Customer service training gets addressed

Sam Odrowski

While some employees provide exemplary customer service to everyone they see, others still have a long way to go.
The Northwest Training and Adjustment Board’s 2016 Employerone Survey indicates customer service skills came in as a top competency for current and future employees across the district.
To address this issue, customer service courses were held at the Valley Adult Learning Association here on Sept. 24-27 and again Oct. 2, where local employees received free training that usually would cost $1,200-$1,500 per participant.
The provincially-funded courses aim to improve employees’ essential skills, industry training, and skills relating to customer service.
“The course also included a lot of team-building, upgrading skills in communication, problem-solving, working with other people, and working with co-workers,” said VALA administrator Barb Duguay.
Employees from Mr. Sub, Tim Hortons, the Flint House, and Copper River Inn attended the sessions and said they had a very positive response.
“In general, it was a really great course,” said course participant Diane Gibson, who works at the Copper River Inn here.
“The ladies at [VALA] were fantastic and walked us through everything so well,” she noted.
“I think the biggest thing I learned was just how important communication is, whether it’s the word you’re speaking or just how you’re presenting yourself.”
Gibson said the training will help her do her job more effectively, and she would recommend it to anyone who works in a customer service position.
“I think it’s definitely a course that anyone in the service industry, or anyone who is thinking about going into the service industry, would benefit from,” Gibson lauded.
Tim Hortons’ employee Mary Lou Beaulieu told the Times she learned about the importance of teamwork and making the customer “number-one.”
“Customers are very important, and we have to do all we can to make them happy and have them come back,” she stressed.
Beaulieu found the training to be very beneficial and also would recommend it to those who work in the customer service industry.
“I was happy with it and if they’re going to have another course on something else that pertains to my job, I would certainly like to do it,” she enthused.
The course curriculum originally was developed in 2012 and delivered in British Columbia. The program now is being piloted in Ontario.
The original iteration of the program trained 1,200 participants in the retail and food and beverage service industry through nine different post-secondary institutions and saw remarkable outcomes, according to the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation’s Outcomes Report for Workplace Training.
“Not only did we see incredible workplace results, as reported by [the participants’] employers, but there was also a significant skill gain in essential skill levels as well as other non-cognitive functions, like self-efficacy, their confidence levels, their ability to self-learn, and the forecast of their own personal futures all increased dramatically,” lauded John Harrison, who helped develop the course.
One of the primary issues in the customer service training is a lack of training and essential skills-building given to employees by employers, he noted.
“Often times we are desperate for people so we . . . do the interviews, find someone that we like and think might be able to do the job, give them a few hours of training, and then cross our fingers and hope they do well,” Harrison said.
“That’s a really hard way to learn,” he reasoned. “There’s a lot of stress attached to that and anxiety, and we see it manifested in many ways in the workplace, in high turnover rates, and the ‘I hate my boss, I hate my job’ [attitude].”
The content of the program helps employees navigate these issues and plays a large role in its success.
“We build activities that are challenging and get people out of their comfort zone,” Harrison said. “Each activity is extremely well-planned out and has a purpose within that training program.
“And over and above that, they’re all kind of fun, which is an important part of training, too, because it certainly helps with the engagement,” he added.
Feedback from participants of the program has shown it to be very helpful in improving employees’ job performance.
“Everybody benefits, and we’ve seen people take this training that are very experienced and they still get a ton out of it,” Harrison noted.
“Even if it’s just a reminder on some things they’ve forgotten or stopped doing.
“They get better because of it. And for someone that’s brand new that’s never really been taken down this path, they’re completely blown away,” he added.
“This is just giving them all the insights that they need, and some skills and practice and tools to use every single day.”