CSP Happenings





Topic: Coaching & Training

3 Tips for a Positive Workplace & Positive Customer Relationships

April 26, 2017

While you’re hard at work trying to maintain lifelong customer relationships, it can be easy to overlook the relationships among your staff. It seems obvious that a friendly work environment leads to greater productivity, decreased stress, less turnover and increased satisfaction—and in fact, research shows that this assumption is true. Happier employees lead to a more positive customer experience, as well.

A positive workplace starts with a strong manager. Start by surveying your employees to gauge their satisfaction. What do they really think about their job? Then try to build in the tips found below.

Boundaries

Clearly communicating your ideas and expectations at the beginning of a project save you from a conflict later in the process.

  • Try replacing open-ended questions like, “Do you want to start or shall I?” with “I’d like to start with x and then get your opinion.”
  • Create a space or time wherein employees can feel free to express their ideas and concerns safely. If confidentiality is important, consider using a comment box and then reading entries anonymously at meetings.

Customers benefit from companies that enforce clear boundaries, because they know what to expect.  Consistent results from a well-communicated plan of action go a long way to build relationships with your customers, too.

Gratitude

Everyone likes to know that they’re valued and appreciated.  Cultivating an atmosphere of gratitude can encourage employees and help them understand their integral role in the office.

  • Begin conversations by recognizing something positive your employee has done recently. They’ll likely be more receptive to suggestions or critique if they know you’re aware of their successes too.
  • Make sure your praise is specific and/or spontaneous. Let your employees know you’re paying attention to their work.

Have you ever walked into a bank and the teller was clearly miserable?  Your customers associate the positive and negative emotions they experience with the brand itself.  By ensuring your employees have a smile on their face, your customers will be smiling too.

 

Fun

Dale Carnegie, a famous thought leader in corporate thinking, said “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

American culture often does not include “fun” as a regular component of the work day.  Work shouldn’t be fun, right?  In fact, incorporating fun into the workplace used to be more common with company picnics, birthday parties, and friendly office wagers.

  • You can maintain a professional atmosphere while still having fun. The key is to designate a time and a place.  Scheduling a regular happy hour can give employees something to look forward to after a long day at the office.
  • Assign “birthday cake duty” to one of your employees to make sure birthdays are recognized and everyone can take a sugary break in the afternoon for a slice.

Your customers don’t want to feel like they’re a burden to your employees.  Let people know that you’re working hard and playing hard on their behalf.  This gesture also goes a long way in humanizing your brand and service, further cementing lifelong, loyal relationships with customers.

If you’re interested in reading a little more on this topic, check out our articles on how to boost employee morale:

https://www.csp.com/encouraging-cross-departmental-collaboration/#.WP9ysYgrJPY

https://www.csp.com/10-examples-of-employee-engagement-in-action/#.WP91oIgrJPY

Employee Training: All at Once, or One at a Time? It Depends

July 13, 2016

Employee training is pulling away from the model of slideshows in a dark conference room with stale bagels. Because attention spans and time are both in short supply, training must cut to the core issues and deliver worthwhile solutions – or in other words, you need to know what you’re doing and do it well.

Companies, on average, do not allocate much of their budgets to employee training – a little more than $1,200 and about 30 hours per employee each year. Instead of seeing this as a cost, treat it as an investment.  So, do you diversify your investment by plugging into individuals? Or do you put all your eggs in one basket by focusing on full enterprise training?

graph-963016_640Data instantly pinpoints weak links.

If you’re not sure where to start, look at the stats. Using comprehensive data, like the extensive reports provided by CSP, you can develop or choose beneficial team training programs. The data highlights the areas of concern, be it employee performance or customer satisfaction, and zooms in on detailed aspects with matching metrics.

Now you know not to spend time on teaching key phrases and language, for example, but improving listening and critical thinking abilities. More importantly, you’ll know if you need to address the entire team or pull someone aside for one-on-one coaching.

Team training moves everyone forward, together.

When employees are overlooked or employee training isn’t properly implemented, companies can experience dizzying unrest: high turnover rates, lack of engagement, dissatisfaction with other co-workers, low confidence and company pride, among other roadblocks.

