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Tagged: training

Are you coaching your employees across these three categories?

July 18, 2017

 

Coaching employees is an essential step in creating a positive work culture. Happy employees need opportunities for continuous improvement and a chance to thrive in their roles. Strong customer experience relies on good coaching and training, and managers themselves must work on improving their own skills as a good coach to ensure the success of their work environments.

In a productive work environment, managers find coaching opportunities in day-to-day interactions, looking for teachable moments to help employees improve the way they work. In addition, periodic reviews and one-on-one sessions create an important two-way dialogue between managers and employees to help create a mutually developed plan for improvement.

However, quarterly reviews and pats on the back aren’t enough to make lasting business improvements. Managers need to consider the category of feedback they give, and if they are coaching the holistic employee. An employee may be great in meetings with clients, but struggle internally to keep their work organized. A different employee may have incredible technical skills, but come off as abrasive during when interacting with colleagues. Coaching needs to cover different categories, and hitting these different categories of employee performance helps create a more complete business professional. Business professionals benefit from comprehensive coaching feedback and, consequently, continue to develop as high performers.

Technical

Often, technical learning falls on the side of training, rather than coaching. Employees work in a group setting to learn the skills needed to do their jobs well. Despite this, managers can help coach the overall learning experience. Good coaches should help their employees self-reflect by asking them what skills they excel at, which the struggle with and how the manager and employee can work together to create a work environment where everyone feels successful. Managers give perspective to technical learning by explaining its importance to the employee and placing it in the context of the business. Moreover, managers help point employees in the right direction of help and support to improve technical skills. If an employee wants more assistance, managers either have an opportunity to give instruction or find someone within the company who can provide the most useful instruction.

Interpersonal

Employees need guidance on interpersonal skills, and this category is particularly important for coaching since it receives such little formal training. Mangers have years of experience and have worked with hundreds of professionals, so they tend to be able to identify an employee’s interpersonal strengths and weaknesses. When an employee’s interpersonal skills are strong, their ideas and contributions tend to shine because they know how to present their ideas in a digestible, constructive manner. When a manager coaches interpersonal skills across an organization, the business environment thrives and office cohesion results in great customer satisfaction.

Organizational

Great product/service delivery relies on planning, revision, adjustment and time for contemplation. When an employee has time to do all of this, he or she can deliver the best work possible. The only way to have enough time for these different activities is through organizational skills. Great work requires advanced planning and building in time for unexpected requests. Unfortunately, organizational skills tend to be under-coached. Managers try not to micromanage their employees and want to show flexibility by acknowledging that individuals have their own methods of working. However, managers have career experience, and are required, by the managerial nature of the job title, to be highly organized. Coaches should give employees enough independence that they feel respected, but also offer suggestions for getting work done in a more efficient, organized way. Advice on how to organize calendars, block out individual days and stay abreast with many simultaneous tasks/projects is invaluable information for less-experienced employees.

Next time you consider the way you coach employees, think about the different topics you cover in your coaching sessions. How comprehensive is your coaching? Are you only covering specific technical skills in your coaching style, or are you cultivating the entire employee? Great service delivery requires great professionals, and professionals can’t be great unless they continuously improve a diverse set of technical, interpersonal and organizational skills. By evaluating their own coaching approaches, managers can accelerate the learning process for their employees and turn junior staff members into multi-talented professionals who will innovate and drive business.

Want better employee performance? Use benchmarks.

June 27, 2017

What should a manager do when an employee’s performance falls short? Consider the following scenario: An employee isn’t reaching his personal performance requirements. Maybe his sales are low, his ability to open new accounts is subpar or he receives weaker customer satisfaction scores than his colleagues. During a performance review, the employee is informed of his low performance, and feels pressure to improve. He worries about his job security and thinks if he simply tries harder, he’ll achieve better results. However, two weeks later, his willpower is drained and he resorts to the same ineffective behaviors.

In this scenario, the employee gets lost in a cloud of ambiguity and stress. Employees want to perform well, and when they don’t, managers need to treat the moment as an opportunity to teach, rather than to scold. Benchmarking makes this teaching moment possible.

