These are tough times for small and medium sized businesses…
People have less cash to spend (more money is going to cover basics like food, fuel, and mortgage payments).
Credit for small businesses is either not available or unaffordable with exploding interest rates.
What to do?
Batten down the hatches and trim expenses? Hang on until the wave passes and then come up for air?
How about going the other way? What about investing in soft skills for your team?
Awesome Service Training
Many businesspeople I talk to about investing in soft skill training for their Teams resist it in one of 3 ways:
- They say, “we already do awesome service. We do not need it”.
- They mistakenly do not make the connection between soft skills training and hard-core business results.
- They do not see it as relevant to their business, or their industry.
First, before we get into these three objections, what exactly are soft skills?
Soft skills are training that embed Performance Standards for your Team in the service aspect of your business.
And, every business has a service aspect, even if you sell manufactured goods.
They are things like:
- How many rings before you answer the phone?
- What is the first thing every customer hears/reads when you answer the phone, enter the shop, read an email? Is it consistent, kind, filled with softeners?
Soft skills are well named. They are often words, or scripts that soften what is otherwise harsh, cold basic business language.
Even greetings like “good morning, good afternoon, or even hello” can be considered softeners. “By the way”, “I was wondering if…”, “do you mind if a put you on hold?”, “thank you for your patience” are a few other softening phrases.
Even punctuation marks like “…”, or a comma instead of a period can serve as sentence softeners.
Can you feel the difference between these two as an example –
Softeners in speech, emails, and phone calls can act like the honey that sweetens the harsh, cold words of language.
Is it less efficient? Yes.
It takes more time in speaking, writing, and on the phone.
Recently a business associate sent an email to one of my Team members.
It had no hello, no good morning, no greeting, no name, nothing.
It consisted solely of 5 words:
“What the heck is ____?”
This was the first email ever received from this person.
It was more efficient, yes. However, it occurs as a little abrasive and rude.
And this is another mistake people make. It is a big one. They think it is okay to speak rudely to their internal Team and then pour on the sugar for outside customers.
No, no, no.
How you do one thing is how you do everything. Customers will one day overhear rude language to internal Team members. This makes them immediately suspicious of the motives of the company’s external politeness.
Soft Skills Equals Hard Core Results
We all know that soft skills equal hard-core results. We know this is true. How?
Because we as consumers are always shopping with our wallet. Especially when it comes to eating out.
Take two restaurants with the same quality food. One place has awesome, genuinely caring, consistent service from the time you enter to the moment you leave.
The other one may have slightly better food. I would assert that the first place will have more repeat business, a higher average sale, more referrals, and more profit than the second one.
More than any other factor people come back to a business when they feel that you genuinely care for them. To demonstrate that you authentically care for your customers, you must have Performance Standards that consistently show that you do care for them. It cannot be a “once in a while” experience.
Performance Standards in action also must be done for their own end, not to get more sales, or a higher average sale.
Your customers will smell the insincerity.
Awesome service Performance Standards must be done because:
- It is the right thing to do.
- They make you feel great.
- They make your customers feel great (even if they do not come back).
Okay, let us go through the objections people have for implementing soft skills training….
Number One Objection – “We Already Provide Awesome Service. We Do Not Need It”
Does your company have documented Performance Standards for all areas of your business where customers engage with you?
If no, then I would assert that it would be impossible to create consistent wow factors for your business.
Consistency also means that the standards are the same regardless of which Team Member is serving a customer.
They are the same every day in every interaction.
When not, you can create additional Performance Standards for dealing with the break-down in a way that leaves the customer impressed with how you handled it.
Your Performance Standards cover:
- How you respond to emails (timeliness, tone, content, follow-up).
- How you greet customers when they come into your store or shop.
- How clean your store, shop and bathrooms are.
- How you answer the phone, the scripts on the phone, and how you end the call.
- In short, every single what we call “moment of truth” is designed in such a way as to leave your customers feeling cared for, served, even wowed.
Number Two Objection – No Connection Between Soft Skills Training and Hard-Core Business Results
The way to prove that soft skills lead to hard core results is simply to measure the impact over the first quarter after implementing an awesome service skills training. (This should be the first quarter after the results are embedded in your Team).
I would assert that you should see more repeat business, more referrals, and a higher average sale per transaction.
And it is important to measure those three things; however, that is a topic for another blog.
I know of a regional Australian airline that implemented an awesome service phone training a few years ago. In the first year after that training, they saw an increase of $21 million in sales. Pretty hard-core results, wouldn’t you agree?
Number Three Objection – My Business is Special, Unique
Many businesspeople I talk with are victims of magical thinking.
They believe that there is some brilliant, unique formula that will produce great results in their business.
Awesome service Performance Standards just seem too basic, too elementary for their “complex” and unique business.
Yet, I repeat, again – what has you return to a particular restaurant, hotel, shop, online business? Is it solely price? Is it solely the product?
No, it is the before you become a customer experience, it is when you are buying the service or product experience, and it is after the transaction is complete experience – i.e., the follow-up.
Every single business and organization on the planet wrap their product or service in some kind of service delivery mechanism.
Without Performance Standards It will be ad hoc, unplanned, unscripted…which means your customer’s experience will be different every time. It will change depending on the day, the person, the branch. Or even non-existent.
By delivering your product or service inside well trained and consistently applied Awesome Service Performance Standards you will almost be guaranteed of increased sales, repeat business, and higher cash-flow and profits. That is on the condition that your products are very good quality or above standard.
Thank you for reading…