Team training can open a dialogue between departments as well as junior and senior employees, thus developing a relationship more personable in nature. Ideal scenarios for team learning can include the following:

  • employee training for all or for oneNew material or technology
  • Changes in leadership
  • Continued education
  • Need to challenge complacency
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Fuel for employee loyalty

Team training sets a tone for the company. All of the gears and levers are oiled in a cohesive tune-up. But what happens when one little wheel keeps sticking?

Invest in the individual to see both a return and a contribution to the greater good of the team.

Think of a group fitness class compared to a personal training session. Unless the class is made of cloned robots, no two participants are wired the same. If one person is constantly falling behind the group, that gap is likely to grow each class unless there’s an intervention.

In a one-on-one setting, a personal trainer can take the time to check positioning and mobility, reintroduce basics that perhaps a client missed, and ultimately launch a game plan for the future.

As essential as training is for this person, so is following up with them and establishing an accountability system. Regular check-ins and feedback from the client are crucial for effective future training efforts. It’s up to the employer to recognize changes, improving the weak links and maximizing talent. The return on your investment could propel the entire team forward.

 

It’s unrealistic to know what each employee is doing or not doing well, and the impact of that performance on the team, without some guidance from statistics. Use data to outline a strategy that effectively combines both team and solo training. Customization based on your company’s needs will keep costs down and training, simplified.  

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Get more from your employee training efforts.

CSP’s customizable Employee Training program provides expert guidance, supports accountability, and promotes transparent communication. Contact us online or call John Berigan to learn more – (402) 399-8790 ext:101.

3 Steps to Coaching Employees Using Performance Reports

June 15, 2016

Customers often base their opinion of a company on their service experience, so you want yours to be top-notch. Proper training helps employees achieve customer service goals, which in turn provides motivation to continue doing well and to keep improving.

As you embark on coaching your employees to make your customer service experience even better, you want the training to be as effective as possible. The three-step approach below can help, combined with using employee performance reports that can guide you in knowing where to start the conversation, and what to address first.

To set up your employee performance training as a roadmap for success and help your employees achieve optimal performance, follow these steps during your coaching sessions:

1. Prioritize issues.

Avoid piling up a laundry list of all areas for improvement at once. Rather, start with the top issue that will help your employee improve customer experience the most.

manager development trainingEmployee performance reports can be used to analyze information that is customized to each employee. CSP provides several such reports. One that is useful in helping to identify priorities is the CSP Evaluation Summary report. This report can uncover patterns with its performance and satisfaction scores, and can quickly point out trends in an employee’s performance.

The Performance Criteria Scores by
Employee report presents all criteria questions for all employees at once. It can be filtered by employee and date, and can show if the coaching is leading to an improvement in scores.

Or use the Performance Issues report to see all criteria scores and which ones are scoring the lowest. Are your employees consistently introducing themselves to your customers? Are they using the customer’s name? This report breaks down each behavior with percentages to give you an easy-to-read chart that also can be explored in-depth if needed.

Focusing on one issue at a time helps you hone in on a single aspect of performance that you can come back to in the future, as part of an overall evaluation of your employees’ responsibilities and expectations.

2. Investigate causes.

Is coaching and training the appropriate response to an employee’s performance? To find this out, analyze the performance areas that are below expectation. Determining the root cause for low performance will help you establish next steps with your employee.

Once you have used the Performance Issues report to identify the area needing improvement, identify the cause for it. Is the performance problem due to awareness, resources, ability, or effort?

Use the chart below to review the actions most appropriate to each root cause:

Root Cause Action
Lack of awareness Re-communicate expectations and priorities
Lack of resources Help the employee secure the needed resources
Lack of ability Coach and train the employee to improve their knowledge and skills
Lack of effort Motivate or take disciplinary action
3. Give constructive feedback.

