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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Training Matters to Everyone

When budgets get cut, often training is the first thing to go. In the last three years, training budgets have fallen by 21%. Cutting training can have a devastating impact on the customer service experience. Today, the customer experience – which can be instantaneously broadcast far and wide via social media – is a powerful differentiator.

Without training, frontline employees often find it difficult to make the connection between their roles and the success of the organization. Consider the influence on the customer’s experience when you factor in that only one in three U.S. retail employees have received formal training from their employers, according to a June report from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.

Training may not require significant investments of cash and resources. Training and development have taken on newer and far more cost effective forms without losing the power to change behaviors or acquire new skills. Online courses, scenario-based learning and on-the-job learning applications have all made development more “real time”, reducing “time away from the job” costs associated with more traditional training models. It might be more of an issue of coaching managers to regularly engage employees in discussions to keep them informed about the business strategy so they understand how they play a part in the company’s success. Whatever the method used, solicit employee feedback and opinions for improvements so they can make meaningful contributions. And empower them to implement their own solutions.

A classic example of great training reported in a recent BNET article comes from CitiStorage. One of the key stakeholders in the business argued that it wasn’t just customer service representatives who should be trained; everyone should. This wasn’t a trivial suggestion. Taking every employee out for three days is expensive – never mind the cost of the trainer. But, argued the stakeholder, isn’t customer service everyone’s business?

The acid test was this: CitiStorage’s customers got the impression that the company had taken on more staff. But of course they hadn’t. They were just getting more involvement, commitment and creativity from the staff they already had.

Can you afford to cut training and potentially taint the experience your customers receive from your “directors of first impressions”?

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