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How To Teach Your Interns The Importance Of Customer Service

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Customer service is both a tricky task and profession.

Let’s take a brief look at the current state of customer service.


The Problem

There’s a negative loop that explains the subtle undercurrent of disrespect for those in customer service positions — especially in retail. Often times, employees involved with customer service have to deal with unreasonable, irrational, and outright insane customers on a day-to-day basis.

The lack of respect that these individuals afford to customer service representatives tarnishes the image of customer service roles as a whole. It is unfortunate that such views characterize some of the prevailing impressions in the United States.

Let’s move a bit further away from a discussion about customer service relating specifically to retail or airlines and more towards the brand of customer service that bigger companies employ to deal with complaints regarding their goods or services.

After all, these types of businesses usually appear to be the ones that allow interns to handle these menial tasks.


Background and Context

According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal, there is apparently a split in philosophies between companies when it comes to defining what standard or quality of customer service is acceptable.

Simply summarized, one approach focuses on friendliness, building a sort of bond with the customer in addressing their problem, and really working that sense of personal connection during the interaction.

The other approach favors a colder side to interactions: it is a philosophy which prefers efficiently answering the customer’s question in order to minimize the amount of time and resources per customer and save costs.

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So, companies are either friendly and amiable or cold and efficient when categorizing the two major approaches to providing customer service to clients.

As an executive looking to train an intern in customer service, which approach you choose to take really depends on the cultural and financial circumstances of your company. However, this article walks through ways to achieve the more personable approach on the basis that this aids in customer retention and best fits the current role expected of a customer service representative.


Setting the Stage

In order to guide your intern towards understanding the importance of providing a warm, accommodating, and comprehensive customer service experience to clients, it’s helpful to first explain how that customer service philosophy relates to the values and mission of the business.

This allows the intern to better orient themselves with the culture of the company and to prime them against some negative preconceived notions that they might have about customer service workers.

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Before getting into any of the details of customer service training at all, it is crucial that you make sure that the intern is integrated into the company culture already. Along with this, the intern should also be familiar with the role of the company itself with regards to the goods it produces or the services it provides. These aspects of experience should already be present if your company has successfully oriented and onboarded the intern.

Going forward, we’ll assume that your interns have already received a brief introduction to the company and are beginning to fit in well with the other employees and the general culture of the company.


Ensuring a Standard of Customer Service Among Interns

Each step of the process of teaching interns should follow a progressive and logical route. After the interns have adjusted to the current role, it is the perfect time to explain the relevance of their ability to provide customer service to clients and the implications that good customer service has for the businesses.

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Interns should understand that they aren’t some detached entity whose role is to simply sit around as dead weight and watch other employees perform. Interns should be enthusiastic and understanding of the active role required of them during work-related matters.

There’s some truth behind expressions like “the customer is always right” or “the customer is king”. With this in mind, the first thing that should be taught to employees are the statistics and rationale that superior customer service brings and the benefits rendered to the service.

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Interns should come to see customer service as a pivotal, mediating role in the business that relates heavily to customer retention and the overall success of the business itself.

In the climate of all of these technological innovations guided towards helping managing customer relationships, an article in The Economist argues that doing things the old-fashioned way leads to definitively better results.

Specifically, the piece claims that: “The right approach to retaining customers starts with trying to understand more about them, and then to work out what to do with the knowledge” (The Economist, 2001). While the source is a bit old, the attitude here is correct.

Whether you do it in person or electronically, forming a bond with your customers and shown them a degree of empathy is key to customer satisfaction and should thus be a priority when teaching interns the importance and nature of good customer service.