Your analysis using the CSP reports will not only have revealed opportunities for improvement, but also areas of strength. Use these reports to guide you in the feedback you provide to your employees. Positive feedback strengthens performance and motivates employees to continue providing good customer service or improve upon past performance. Keep these tips in mind when providing feedback:

  • Feedback should be balanced, touching on both strengths and weaknesses.
  • People learn differently so find a variety of resources to help each employee meet his or her individual goals.
  • To get the most value, both positive and constructive feedback should not be a one-time conversation, but an ongoing discussion.

Following these steps and incorporating reports such as those offered by CSP will allow you to continue increasing employee engagement. Help take your team to the next level when you take advantage of these tools and watch your employee performance soar.


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How Manager Development & Training Benefits Your Business

May 4, 2016

Professional development is an ongoing responsibility shared by both employees and their employers. However, managers and human resources personnel are often tied up in handling the paperwork of employment – hiring, firing, benefits, and grievances – leaving little bandwidth to focus on developing employees’ resources, talents, and career journeys.

Most businesses conduct some kind of periodic employee performance review, but miss the opportunities and advantages of structured follow-up and support. “Crisis” cases may get the attention they need, but middling and high-achieving employees can be left without a clear path forward to continued improvement.

Here’s the truth: Continued employee development can’t fall off the priority list.

manager development trainingThis is true for employees at all levels of the company, and especially relevant for managers. Managers are the cornerstones of a company’s internal culture. Their behavior, attitude, and ability to lead and nurture their team are directly correlated with employee satisfaction and engagement, which in turn influences the customer experience.

Off-the-shelf training materials and one-time leadership seminars are appetizers at best. Unfortunately, they won’t fill you up, and the effects tend not to last once employees are immersed back in their day-to-day duties. There may be a temporary boost in morale, productivity, and performance, but without continued support and attention, it won’t be long before they slip back into their comfort zones until it’s time for their next review.

Manager development is manager empowerment.  

In order for managers to effectively lead, coach, and nurture their employees, they must be nurtured themselves. You wouldn’t expect someone who lives on fast food and soft drinks to suddenly get up and compete in the Tour de France. Likewise, without proper “nutrition,” managers lack the supportive structure to deliver their best performance.

manager development trainingCoaching and training are not just about learning and sharpening skills, they’re about empowering staff to excel in each and every position, to collaborate effectively as a team, and to effect positive change in the workplace.

Empowered managers and employees:

  • feel valued by their employers
  • enjoy coming to work each day
  • are genuinely invested in the success of the company
  • resist the distractions of workplace conflict and politicking
  • are unlikely to look for other jobs, and
  • regularly engage in proactive, positive behavior.

These attributes ripple out to all areas of job performance. Even customers will feel the effects: customer interactions tend to go more smoothly, and issues get resolved more easily, when employees feel empowered to take action.

Development starts with data.

Collecting and evaluating data is essential to measuring progress and determining the effectiveness of a development initiative. It’s the first step of CSP’s Manager Development Training solution, forming a baseline from which to move forward with a targeted coaching program.

manager development trainingData also allows CSP to customize each program to each business. Every customer service climate will differ, even between separate locations of the same business. Within those climates, customer expectations and needs will also vary, and thus the key drivers of satisfaction and success along with them. CSP uses each business’s data to illuminate what those key drivers are, and tailor the Manager Development Training program to empower managers and employees to have the optimal effect on those attributes.

Consistency creates accountability.

What these customized programs share in common is a consistent structure of ongoing support. Not only does CSP create a path forward toward organizational improvement, your team also benefits from our years of experience guiding companies through times of change. Obviously, we want the effects of this training to stick, so change management techniques are reinforced from the top down throughout the training process.

As the program takes shape, we supply materials, conduct workshops, and regularly check in to evaluate progress. This consistent, committed approach to development is critical. It’s unlikely that managers will slip back into their old ways when there are measures in place to hold them accountable. Without those measures, there’s always the risk that other priorities, responsibilities, deadlines and duties will wind up distracting their attention from their job performance. That’s why leadership books and seminars so often fade from memory before companies can see the benefits.

There’s also something to be said for third-party objectivity when it comes to in-house matters. Managers commonly fall victim to a type of tunnel vision when they can’t see beyond the walls of their own office. CSP has seen it all, and we capitalize on that 30,000-foot view of organizational management to help each business navigate its own journey forward.