Benchmarking is the process companies use to identify and establish key performance standards, or benchmarks, and measure their performance against those standards over time. These standards are usually achieved by quantifying performance based on customer feedback scores. Coaching employees to achieve benchmarks is highly effective for a few reasons:

Non-accusatory feedback

When a manager discusses poor performance with an employee, the conversation feels highly personal. However, the ability to look at a benchmarking score as an external performance metric helps things feel less personal, and shifts the conversation in a positive way. Rather than the manager telling the employee he’s underperforming, the manager speaks in terms of improving customer relationships through specific behaviors. The result of a non-personal conversation leaves the employee feeling supported, rather than attacked.

Clarity

Benchmarking helps managers give specific feedback and learn about their employee’s personality traits. Different personality types yield different performance strengths and weaknesses. For example, an extroverted, persuasive personality may do well to promote add-on purchases, but rub certain customers the wrong way by being too abrasive. Conversely, a perceptive and introverted personality may do well at highly analytical tasks for high-maintenance customers. Benchmarking illustrates performance strengths and weaknesses in clear terms the manager and employee can look at together. Additionally, this process gives an opportunity to talk about the employee’s highest scores. The manager learns about the behaviors which achieve stand-out scores, and the behaviors are taught across the company as a best practice.

Tangible goals

Benchmarking is done using scales, such as a numeric 1-10 scale. Seemingly small differences, like a customer giving a “7” versus an “8” in overall experience, have major implications in terms of the loyalty of the customer and the customer’s likelihood to recommend the brand to others. Therefore, employees should be encouraged with realistic and specific targets. When an employee is told he isn’t doing well enough, he might feel discouraged. A good manager offers specific strategies to employ, and encourages the individual to see if he can improve his score marginally over the next three months, maybe from a score of 7.5 to 7.8. Presented in this context, the goal feels realistic and achievable, easing the anxiety of the employee and inspiring hope that the strategies recommended by the manager will work.

Good managers should always consider the emotional impact of the feedback they give their employees, make sure their feedback is precise and give the employee a clearly defined path to success. CSP’s Manager Development and Training uses Voice of the Customer data to coach managers and employees on the specific behaviors that improve key drivers of both employees’ engagement and customers’ satisfaction.

Deconstructing Company Culture: Q&A with CSP’s Brittni Redding

December 20, 2016

Meet Brittni Redding, CSP's Director of Client Education.

Meet Brittni Redding, CSP’s Director of Client Education.

With her background in both financial services and managerial/professional development, Brittni Redding was a natural fit to join CSP in 2016. As our Director of Client Education, Brittni has been instrumental in developing and supporting CSP’s Manager Development and Training solutions.

Brittni’s hands-on role with our clients, and her previous experience in a variety of training and coaching capacities, give her a unique edge. She’s keenly tuned in to what makes managers and their employees gel – and what doesn’t. Rather than keep her behind the scenes, we’ve invited her to share some of her insights as a facilitator and educator on all things company culture, here on this blog. 

How have businesses’ (and specifically, banks’) expectations of their managers and internal leaders changed?

In banking, there are typically clear measurements for what is being accomplished — e.g., loan and deposit volume, services per household, or the controversial cross-sell.  We’ve all worked with the “top performer” who rocks at results but leaves a trail of dead bodies in their wake to get there.  This sends the message that the organization accepts, even condones, a “win at all costs” mentality, which in turn affects culture and climate.

Most organizations are learning that beyond bottom line results, it’s important for Managers and Leaders to be held accountable for how they are getting there.  They should ask themselves: Am I inspiring my team to deliver exceptional customer experiences, or are they encouraged to chase a score?  Do I utilize customer feedback as a development tool to ignite coaching conversations, or is it a punitive measure? 

In your observation, does the topic of company culture get as much attention as it should?

