Imagine you have a pressing — and persistent — technical issue that you need solved. You reach out to your service provider through emails and text messages, urgently requesting that a service engineer make a site visit to directly evaluate and address the ongoing problem. Finally, after working through scheduling, you’re able to set up the visit. The technician arrives and asks you bluntly, “What do you want me to do?”
But what if, instead, that same technician asked, “How can I help you?”
On the surface, there’s not much difference. But, when you place yourself in the situation as the customer, that change in wording — in addition to the tone of voice and even how the technician approaches you — can completely change how it impacts you. That technician is not arriving simply because they need to, they’re here because they want to help you. This seemingly simple, but important, shift in communication comes from training your team members to place customer service on par with issue resolution.
Adopting a next-level approach to customer service is an opportunity to show your customers that you’re committed to using every opportunity to learn how you can better serve them and meet their needs. That process starts by training your front-line employees to be more than problem solvers. They should think of themselves as trusted advisers who are there to propose high-value solutions, contribute to your customer’s current and future success and further strengthen that long-term relationship.
This mindset is important for every industry, especially business to business (B2B). B2B customers are often heavily reliant on their providers’ services or products, which results in higher stakes and added pressure. Accordingly, B2B customer service must be an essential component of delivering an optimal customer experience in a manner that is quick, efficient and friendly. This means good employee training is essential, as your team members need to be knowledgeable and confident in their understanding of the customer and the full context of a given situation.
Here are five of the biggest reasons why we’ve found that well-trained front-line employees matter the most to your customer relationships.
1. Your employees will be more receptive to customers’ needs.
Front-line employees have traditionally been transaction focused — simply there to solve an immediate problem or fulfill part of a contract. However, when they’re coached and trained to develop an understanding of the bigger picture, they can actively anticipate and address your customers’ underlying needs. Think of the iceberg metaphor, where what’s immediately observable is only a fraction of the real issue. A well-trained employee will understand that they’ll need to address the real underlying problems “below the water line” to properly correct an issue.
In this way, your front-line personnel can function as invaluable eyes on the customers. A well-trained field service technician can directly observe an issue, discuss it with the client while onsite and then develop unique insights that you might not otherwise have been able to generate through customer surveys or response forms. When field employees report back on their findings, you can then leverage that information to better serve that customer — and customers like them — in the future. The more your customers see your team members as their partners in success, the more they’re willing to trust and share.
2. Your team can help customers adapt to the new normal of digital technologies.
The pandemic brought a sea change in the acceptance and use of digital and remote technologies, greatly accelerating the digitization of customer interactions. These digital technologies are essential for increasingly technical work environments; however, as tools and software become more complicated, customers may be less knowledgeable or comfortable using them. As a result, it can be difficult to get to a customer’s underlying issue, as they may not really understand a new technology — but be too embarrassed to admit it.
Traditionally, interacting with customers on nontechnical issues has not been a strong suit for technical service people. Effective customer service training can help your team members understand a customer’s difficulty with technology and then communicate with them to better troubleshoot an issue. This will not only help reveal any hidden issues, but also increase the customer’s confidence in utilizing digital technology.
3. Your service members will be better equipped to diffuse difficult situations.
No matter how good a relationship you have with a customer, your front-line employees will eventually encounter individuals who are angry, frustrated and exhausted about a problem or a service issue. While the most direct course of action would be resolving the issue, that’s not always possible. Moreover, a customer may be upset over a more systemic issue that goes beyond the immediate concern. Handling these difficult situations is always challenging, but if your employees aren’t trained in conflict resolution, they may make things worse.
Providing your team members with training to handle difficult situations is essential for maintaining strong customer relationships. Pacifying a dissatisfied customer will rely on the courteousness of your staff as much as their professionalism or ability to solve an issue.
4. You can rely on your employees to be more proactive.
Your employees will sometimes need to make a decision in the field without a directive or guidance. In the case of time-sensitive incidents such as product recalls, system failures or other emergencies, there’s not always time to prep your team on the actions they need to take. Instead, prior leadership training can provide them with the tools, skills and knowledge to quickly access the information that they need to decide on a course of action. When your team members feel more confident in assisting customers with questions or solving issues, even in uncertain scenarios, it will build your customers’ trust in them, and your employees’ trust in you.
5. Ultimately, better trained employees are more satisfied.
Customer service training enables every member of your team to understand the impact their role has on the organization. Additionally, that training investment is proof to your employees that you care about their continued development and are there to support them. This goes a long way in helping employees feel more engaged, motivated and better equipped to work with a customer. As a result, your employees will not only be more efficient, they’ll be happier — and happy employees lead to happier customers.
Paying consistent attention to your customers’ experience is essential to today’s service-dominant landscape. But to do that at every possible touchpoint, you’ll need to rely on your front-line employees to understand how to get to underlying issues and be receptive to your customers’ concerns. While some technicians may be inherently receptive and personable, consistency across your entire team only comes with dedicated training.
Making that investment will open new business and revenue opportunities as well as lead to stronger, more lucrative relationships with your existing customers.