To learn more about Manager Development & Training, contact CSP’s John Berigan by email or by calling 800.841.7954, ext. 101.

 

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Do You Hear What I Hear? Skillful Listening Tips

December 22, 2015

listening skills

Effective communication cannot happen without attentive listening, making listening skills one of the most important fundamental components of customer service.

Customers today have more ways than ever to voice their wants, needs, and opinions to the companies they patronize, as well as to their fellow patrons. Customer service has expanded from sales floors and call centers to the digital cloud and social media spaces. Voice of the Customer tools like satisfaction surveys and comment cards also provide an outlet for customers to express whether their need for service is being met.

Across all of these platforms, no matter which one(s) a customer decides to use, their essential need to feel listened to remains the same. If they don’t feel listened to, they’re only a click away from Twitter, Yelp, and other public forums where they can make sure their voices are heard, and not always with the most flattering language.

Listening doesn’t just happen automatically. It requires active effort and attention. That’s what differentiates it from simply hearing. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be trained, learned, practiced, and strengthened.

Tips for Becoming a More Skillful Listener

These basic tips apply to all customer service channels and deserve heavy emphasis in your employee training process.

Make a conscious decision to listen. Active listening is a choice, one that needs to happen at the beginning of every customer interaction. The minute you go on “auto-pilot,” communication suffers.

Let go of your own personal agenda. Focus your attention by clearing away all distractions or preconceived notions. If you’re not fully present, you open yourself up to miss key parts of the customer’s message.

Be curious. Try to see the issue, topic, or question at hand from the other person’s point of view. Ask questions that give the customer the opportunity to thoroughly explain or describe what it is they’re trying to convey.

Listen with your eyes. Look at the customer when they’re speaking, not at a computer screen, other people in the room, or your watch. Pay attention to all the visual clues that accompany a customer’s words, like body language and facial expressions. In text-based communication like email, italic and bold fonts and ALL CAPS serve a similar purpose (but can be more easily misconstrued, so use your judgement).

Be patient. Some people take longer to find the right words, to make a point, or to clarify an issue. Sometimes the impulse to “help” and finish their sentences or guess what they’re driving at can come across as a sign that you’re not actually listening to them, just trying to rush through the conversation.

Listen with respect. Listen to understand, not to judge. This means not just maintaining the right internal attitude, but paying attention to your own body language and nonverbal cues, watching out for things like eye-rolling, smirking or laughing at inappropriate moments, or fidgeting.   

Maintain calm and manage your own emotions/reactions. You cannot listen if you are defensive or angry, or if you’re preoccupied by something going on in your personal life. Remember, this isn’t about you or your personal agenda, it’s about the customer. If you can’t put them first, you might be in the wrong job.  

Listen for the whole message. Make sure you understand the entire message before you attempt to respond. If anything is unclear, try repeating the message back to the customer to make sure you understood them properly and are on the same page.

CSP is listening, too! If you have questions about customer service skills, or a story of really effective (or hilariously awful) listening experiences, leave a comment or Tweet us at @CSProfiles.

This post is adapted from an article in STARS, our exclusive library of customer experience management resources. CSP clients can download training material, exercises, and articles written around specific customer experience dilemmas and solutions from STARS. Learn more.

Leadership Skills: How to Tell if You’re Using Your Time Wisely

December 4, 2015

We start this lesson in leadership with a classic metaphor:

A professor stood before his class with some specific items in front of him. When class began, he wordlessly picked up a large empty glass jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about three inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a bag of pebbles, poured them into the jar and lightly shook it. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

csp_rocksandsandThe professor then picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous, “Yes!”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The big rocks are the important things in your life —your family, your health, your friends, your favorite passions — anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed. These things will make you the most proud at the end of your days.”

“The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent the secondary things in life like your job, your house, your car. They give your life meaning, but perhaps aren’t the focus of your life’s work.”

“The sand is everything else—the small stuff. The sand represents everything that fills our days, but doesn’t add much value overall.”

