 500 firms in the US, South America, and Asia.  She has been a contributor to the ATD community both locally and nationally for many years, serving on boards, presenting conference sessions at ICE and ALC, and also volunteering time for ATD initiatives.  You may have seen her in T&D -- now, come learn with her!  Kimberly facilitates ATD's Instructional Design Certificate,  Training Certificate, Essentials of Staying Centered Through Conflict, Fundamentals of Training Design, Training Certificate Plus, Introduction to Training, and Master Instructional Designer Program.

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