Company culture is always a hot topic, but it’s hard to move beyond the rhetoric to action.  So much of it is founded in “unspoken rules” that developed over a significant amount of time.  Changing those requires a long, uphill battle of resetting expectations, maintaining consistency (even behind the scenes) and establishing buy-in from the top down.  To succeed nowadays, organizations must be prepared to act not only on the measurable performance of people and processes, but on cultural misalignment. 

I bring this into focus for CSP’s clients by helping them develop a unique “service climate” at the branch or department level.  Managers play a key role in fostering a service climate geared toward service through consistent communication, coaching, peer to peer feedback, and best practice sharing. That service climate is then owned at the employee level, based on their perception of what behavior is expected, supported and rewarded. 

What is the role of managers in facilitating changes and making training stick?

Front line managers are the most critical players in holding employees accountable for training concepts – but that training must also be aligned with organizational goals. I once facilitated a training session for a group of contact center representatives, on the topic of recommending additional products and services.  I employed all the adult learning must-haves: interactivity, robust discussion, activities, handouts, job applicability, what’s in it for them – everything!  During a call listening session after the training, I desperately waited to hear the reps utilizing concepts from the class…but it didn’t happen. 

Why? The front line managers’ objectives weren’t actually about customer relationship expansion at all, but reducing hold times through effective and efficient service.  I had missed the critical step of communicating with the most important link to employee accountability – the managers.  Now, before considering learning and development objectives, I like to run pilots or special manager sessions to make sure we are on the same page.  The combination of alignment and post-training accountability is a must-have for any change to stick.

Is there a common theme, idea, or truth about manager development that you think companies tend to miss or undervalue?

Too often, managers tend to focus on identifying and improving employees’ weaknesses, rather than investing in their talents.  What they don’t realize is that they can achieve the same desired outcomes (or better) with a positive, strength-based approach rather than the more conventional weakness-eliminating model. My belief in this mentality is what led me to become a certified Strengths Coach through Gallup.

Empower your employees to play to their strengths and affect the company culture.

Your company culture should empower your employees to play to their strengths.

This is something that has played out for me personally.  Discipline, execution, and all the dirty details have never come naturally to me, whether at work or after hours. I had a personal goal to get healthy and work out more, but none of the strict master plans putting me at the gym or on the treadmill seemed to stick. Meanwhile, what I am good at is the big picture view, coming up with ideas, and collaborating with others.  My friend encouraged me to join a tennis team, which incorporated more of how I’m naturally inclinedand that worked! I continue to do that for exercise to this day.  I’m accomplishing the same outcome of exercise but doing it in a way that I enjoy and that comes more naturally to me. 

Now apply this logic to a coaching scenario:  when faced with Bankers and Tellers who are more analytical than socially driven, some managers might try to correct this “weakness” and get these employees to be bubblier.  But a strength-based approach would have them instead apply their eye for detail to drive customer service – going into more detail about products, following up meticulously, etc. 


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4 Lessons in Employee Empowerment, Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

November 2, 2016

chick-fil-a official logoMost consumer-facing businesses could stand to learn a few things about customer experience and employee engagement from Chick-fil-A. I recently connected with a friend and colleague of mine, T.J. Hammond, who works in learning and development at Chick-fil-A. I’ve enjoyed a knowledge-sharing relationship with T.J. for several years based on our shared beliefs in what makes a superior customer experience, especially as it relates to a company’s culture.

So I was thrilled when he arranged for me to take a few tours behind the scenes of their Support Center operation and share with me the strategies this quick-service restaurant (QSR) has in place to support their franchisees. To say I was impressed by what I learned would be an understatement. If I were going to get into the QSR business, I’d seriously consider Chick-fil-A, because of their attention to detail. No wonder this brand often gets referred to as an example of great customer service. They leave nothing to chance.

Here are just a few things Chick-fil-A gets right about employee engagement and customer experience:

1 – They Put Control of the Experience in the Owners’ Hands

Chick-fil-A franchise owners are responsible for everything that happens under their roof, including the service climate unique to that restaurant. Owners hire and train their employees and are in charge of their engagement. And most importantly, each owner has the freedom to do different things for their own staff to make sure they’re engaged and motivated. Instead of “we can’t/don’t do this or that because it’s not Our Way,” Chick-fil-A Corporate asks their franchisees, “What do you think will work, and how can we support you?” Figuring out how to address your own challenges is part of their culture.