“Consider this! What would happen if you started filling the empty jar with the sand? If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for all the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important. Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. If you start with the big goals of life, the smaller things will shift and move around to fill in the remaining space. But the reverse is not true.”

It’s difficult to be an effective leader if you’re not available to give proper attention to the “big rocks” because you’re mired in the sand.

This might sound obvious, but many leaders don’t do it in practice. There are only so many hours in the day that can quickly get eaten up by having to put out fires or burn energy on lower priorities.

Determining the Most Effective Use of Your Time

While the anonymous professor above was talking about the scale of life, you can use the big rock, pebble, and sand categories to assign weight to each of your responsibilities as a leader.

Try keeping a log of your activity over a given week, noting how much time you devote to each item that needs your attention. Take a look at the overall pattern of where the highest percentage of your energy is going, and then ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are your most important leadership responsibilities? Leaders often let critical tasks that impact the future slide off their radar. Consider tasks like: forecasting the future of your team, planning staffing needs and development, continuous improvement to processes, determining strategic direction, etc. Have you gotten sidetracked by daily interruptions that take you away from these leadership “rocks?”
  2. What “fires” are monopolizing your time day-to-day, forcing you to operate in a reactive mode? Note that these are often the pebbles and sand that we respond to, hour after hour. How can you preventatively invest more time to solve (or diminish) these issues, and consequently, free up time to address your prioritized rocks?
  3. Which goals do you dream about completing?
  4. What legacy do you want to create as a leader?

By contrasting how you’re actually spending your time with how you would ideally like to in order to accomplish your goals, some opportunities to make constructive changes might emerge. This could mean a conversation with management to make the case for how your time could be better spent, to everyone’s benefit.

When you set about reprioritizing how you spend your time, choose wisely and be disciplined. It’s not much different than starting a new diet or exercise plan – it’d be easy to slip back into old habits and let your jar fill up with sand and pebbles instead of rocks. In fact, that’s bound to happen some days, and that’s okay. Learn from it and come back the next day with even more determination.

This article is adapted from an activity in STARS, our exclusive library of customer experience management resources. CSP clients can download training material, exercises, and articles written around specific customer experience dilemmas and solutions from STARS. Learn more.

The Three Essential Steps to Engaging Customers

November 13, 2015

Customer engagement is a highly coveted measurement of a business’s customer experience. Knowing whether your customers feel engaged by your brand and employees, and which specific measures affect that sense of engagement, can reveal opportunities to build better relationships with your customers.

The goal of generating engagement has driven creative thinking in recent years as businesses look for the secret to getting and holding their customers’ attention. Much of the current conversation centers around social media and mobile devices in the endless race for more followers, likes, clicks, and shares.

While social & mobile strategies are certainly important, don’t lose sight of the basics amid all the chatter. Customer engagement on any platform starts with three key steps: watching, listening, and sharing.

WATCHING

In any interaction, a customer can reveal something about himself or herself that becomes an opportunity to engage in a conversation. Customer-facing employees should be encouraged to look out for such opportunities. Clothing or accessories might reveal if the customer is a fan of a particular sports team or musician, or a graduate of a local university. A parent or grandparent with a small child along with them may appreciate it if you engage the child – “Who’s the handsome little guy you have with you today?”

LISTENING

Just like watching, listening may give you a clue about a customer’s wants or needs that haven’t been covered yet. This applies to in-person interactions as well as over the phone or via text (like email or web chat interfaces). The most important part: being attentive. A customer can tell if the employee’s attention is divided or his/her interest is inauthentic and scripted – in other words, if they’re not being listened to.

SHARING

Conversation is, of course, a two-way street. In addition to engaging the customer with questions about him or herself, you can also use the opportunity to present information about your business, products, or services.

For example, if you know a particular customer to be a dog lover, you might mention that your business is participating in a fundraiser for a local animal shelter or cause. This is why it’s so important to be attentive in the other parts of this cycle: the more information you remember about each customer, the more the relationship can grow over time.

