Educating a Better Customer Service Representative

The key is to educate CSRs each day on their customer encounters

By Joe Lipham, Training Account Manager, Signature Worldwide

My 18-year old daughter was preparing for her first night as a food server for a major hotel chain. She excitedly talked about her new job, and as a proud dad and hospitality professional, I wanted to offer her my insights. As I started into the “dad speech,” my daughter waved me off and said, “Dad, you and Mom made sure we had good manners!”

This is where the distinction begins in educating a customer service representative (CSR). Good manners are not the proactive customer service that is necessary in today’s competitive world. Good manners are a great start, but a CSR has to be able to do so much more.

In the hiring process, we can gather a sense of the manners the applicant may have. The “Yes, sir,” “Thank you,” and “Please” gives us a sense of what we can expect when the new hire starts interacting with their customers. However, to maximize the growth of a proactive CSR, the key is to educate them each day on their customer encounters. For example, a young couple with a small child checks into your hotel. Does your CSR inquire if the couple needs a crib? Or does he or she simply let the couple check in and assume that they will call down later asking for that crib?

So how do we “educate” the CSR?

  • Make sure you are building time into your monthly meetings to talk about situations the CSR has encountered during the month. This will give your staff the opportunity to share their experiences and talk about best practices.
  • Take the time to use every guest interaction as a chance to teach in “real time.” Pay close attention to the CSR and guest interaction and show your appreciation to the CSR for specific, positive experiences noticed. Positive reinforcement is a great way to get continued results. Make sure you, the manager, frame each guest interaction in context of how the CSR would want to be treated in specific situations and discuss the expectations and needs if the CSR were the customer. Role-playing is a great way to understand both sides of the interaction.
  • Daily coaching is an excellent way to get better results. You, the manager, need to model the behavior you want the CSR to use and accept nothing less. It is easy to let customer service slip when you are busy, but keep in mind that your staff will be watching your actions closely. Make sure your actions mirror what you are saying and teaching.
  • Teach your CSR to ask the right questions to uncover information about the customer. Asking genuine questions of interest may reveal if the customer is looking for a place to eat, a ride to the airport, or if he simply needs a razor.
  • It is also important that your CSR fits your culture. Your responsibility to the CSR is to help the employee maintain the professional momentum by providing ongoing coaching and opportunities to shape their job to fit their passion.

By equipping the CSR with the proper training, ongoing reinforcement, and coaching, the manners will automatically come into play. Just like my daughter, with the wave of her hand, the CSR now should be ready to incorporate the proper manners as part of the overall job function. Feeling more confident in their ability to ask the right questions, and recommending solutions to the questions, your CSR now will have a genuine interest in the customer, leading to great customer service that is guaranteed to wow the customer.

Joe Lipham is a Training account manager for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For additional information, call 800.398.0518 or visit You also can connect with Signature Worldwide on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

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