Is It Training? Or Something Else?

We need to work with stakeholders in other areas of the business to look beyond customer service training at other influences on the customer experience.

My wife and I recently experienced the best of customer service and the worst of customer service in the same city. We were in Dallas, TX, for a board meeting of Lead Like Jesus, where I’ve served as chairman of the executive board for six years.

The meeting was at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, and the service there was incredible. Each staff member went the extra mile to ensure the meeting went smoothly, that spouses not attending the meeting were accommodated, and so forth. My wife, Andrea, had meetings scheduled with her writing partner while at the Mansion, for example, and the staff went out of their way to make sure they were both as comfortable working in our mini-suite as possible.

The Reluctant Skycap

Then we went to the airport. The skycap would not remove our bags from the car. We had to take them to check-in. After showing my identification, I went to return the rental car. The skycap didn’t put the priority tags on the bags that we get as premium flyers. My wife requested that this be done.

The skycap sighed and said she would take care of it. She then told Andrea that we were done and waited expectantly for a tip. Andrea asked if the skycap planned to put the bags on the conveyor. The skycap sighed again and said, “I suppose so.”

As the skycap started to put the bags on the conveyor, Andrea asked about the priority tags again. The skycap sighed and walked over to get the priority tags and finally put them on our bags. While we usually tip generously, my wife tipped reluctantly and went inside.

After clearing security, my wife went to get some coffee and then wait for me. She asked for a medium vanilla skim latte, which the sign said cost $3.80. When Andrea received her latte, the server rang up the sale and announced that the total was $4.40.

Andrea questioned this, saying the sign denoted a different price. The server said she only worked there, that the computer made the decisions, and the price was $4.40. Andrea said she wanted to pay the $3.80 advertised on the sign.

The server replied, “What’s the problem? You can’t afford the extra 60 cents?”

Additional discussion followed, and my wife ultimately got the amount she had overpaid back.

For my wife, it wasn’t about the money, it was about the principle. Was it the computer’s fault? If so, how does it get fixed? Was it the server’s fault for counting on busy travelers not to pay attention? Should the server have even made such a comment to my wife?

Other Important Elements

Here’s my point: When I started in the training field in 1969, we weren’t even thinking about customer service training. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, it was made popular by leading training professionals such as Ron Zemke, Carl Albrecht, Jan Carlzon of Scandinavian Airlines, and others.

Thanks to their foresight, we now have been doing this type of training for more than 45 years. Yet, things don’t seem to be improving that much.

What is the answer? While customer service training is important and necessary, we also need to work with stakeholders in other areas of the business to look beyond it to other things that influence the customer experience. Do systems support what we want to achieve, for example, or do they get in the way? Are we hiring and placing people properly? Do we have the right policies in place? Do managers coach for proper performance?

Until these elements and others like them are properly in place, we won’t derive full value from our customer service training—and neither will our organization’s customers.

Until next issue, add value and make a difference!