THE CASE FOR DISCRETIONsign-1238534-640x360

There are a few shadowy side-effects to the pursuit of engagement. It’s certainly possible to draw the wrong conclusion from a verbal or nonverbal context clue. A rep might say something potentially awkward, confusing, or in the worst case, offensive. Additionally, not every customer is going to be in the mood to participate in small talk at every interaction.

Similarly, not every customer is going to welcome the idea that your business is somehow following their personal lives, whether from their digital data or from in-person interactions. If they feel like you know things you shouldn’t know, or are disseminating information about them across the company “behind their back,” they might feel you’ve crossed the line from engagement to intrusion.

But playing it safe by avoiding Watching, Listening, and Sharing opportunities is not a way to build customer engagement. Skill, training, and practice can equip you with a service & sales staff who engage customers with grace and ease, even if a slip-up happens.

 

CSP has many resources available for training your employees to engage customers effectively and graciously, including our customized employee training services and our STARS library of exercises, articles, and activities. Contact us or call (800) 841-7954 ext:101 to talk about your customer engagement goals and questions.

15 Qualities of a Good Coach in the Workplace

August 26, 2015

Think back to the people in your life who have recognized your potential and used their talents to help you discover and shape your own. When a coach like this is present in the workplace, his or her influence can have a profound impact on the professional development of the entire team as well as the individuals within it. Most people would rather work under a manager who behaves as a coach than one who dictates and directs from above.

Coaching your employees is an important step in developing an internal culture that supports the customer experience. Sometimes coaching can happen “on the fly” when learning opportunities present themselves, but formal coaching sessions provide a great benefit to employees, who get the chance to ask questions, practice skills, and set goals against which they can measure their progress over time.

CSP believes strongly in the power of a good coach, so we’re here to offer you a little coaching ourselves on how to effectively guide the development of your team.

The Measurements of a Good Coach

coach

There is no exact blueprint for a good coach, as each coach will have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some distinct qualities that good coaches have in common.

As you read this list, ask yourself how you measure up against each of these qualities and identify which areas could use more of your attention. If you have been receiving coaching yourself and feel like it could be more effective, this list might give you a window to a constructive conversation with your mentor to improve the relationship.

1. A good coach is self-aware.
To understand oneself, one’s coaching style, and how it is perceived and received by employees, is a critical first step to becoming a valuable and effective coach. Self-awareness is a journey unto itself, so we’ll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.

2. A good coach brings specific and well-defined issues to the attention of others.
Being unspecific about problem areas, or failing to bring them up with the appropriate parties, suggests a reluctance to affect positive change and a lack of leadership.

3. A good coach prepares for each session with information, examples, ideas, etc., and is ready for discussion.
Coaching sessions should be scheduled in advance, and the coach should have a solid agenda for each session that lays out the mission for the day. Without structure, the coaching session can devolve into a casual conversation with no real substance or direction.

4. A good coach treats individuals as partners in the organization, encouraging their input and trusting them to carry out assignments.
Some coaches are fans of “tough love,” while others are more lenient, but what all good coaches have in common is respect for their mentees. Contempt and resentment have no place in an effective coaching relationship, and only breed further conflict.

5. A good coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of his or her employees.
Much like the coach of a sports team, he or she knows how to tap into the individual strengths of employees to get the most out of them and to get the greatest amount of productivity from the team, collectively and individually.

6. A good coach makes expectations clear at the beginning of the coaching session.
Both the coach and the employee must have a sense that this meeting has a distinct purpose, and must agree on what that purpose is, for the session to proceed smoothly.

7. A good coach allows enough time to adequately discuss issues and concerns.
Blocking out enough time for a solid session, rather than squeezing it in and rushing through, shows respect for the employee’s time and allows them to participate more thoughtfully.

8. A good coach seeks out ideas and makes those ideas part of the solution.
Take it as a red flag if a coach is not willing to hear ideas, suggestions, or thoughts from other members of the team. A coach is there to serve the employees, not for the employees to serve his or her ego.

9. A good coach listens to others and tries to understand their points of view.
Rather than assigning blame or delivering unhelpful criticism, he or she allows the employee to explain things from the other side, which can often uncover the root of a misunderstanding or miscommunication.