Chick-fil-A trusts the people on the ground doing the work, and empowers them to make decisions and try new things based on their own observations. For example, some owners offer tuition assistance as an employee benefit, to help attract the best hires. It’s not an organizational mandate, or even a suggestion from on high; it originates with the owners, and the organization makes it happen.

2 – They Encourage Collaboration & Transparency between Franchisees

Chick-fil-A is very transparent with their customer experience data – which they track, across multiple channels, on a daily basis. Rather than pit stores against each other to encourage competition, Chick-fil-A wants its franchisees to feel as though they are all on the same team. They’re more than willing to support those efforts with data and enable owners to learn from each other.

For example, let’s say a store in one part of the country is struggling with breakfast sales and unsure of how to turn the tide. Chick-fil-A will gladly fly one of its top breakfast performers out to that location to give the owners face time and allow them to coach each other. They’ll invest in these mentor/mentee relationships because they know they’ll see a return.

3 – They Have the Training Chops to Support Employee Excellence

Chick-fil-A’s employee training is thorough, customizable, and designed around the behaviors and operational aspects that really matter to customers. Individual owners are encouraged to put their own touches on how they train their teams. At the same time, the materials, resources, and methods supplied by the organization are top notch. For example, they hire actors and run simulations of all kinds of different customer scenarios and challenges. Their employees are ready for anything, from cleaning the coffee filter to building the perfect sandwich to handling customer grievances. They also have an excellent New Employee Onboarding process, as well as supporting new franchise owners with a “grand opening” team for weeks to help them get off the ground.

4 – They Value Their Employees

Unusual perks like tuition assistance are just one way that Chick-fil-A treats their employees like people, not just worker bees. One of the most striking things I noticed during my tour is something I’m not even sure Chick-fil-A realizes is so powerful. Rather than calling people “managers” and “customer service representatives” and other generic job titles, they use titles like Leader, Influencer, and Stakeholder. These aren’t just empty titles handed down through a memo: their practices demonstrate that they really believe in these titles and take them seriously.

What Banks (and Others) Can Learn from the Chick-fil-A Model

Chick-fil-A clearly understands the connection between building a customer-centric culture and what that takes from a support standpoint. What can you do today to be more like them?

  • Empower your branch leaders to innovate. There is a time and a place for brand consistency. That ends when policies and procedures become so inflexible that branch managers feel their hands are tied, or like they can’t make suggestions for improvement or change. You’ll see a return on innovation if you actively support your managers to think for themselves.
  • Encourage collaboration over competition. Pool your resources – there’s more than enough to go around. Whether within a particular branch or between branches, managers and employees can all stand to benefit from mutual coaching and mentor/mentee relationships.
  • Keep your training engaging and current. Don’t be afraid to stray from the typical corporate training models. Be bold, be memorable, try new things. Be proactive, not reactive, and update your materials and resources regularly. Let employees make suggestions and lead initiatives instead of always handing things down from the top.
  • Give your employees what they want and deserve. There’s more to employee engagement than health insurance and retirement plans. Much more. If you want to attract and retain the top talent, and not just fill empty positions, go above and beyond the bare minimum that employees expect to find anywhere.

Not coincidentally, these are many of the same values and strategies we endorse at CSP. We’re proud to support our clients in creating and fostering a superior customer experience based on comprehensive, current customer data. Change isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard, either, with the right support and resources.

Jeff Dahms is Vice President of Research & Development at Customer Service Profiles. Jeff has over 12 years of experience managing and consulting to data for both internal and external clients, and has extensive experience in helping Executives focus on key indicators in order to achieve maximum results.


