How does new hire training hatch great customer service representatives? Sure, hiring the right people is a critical starting point but, as I learned from Graham Kingma of WIND Mobile, being unafraid to try some rather unorthodox customer service training can produce a real bonanza of benefits. WIND Mobile, a Canadian start-up, is Canada's fourth mobile service provider. I just saw a video post of Kingma talking about how his organization built their call center from the ground up.
As any existing contact center manager will attest, there are a lot of advantages to starting from scratch — especially when it comes to technology — so I won't spend time on that. What I would like to mention are two unusual activities that were included in the new hire service training: Improv and Random Acts of Kindness.
The first activity that caught my attention was improv training. WIND Mobile paid to have their customer service reps go through an SC-TV improv class. (For those unfamiliar with it. The SC in SC-TV stands for Second City, the famous improv comedy club with homes in Chicago and Toronto, that brought us Gilda Radner, Jim Belushi, Jim Carey, and a huge percentage of the ongoing cast of Saturday Night Live. Growing up in Chicago going to improv at Second City was the ultimate cool date night.) The new hire improv training was expensive but the experiential nature and lessons learn made it more than worthwhile according to Mr. Kingma. In improv, there's no retreat from the challenge of the situation you're asked to portray — very similar to being on the phone with a customer. In one activity, everyone had to begin everything they said with "No." In another they began with "Yes." The experience made a real impression because the interactions beginning with "Yes" were so much easier and more pleasant. At Impact Learning Systems, we agree. Our customer service training takes the concept a bit farther and suggests that using positive language — telling the customer what we CAN do rather than what we cannot do — makes a world of difference both in terms of cooperation and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. I loved the idea of having new hires do improv. In fact, I may start using elements of improvisation for role playing. What do you think?
The other fabulous idea from the WIND Mobile training was "Random Acts of Kindness." Let me describe the activity and why I'd call it unorthodox — wonderfully unorthodox. The idea is pretty simple: the class was challenged to do nice things for other people. What makes the assignment unorthodox is they were set free — actually told to go outside of the call center and come up with their own ideas for delivering random acts of kindness. Too often, new hire training is almost entirely focused on pouring product and process knowledge into reps' heads. We want people to come out of training ready and willing to help customers but how much time is spent building the cognitive connectors so they recognize opportunities to think outside the box and figure out on-the-fly how to do that in every call situation? We want them to be trustworthy but how much trust do we show them to think for themselves, to make good decisions independently? We want them to be proactive but do we give them a chance to experience why it's such a good idea? What I loved about the activity was that it asked the reps to think of others first, to proactively anticipate needs, and to intentionally help. Does that sound like anything you'd like your customer service team to do?