Competition in the global market is continuously rising and increasing customer’s expectation. Companies are deploying all their efforts to satisfy the changing requirements of the customers and to gain competitive advantage. Advancing technology makes customers aware and informed that directly impacts their level of expectations from any company. Therefore, it is important for all organizations to focus of effective customer service. Customer service plays a major role in the success of retail business where sales executives directly deal with the customers. This paper intends to discuss the necessity of training program in retail organization by elaborating on different ways to analyze and identify existing deficiencies. The paper will further develop customer service training implementation plan, and survey tool that can be use to collect training feedbacks.
Importance of Customer Service Training
Customer service is a major factor that differentiate one company from another. In the competitive environment, all companies are focusing on delivering quality products at reasonable price. Therefore, customer service is an area that can make a difference to the customer. Higher ability of the company to serve customers efficiently increases the chances of success in the marketplace. Training on customer service should not consider as expenditure to the organization. However, it helps the company in revenue maximization by satisfying existing customers, and attracting new customers. Training program on customer service will facilitate employees on acquiring new skills such as interpersonal skills, effective communication, problem solving, leadership skills and empathy. Training is an important way to improve employee performance because every interaction of the employee with the customer reflects image of the company, and it determine if customer will revisit retail store.
Assessments of Existing Performance Deficiencies
Assessments of existing performance needs evaluate the training needs of employees. The training assessment should focus on analysing three levels i.e. organizational analysis, tasks/occupational analysis, and individual analysis. Organizational assessment helps in determining the skills, knowledge and expertise that are lacking in the employees. High turnover rate, absenteeism, employee’s performance and other issues can determine the need. Task analysis evaluates job requirements, existing job descriptions, and compares employee’s performance with expected performance level in order to identify the gap. Individual analysis focuses on evaluating employee’s performance on the assigned tasks (Schultz & Schultz, 2005). This helps in determining existing deficiencies and future training needs in order to match employee performance with establish performance standards. Five ways to assess existing deficiencies and future training needs are:
Survey can conduct by adopting systematic or random sampling method or by covering whole target population in the survey. The survey questionnaire can include different types of questions such as open-ended, close-ended, multiple choices, ranking, etc. This method helps in covering large population in very less time and at minimal cost. Respondents also provide their answer without any fear or pressure. The main disadvantage of this method is higher chances to get generalize data (Noe, 2010).
It is another effective way to analyse training needs. Performance appraisal can be conducted systematically or in an informal manner. Performance appraisal often conducted by reporting manager; however, it is design by the human resource manager. Performance appraisal conducted on the regular basis to analyse performance and weaknesses of the employees; it helps in identifying areas where employees are not performing well and require training. However, manager must analyse performance of employees without any manipulation and with full transparency. This is a costly assessment process.
Observation can perform in technical or functional or behavioural manner. Supervisor or manager can observe how employees are performing their role. Observation refers to unstructured way to assess real time training needs of employees without disturbing their daily routine or schedule. It is important to have skilled observer in order to get accurate and effective results.
This method is suitable to analyse knowledge of board, or staff, or group members. The test can be perform online, or take home or in monitored settings. This approach is helpful in identifying theoretical deficiencies in employees’ knowledge, attitude and skills. Test method is easy to conduct, and quantifiable. The results of employees can compare against other employees. Test method does not confirm the validity of data because may the test is given by any other person, or by taking helps from available material on the subject. It is also possible that all skills or knowledge covered under the test may not be applicable on the job (Noe, 2010).
Advisory committees refer to the group of people who are aware with the working environment and have better knowledge on training requirements of the employees. This method can also utilize the data gather through other ways such as interviews, survey and group discussions. It is easy to gather information from the advisory committee in less time as compare to other methods. Training needs of employees can be identified by interacting with committee members individually and taking their opinion on the customer service related training needs.
Customer Service Training Implementation Plan
Customer service training implementation plan elaborates all the steps required to take in implementing training program at retail organization. The implementation of training program should focus on present and future service related requirements of the customers, and fulfilling skills related deficiencies of the employees. The steps needs to be taken to implement customer service training program are as follow:
Step 1: first step begins with the identification of present and future needs of customers. In retail industry customers look for friendly, presentable sales staff that has good product knowledge and proactive in understanding and resolving customer issues. A survey is an effective tool to understand customers’ requirements from sales staff and their experience of retail store visit. Customer may get contacted while exiting the retail store after making their purchase. Exit point is best point to gain information on the customers experience with customer service staff (Noe, 2010).
Customer will inform about the present service level whether it is good, excellent or bad. The customer will also inform about the possible changes that can made in order to improve customer service at retail outlet. Customers can compare service offered at retail store with the service offer at other retail stores that they consider as best. A comparative study will improve the understanding of Retail Company on gaps existing in the present level of customer services. Customers after dealing with retail staff can inform about staff knowledge, behaviour, communication, politeness and ready to help approach.
