As an industry, we’re pretty good at training. Most companies meet with field personnel at least once a week, and management gathers once per day to make sure everyone is on the same page. Even manufacturer reps are constantly asking if they can come train the team on the latest and greatest equipment. Sometimes it seems like businesses in our industry are a constant series of meetings and retraining. That is, except for the team that answers the phone.

There is always an excuse for why leadership can’t meet with and train these people. “I can’t leave the phones uncovered,” “I don’t have any backup,” “No one else knows how.” No matter the reason, your call center represents an important part of your business that isn’t getting the training it needs. And before you dismiss this concept because your people are great at answering the phones and there is nothing you or anyone else in your organization could teach them, try to think about it from their perspective. Everyone else in the company is constantly meeting, and they probably feel more than a little left out. If you really feel there isn’t any room for improvement, then use the meeting time to get feedback from this vital department. Few people in the company know more about how your current advertising campaign is being received by your customers. They are also one of the best gauges of the in-home performance of your field personnel. Getting overall business feedback from the front-line folks answering your calls should be at the top of your list each month.

Back to the training topic. Most people don’t train because they don’t know where to begin, and my advice is always to start with the things that affect your business the most. For example, if you’re in a weather dependent operation, you should be training for the upcoming season at least a month in advance. Let’s say you’ve just completed the summer rush and fall is two months away. This is the perfect time to talk about what went less than perfect last fall and what you could do better in a couple months.

If you have a new service line or are installing something new for your company, it’s always a great idea to train your internal team BEFORE you roll it out to your market. The marketing team should meet with your call center to discuss upcoming promotions. Why? Because there are few more irritating words to hear from a customer service point of view than those uttered after a consumer has just said something like “I just got your coupon in the mail” and then someone from the team answers is “What does it say?

I’m going to end this article with a list of training suggestions, but before I do I wanted to mention that the most important takeaway from this blog is to meet with your internal team, including the people who answer your phones who are a vital part of your organization. Simply put, they deserve your time.

Here’s a starter list of training topics for your customer service personnel:

  • Provide technical training so they understand all the words they use on the phone.
  • Have them review all the services your company provides.
  • Conduct a yearly review of what they say to customers every day and discuss areas for improvement
  • Train for extreme weather and how your team will deal with it.
  • Lastly, ask the question “What could we do better?”