“Hire for attitude, train for skill,” is a philosophy of many customer-focused organizations, such as Southwest Airlines and Doubletree Hotels. However, too many organizations don’t provide the structure or effective training programs to actually accomplish the “train for skill” part.
Once you’ve got that great employee hired, you have to provide high-quality training—especially customer service training—and follow up on that training to ensure employees are implementing the skills they learned.
There are many factors that go into creating an employee training program, but here are some steps to get you started:
- Identify what types of client interactions your employees will encounter. There’s no point in sending employees to telephone skills training or having a phone skills trainer come into your practice if the employees attending spend little to no time on the phone with your clients. It’s critical that you look at how the employee is going to spend his or her time interacting with clients and train accordingly.Will the contact be face–to–face at the front desk, face–to–face in the exam room, on the phone, or via email? If more than one type of contact applies, what percentage of the employee’s time will be spent on each? Once you identify the need, you can start searching for the appropriate customer service training.
- Identify what your clients expect from your employees. Hopefully you’ve already done this as part of your hiring process. But, if you haven’t, you’ll need to know what your clients expect from your employees and your practice. Is it punctuality? Friendliness? Courtesy? Scheduling skills? Organization skills? Technical skills? It’s easy to say that all clients expect all of these. However, the reality is, your practice type, size, location and other factors impact your client base as well as your clients’ needs and expectations.
A small animal practice in New York City will have clients with different expectations than a large animal practice outside of San Antonio, Texas. Knowing what your clients expect will help you identify if your employees need training in time management, etiquette, conflict resolution or other customer service skills.
- Find quality training programs that are aligned with your practice. With so many approaches to training these days, it can be hard to identify what direction you should take. Should you seek online programs? If so, should they be self–paced or live-scheduled? What about those $99 all–day, off–site mass seminars offered by the big, international training companies? Or should you hire a trainer to come into your practice and present a customized program just for your staff?
The answer will depend on your employees’ schedules, learning styles, your budget, and your employees’ willingness and ability to implement skills learned. Either way, be sure to get references, check out testimonials and confirm that the training you’re purchasing contains quality content that is taught by a subject–matter expert, and that the content will help you achieve your goals.
Additionally, be sure that the training is in sync with your practice’s values, policies and procedures. In my work as a speaker and trainer, before I develop a program for a client, I always get to know the organization, its mission, values, goals and policies, and ensure that the training I provide is aligned and reinforces what the organization is all about. If it’s not, it’s a waste of the organization’s money to have me come in and train employees to do things in a way that the organization cannot or will not support.
- Create training plans for each position in your practice. Just like every position in your practice should have a job description, every job should also have a sequenced list of required training and a time–line for completion for an employee to be considered “competent” in customer service for that position. Additionally, it’s a great idea to also seek the employee’s input about what skills he or she thinks are needed to perform the job optimally. Let the employee seek training options and present you with the information for you to discuss. This empowers employees to take a role in creating the direction for their careers.
- Reinforce training once employees have completed it. It’s always amazing to me that practice owners and managers will send employees to training and then never follow up with the employees once they’ve completed training. If you want to make the most out of the money you spend on training your employees, follow up. Here are some things you can do:
- Meet with employees once they’ve completed training to find out what their top take-aways are and how they plan to implement what they’ve learned.
- Ask employees to present an overview of the training at your next staff meeting and share with your team how your practice can implement new processes and procedures they have learned.
- Have employees who are thoroughly trained and who have embraced the lessons learned act as mentors to new employees. It’s critical that new staff members have a great role model to follow in creating the face of your practice.
- Reward those who complete training and implement new skills. Good work that gets recognized is likely to be continued!
- Don’t forget to seek training for yourself. The greatest training in the world will not help your employees if you don’t set the example for great customer service behavior yourself. Employees are not going to “do as you say, not as you do.” They’re going to follow the example you set. Therefore, if you’re not modeling great service behavior and participating in the same or similar training as they are, they’ll never embrace the new skills learned and your money will be wasted. +