Step 2: this step refers to evaluating employee’s skills and knowledge about customer service. Skills of employees can evaluate by observing how employees interact and deal with customers. The way, employees, serve customers, indicates towards their skills and efficiency. Some employees are knowledgeable, experienced and very skilled thus serve customers in very efficient manner. These employees possess the required sales or behavioural skills to satisfy customers with very little amount of time and effort. Other employees may perform in a better way in providing solutions to customers thus have good problem solving skills. These employees easily identify untoward situations and solve issues before they become difficult to manage (Cheng & Hampson, 2008).
Different employees have different set of skills, however, to serve customers it is essential that each and every customer service staff possess all desired skills including problem solving and effective sales skills. Employees should be observe in order to identify their skills and training needs as they may not skilled in all desired areas required for efficient customer service. Besides the observation, conducting regular meetings is also a good way to identify gaps related with employees’ skills. Each employee can showcase his feelings and day to day experiences in face to face meeting. Meetings will help in determining training needs of each employee separately (Cheng & Hampson, 2008).
This step is very important because it directly impact performance of an employee. It is very important to analyse skills gaps accurately so that employees receive training on right areas. While analysing training needs, it is important to compare job description/ tasks with present skills of employees. A comparative study helps in understanding what company is expecting from the employee and what employee delivers. Customer service staffs are expected to serve customers with full efficiency and to resolve all his queries.
Step 3: After identification of training needs the next step is execution of training program for the employees. The training period should get fix, and training methods have identified in order to execute training program for the employees. A small retail company does not have high budget for training program. Therefore, it is important to choose cost-effective training methods. Training program allows trainer to provide knowledge to employees on new skills, and also demonstrate how these skills can utilize in making customers delighted. Trainer should also allow employees to describe how they are going to execute newly acquired skills while dealing with the customers. Employee’s activities can get recorded through audio or video.
Presentation is most suitable and cost-effective training method for customer service staff. Presentation allows trainer to accommodate the high number of trainees at one time this save time and cost of the company. Trainer can make presentation very interactive by asking employees to present real situations or issues they face while dealing with the customers. Small role play can also accommodate in the presentation. The trainer should make presentation very interactive to keep interest of trainees alive in the training, and also to train them on how to handle real time situations. On-job training is also another effective method to train employees while performing their duty. For on-job training supervisor has to be attentive in order to teach employees in the real situation (Cheng & Hampson, 2008).
Reason behind selection of presentation method is less time consuming and cost effective method. Other methods such as discussion, case study and role play require the higher amount of time, and can accommodate only limited number of employees at any given time. Presentation method can utilize effective technology to train employees by showing video clips, important information, and examples of real situations. Presentation method also allows trainees to take notes of important information, and also to discuss real time situation they have faced. Employees can raise their queries in case of any doubt in order to seek clarifications. Overall presentation method is very interactive, technology oriented, cost-effective and efficient training method.
Step 4: After completion of training program, the next step is an evaluation of the impact of training program. Customer satisfaction rating is the best way to analyse impact of training program on employee. Evaluation of training needs should perform at certain frequency such as twice in a year or on a quarterly basis. It is also recommended taking feedback after completion of training program. Proper feedback provided by the employees/trainees help in improving the training program. Feedback allows employees to express their view on the effectiveness of customer service training program (Bramley, 2004).
Effective closing of training program is important in order to understand employee’s participation in the training program, and the trainer involvement in the training program. Feedback on training program helps in understanding weak areas that require special attention of the trainer (Bramley, 2004). The feedback form is designed by the trainer or HR expert.
Training Feedback Survey
Designation of the employee:
Please rate the items provided blow:
11. How do you rate customer service training overall?
Excellent Good Average Poor Very poor
- What areas of this training can improve further?
- Any other comments?
Ways to Motivate Employees:
It has observed that employees often show their resistance for training program; they consider training program as wastage of time. Two ways to motive employees are:
- Employees should be inform about importance of training program for employee and employer. Employees can be motivated by informing about benefits offered by the training in developing their skills, and how those skills can help in their career development. It is also important to inform employees about bonus and appraisal that they can receive if they perform excellent in serving customers.
- Employees can be motivated by offering some rewards for attending training programs such as vacation, gift or extra leave. Such rewards help in attracting employees to the training program.
Training plays an important role in employees’ skill development. In the retail industry, customer service staff must deal with the customers very efficiently in order to deliver customer satisfaction. Employer should develop effective training program that is designed according to the skill’s gaps existing in the employees. Effective training program first analyzed the training needs existing in the organization. There are various ways to analyze training needs such as interview, performance evaluation and survey. After identification of needs training program is designed and implemented.
Bramley, P. (2004). Evaluating Training. London: CIPD Publishing.
Cheng, E. & Hampson, I. (2008). Transfer and training: A review and new insights. International Journal of Management Reviews , 327-341.
Noe, R. A. (2010). Employee training and development. USA: McGraw Hill.
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. Ellen. (2005). Psychology & Work Today. New Jersey: Pearson Education.