10. A good coach expresses encouragement and optimism when both easy and difficult issues are discussed.
Sometimes an issue can be the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s the coach’s job to make this issue less intimidating by modeling a constructive attitude that brings the team together to address it.

11. A good coach directly asks for a commitment to solutions that have been agreed upon.
Coaches can’t be wishy-washy about their expectations. If the employee isn’t held accountable for improving, it becomes a waste of everyone’s time to continue coaching.

12. A good coach provides the resources, authority, training and support necessary for others to carry out solutions.
Coaching doesn’t end when the session ends. It is up to the coach to follow through with any additional guidance the employee might need to move forward.

13. A good coach offers support and assistance to those he or she is coaching to help them implement change and achieve desired goals.
Professional development is a team effort. It’s usually not wise to simply cut the employee free after a session and expect him or her to achieve everything on their own.

14. A good coach follows up on coaching sessions in a timely manner.
It’s all too easy for coaching to fall down the priority ladder among all the other demands of a manager’s day-to-day job duties. At the end of each coaching session, it’s a good idea to go ahead and schedule the next one, and to hold to that commitment when the time comes around.

15. When solutions do not turn out as expected, a good coach proactively helps to define alternative actions.
If at first the employee does not succeed, it could be that there was a misunderstanding, or it could be that the original solution was a mismatch for that particular employee. A good coach is open to having a backup plan (or two).

The theme running beneath many of these qualities is this: When coaching is done in the spirit of mutual respect, the rewards and benefits for your employees and your customers are endless. What is important is to establish a positive coaching relationship between the coach and the employees that incorporates all parties’ strengths.

Read more: What are the differences between training and coaching?

More articles like this one can be found in our STARS library, available to current CSP clients as part of our full-service delivery. Contact us to find out how we support effective coaching and training in pursuit of the optimal customer experience.

Know the Differences between Employee Training and Coaching

March 25, 2015

Training and coaching sound like they could refer to the same thing: imparting information that someone else—in this case, your employees—can learn from.

In fact, training and coaching each serve a distinct purpose to your organization and can’t be interchanged. Knowing the differences between the two, and how and when to deploy them, is the key to affecting employee performance and satisfaction.

Training

training
Goals
  • Orient new employees to workplace standards and practices
  • Impart a specific new skill (e.g., using new software)
  • Instruct many employees at once with the same level of information
Setting
  • Often offered as a group lesson or course, sometimes digitally
  • May be a one-time session or a series of sessions
  • Few opportunities for one-on-one attention
Content
  • Standardized lessons delivered to all employees the same way
  • Content may be proprietary, owned by either the company or a third-party vendor brought in for training
Methods
  • Top-down, classroom-style teaching from one or more instructors
  • Worksheets, workbooks, handouts, or required reading
  • Activities, presentations, or projects, individual or grouped
  • May culminate with a test and/or certificate of completion

Training is best suited to new material or with new employees. Its purpose is to introduce a concept or skill and give the employee a basic proficiency with that topic, which they will then take into practice on the job. Training is often a one-time commitment per topic, rather than an ongoing process.

Coaching

coaching
Goals
  • Encourage employee development and improved performance
  • Address specific problem areas with specific employees (vs. a group)
  • Less about “how to” and more about “how well”
Setting
  • Most often occurs one-on-one, though one coach may manage more than one employee
  • Less structured than training; scheduled and delivered as needed
  • ·An ongoing process that follows the employee’s own progress
Content
  • Customized to the employee’s needs and learning curve
  • Hands-on opportunities to learn and practice, sometimes on the job
  • Worksheets and handouts less common, but coach may recommend additional material for continued learning
  • May be tied to employee performance reviews
Methods
  • Bottom-up approach built on the employee’s needs and questions
  • Encourages employee to examine and reflect on his/her own development and take constructive critique
  • Deliberate focus on specific areas of improvement, with benchmarks and goals for measuring progress

While training is skills-oriented, the purpose of coaching is to develop talent. We’ve written before that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all training; coaching allows instructors and employees to identify and address the specific issues that training may have missed. It’s also easier to accommodate different learning styles with a more personalized approach.

