Your customer base is the primary reason you're in business. Without them, none of the other trappings of savvy management, marketing or product design matter; your patrons are your backbone. A close second priority, however, is ensuring employees on the front line are treating them properly. This includes having not only friendly common courtesy, but also adequate knowledge and tools to help them serve in the best way possible. Proper training is the key.
Map out specifically what you want to provide the customer. Much depends on what type of company you run and how much direct contact your clientele has with your front-line employees. Regardless, laying out your key premises and cornerstones first will eliminate any gray areas and ambiguity by letting your employees know the fundamentals.
Write and design your curriculum. The key is to keep the content simple, clear and concise. There may be a litany of ideas, tips and addendums that you deem worthy of including, but keep in mind the attention span of an employee going through his orientation. You don't want information overload in your program, lest the key concepts get lost in the shuffle. Also, be sure to cover every possible situation that an employee might face. Every customer is different, and they should be prepared to cheerfully and professionally handle anything that might arise.
Include hands on training in addition to classroom time. Having real time practice scenarios in place to supplement the literature portion of your program will be effective in driving your principles home. Test their knowledge of key customer service concepts by placing them in difficult situations. For instance, does the trainee maintain a smile in the heat of battle? Do they appear to be visibly disappointed when they help a customer in the wrong, yet don't get a thank you? In addition to giving them practice time, it allows you to evaluate their progress.
Allow for training time with tenured, exemplary employees. Instruction and role playing through simulated live action scenarios are quite helpful, but nothing can replace actually being in the field. Don't throw your trainees to the wolves; have them shadow one of your best employees for a while. This will allow for them to see a perfect example of how you want things to be done. It is the moment that everything that was learned comes together.
Set up an evaluation schedule. Giving constructive feedback not only allows you to get the most out of an employee, but it also gives you the opportunity to hear what they have to say about their daily work routine. Good training isn't as good as it can be if it's not properly reinforced. Encourage an open door policy. This will help to ensure that their knowledge is being put to use.
Dave Stanley has covered sports, music and hard news since 2000. He has been published on CBSSports.com and various other websites. Stanley is also a feature writer for "WhatsUp!" magazine in Bellingham, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Memphis.