Organisations are spending money on the wrong type of training. So claims Zita Richardson, partner in the Liverpool-based soft skills consultancy Motivateme. "Good customer service is central to the success of the business," she says. "But lots of organisations are spending money on skills training without thinking that good communication skills and manners matter."
For Richardson, the way forward is coaching. "You need to coach the managers in how to use their emotional intelligence and assertiveness to enable them to coach their reports in responding to the customer," she says.
The problem is that not enough managers know what coaching is, says Janet Curran, research and instructional design consultant at customer service specialist Skill4. "A lot of operational managers are focused on getting the task done with coaching, you have to focus on the people."
Coaching has now been identified as a definite need in customer service work, says David Kennaway, learning consultant for Capita Learning and Development, who has seen it grow in popularity over the past five years.
"The demand for coaching has grown from the use of 360-degree feedback," he says. "It has turned the hierarchy upside down because managers realise they now have to support staff rather than be directional - they know directional managers will not score highly."
Kennaway outlines the key to a successful coaching approach.
He says managers must:
- Be involved in the business and understand what their coachees do
- Give their feedback without creating resentment
- Understand the learning style of staff members and deliver training and coaching to them appropriately
- Be willing to listen to staff suggestions to improve customer service.
These things must be done regularly, says Clare Hollett, managing consultant at Blue Sky Consulting, which specialises in performance improvement in sales and service operations.
Organisations not only have to coach the managers but also encourage them to offer regular coaching.
"The most important detail is live consolidation," says Hollett. "Many managers hold monthly sessions with staff but they also need a weekly se