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Seeding the customer service gene – why customer service training is not just for customer-facing staff

29 Oct 2019
People 1st International

Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, is famous for his obsession with customer-centricity – so much so that he used to bring an empty chair into senior-level meetings to symbolize the most important person in the room and the company’s most important stakeholder – the customer. So how about pulling up a chair at your next executive meeting to represent the key role that your staff – all of them, not just those at the cutting edge of customer interface – play in helping to create a culture of outstanding customer experience?

Today’s successful businesses are ones that embed the customer-focussed gene into everything that they do and filter it through all parts of their businesses and even to their suppliers.  In other words, creating an authentic customer-facing cultures is something that involves everyone working for a businesses.

A positive customer experience starts with two key elements: the emotional connection made with the customer and building trust. And it follows that engagement with customers will be stronger when staff and key stakeholders are engaged and positive about the business. Investing in training and development to improve customer service awareness and skills helps staff feel valued, respected and equipped for the challenges they face, which means they are more likely to exceed customers’ expectations.

Another critical element is empowerment. Empowering your people means trusting them to do the right thing as well as giving them the opportunity to be creative and take the initiative. So once again, it’s about trust.  A frequently-cited example of this is Ritz Carlton Hotels, where every member of staff can spend a given amount to resolve a customer’s problem without getting sign-off from a manager. As the company says on their website: “When you empower employees, you’re telling them, “We select the best talent. You’re adults. We trust you. You don’t have to run to the manager to help the client.”

So what exactly can return on investment look like for a customer-service led culture? Since implementing our WorldHost programmes, The CEME Conference Centre has seen a transformation in customer perceptions of the business. An outstanding 98% of customers now report that service at the conference centre meets their expectations, while 65% say it has exceeded them.

However, it was quite a different picture when CEME Director, Eamonn Cole joined the business in 2012. At the time, only 67% of customers felt that service at the centre met their expectations, while none said it had exceeded them.  At the time there was no customer service training and development programmes in place for staff.

So he took a strategic decision and put engagement at the heart of their employer brand strategy.  This meant investing in customer training for everyone in the business using the WorldHost programmes.

Many of the staff included in the programme were not directly customer facing and had never experienced customer service training. Some expressed concerns about whether it was relevant to their roles. However, once they had completed the training, they began to understand the impact that internal customer service can have on building a culture based on excellence.

The Principles of Customer Service programme is now a foundational requirement for all new CEME staff and this inside-out thinking has delivered in spades. CEME won the Best Places to Work in Hospitality Award 2018, achieved the Accredited in Meetings Gold Standard with the MIA within a year of the training, and became eligible for Venues of Excellence, a leading collection of exceptional venues delivering excellence in conferences, training and events.

These factors have all combined to deliver a big boost to their bottom line, with conference sales rising by 60% since CEME began using WorldHost training. And, as customer satisfaction has grown, so too has internal communication and staff engagement, with the score for the latter rising from 7.8 to 9.2.

What CEME’s success highlights is just how important it is to embed a customer-focussed approach at every level of a business, as well as the extent of the positive impact of providing customer service training for all staff.  When everyone understands the importance of their personal contribution and when customers – both internal and external – become an integral part of the business, instilling a truly customer-facing culture will be both straight forward and seamless.

Find out more about how our WorldHost programmes can transform your business.

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