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4 Strategies for Encouraging Cross-Departmental Collaboration

August 16, 2016

Cross-departmental collaboration is a reflection of a healthy internal culture. When employees feel comfortable working together, communicate effectively, and understand each other’s roles and functions within the system, your customer feels the difference.

common obstacles to cross-departmental collaboration and how to avoid them
What gets in the way of cross-departmental collaboration? 
Obstacle 1 – Tunnel Vision

When employees get too limited by the tunnel vision of their own job descriptions and team functions, frustration often ensues. This is often the root of communication breakdowns and interpersonal conflict. For example, an employee might make an unreasonable request from another team, assuming it was a simple request when it actually created a huge hassle.

Solution

Cross-train. Offer employees frequent opportunities to step into each other’s shoes, job-shadow each other, or train each other. The idea is not to make everyone essentially interchangeable, but to give employees a basic understanding of how each department functions, individually and as part of the bigger picture. This is especially important for regular processes that touch multiple departments.

Obstacle 2 – Ineffective Meetings
Employees would rather watch paint dry than attend ineffective meetings.

According to the same poll, 8% of employees would choose a root canal.

One poll found that 17 percent of employees would rather watch paint dry than attend a meeting. Ouch. Face-to-face time is essential to healthy collaboration – or at the very least, being on the same conference line or web conference. But meetings have a tendency to clog up calendars, disrupt the workday, go off-topic or off-schedule, or otherwise not accomplish their objectives.

Solution

Meet more mindfully. Before you schedule a meeting, think hard about how to make the most of that time. Meetings should have designated leaders, note-takers, and time-watchers. An agenda, prepared and provided in advance, can keep everyone on track. And there should be a plan in place to follow up on the meeting’s objectives and action steps before they are forgotten. Be mindful of scheduling, too – make sure employees have a chance between sessions to make meaningful progress. 

Obstacle 3 – Social Silos

Consciously or unconsciously, each department can wind up so isolated from the others that it’s effectively in its own silo. Its members only interact among themselves and rarely cross over to other territories. The result is a series of micro-cultures that aren’t always compatible. Much like the tunnel vision that prevents employees from understanding each other’s jobs, social silos prevent employees from understanding each other, period.

Solutions

Celebrate together. Create opportunities for employees to socialize with each other, during and after office hours. For example, you might consider a casual gathering on the final Friday of each month, and rotate the duty of “hosting” this gathering between departments or teams. You can use these opportunities to highlight positive progress and accomplishments from various teams – but unlike meetings, these gatherings don’t need a strict agenda.

Uniting around a common goal is one of the best ways to break down silo walls. So another way to get groups to mix up or interact could be to introduce a goal or project that isn’t directly related to work functions. Examples include: a charitable drive, a company 5K team, annual outings, regular “Happy Hours,” or some friendly competition like a costume contest around Halloween. All of these can break the ice and help employees see each other as people, not just co-workers.

Obstacle 4 – Top-Down Direction
cross-departmental collaboration can't happen without the right leadership

Cross-departmental collaboration can’t happen unless managers lead by example.

Direction and leadership are not the same. Cross-departmental collaboration requires buy-in from all involved, including and especially the designated leaders of any given group. Otherwise, the entire effort feels inauthentic. Managers, after all, are just as susceptible to social siloes and tunnel vision as their staff.

The other side of this coin is whether or not employees feel they have a voice in how their departments are run, and in how departments interact. If they don’t feel they have an opportunity to raise an issue, ask a question, or be proactive, there’s little motivation to simply follow orders.

Solutions

This one is twofold. First, department heads should be modeling cross-departmental collaboration by regularly and visibly engaging with each other – and with each other’s teams. If they notice that their department is becoming too isolated or is hesitant to collaborate with others, these leaders should be the first to start building bridges, and not just directing others to do so. Second, you need a mechanism in place to effectively collect employee feedback, in a way that makes employees feel safe from any negative consequences for speaking up. CSP highly recommends a Voice of the Employee program to gather this kind of data.

 

Your culture is the result of your actions and your priorities. Cross-departmental collaboration is not the kind of thing that can be enforced upon your staff. It must be nurtured at all levels of the organization, with deliberate intention, even when other priorities seem more immediately urgent.


More reading on this topic:

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.