Why Training & Coaching Are Essential

Training aims to establish a well-informed, high-performing workforce. Coaching works to maintain it. If employees are recurrently falling below expectations, stagnating in their progress towards their goals, or failing to grasp the skills and talents you’re trying to impart on them, the problem might lie in how they are being trained, and what kind of coaching they are (or aren’t) receiving to reinforce that training.

Together, training and coaching benefit both employees and customers. Solid training and coaching support a smooth, stable working environment and improve morale and overall performance. That trickles down to the customer experience – customers know they can rely on the quality of service they’ll get from anyone they may talk to at the company.

Customer feedback also trickles back up into educational efforts, revealing any problem areas in service that need to be addressed on an institutional level.

That’s why CSP builds in plenty of overlap between the customer research and training/coaching components of our customer experience management programs. A superior experience depends on consistent alignment at every level of the organization. If you could use a fresh perspective on effective employee education, we welcome your questions.

For more information about how CSP supports employee & customer engagement, contact us today by phone at (402) 399-8790 ext:101, via our website, or on Twitter @csprofiles

Use Learning Styles to Customize Your Employee Training

January 28, 2015

As we’ve stated in a previous post, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all employee training.

There are actually two layers of truth to that assertion. Not only should each business customize its training program to best meet the expectations and needs of its customers, each employee has distinct learning preferences. These preferences will affect the employees’ ability to absorb the material.

Understanding learning styles will help you conduct the most effective training that gets through to each individual and sticks. Each learning style has its own strengths and weaknesses.

visual learning stylesVisual

Visual learners want to see the information or idea that’s being conveyed to them. They like graphs and diagrams and may color-code their notes and materials. They can learn a new task by watching someone else do it.

Strengths

  • Can visualize ideas in detail
  • Does well in face-to-face environments
  • Learns well from descriptive examples and demonstrations, pictures, or diagrams
  • Good note-takers and list-makers

Challenges

  • Can get distracted by clutter, movement, or crowds
  • Might struggle to listen for long periods of time
  • Less likely to retain what they hear

auditory learning stylesAuditory

Auditory learners want to hear the information. Mnemonic devices and rhymes make intuitive sense to these students, and they have no problem paying attention to a long presentation – they may even quote the speaker later on from memory. They can learn a new task if it’s described well to them.

Strengths:

  • Attentive listeners and communicators with a good memory for what is said, with or without note-taking
  • Does well on the phone
  • Absorbs verbal/written instructions

Challenges:

  • Sensitive to a noisy or loud environment
  • May find handouts during presentations to be more distracting than helpful
  • May need to hear instructions repeatedly to fully grasp them

kinesthetic learning stylesKinesthetic

Kinesthetic learners want to do it themselves. They are hands-on students who often rely on muscle memory and “feeling” their way through things. If teaching others, they’d rather demonstrate than explain.

Strengths:

  • Learns well with plenty of practice
  • Can figure things out as they go along
  • Thrives in in-person learning environments

Challenges:

  • Prefers a peaceful learning environment without a lot of active movement around them
  • Less likely to pay attention to verbal or written instructions
  • Unlikely to study from notes
  • Can feel trapped or restless in a classroom or at a desk for prolonged periods

Most adults won’t fall 100% into one box, but could have a secondary learning style that compliments their dominant preference. There are simple activities you can have your team complete to identify their learning styles.

Training for the Different Learning Styles

A slideshow presentation delivered by a single speaker may engage the visual and auditory learners, but leave the kinesthetic learners bored. They’d prefer a class with lots of activities and opportunities to practice, but the visual and auditory learners may then fall behind without as much verbal information.

When designing your training curriculum, make it a priority to include activities and methods that engage all three styles. Show, tell, and do. Pay attention to what seems to be working for your own group – after all, if the team skews towards visual learners, the learning materials might as well follow suit.

Effective employee training can have an indirect impact on the customer experience. You want skilled representatives on the front lines of customer service – and you get skilled representatives by taking their learning styles into consideration.

Want to know more about customized training solutions designed with the customer experience in mind? Contact CSP today.