Can Customer Service Training Pay Off?

Many equipment rental business owners and managers understand the importance of keeping their customers happy and loyal. But many have trouble justifying the "expense" of customer service training because they don't fully comprehend its positive impact on ROI and have difficulty measuring it.

Today's customers are savvy. They expect quality, personable service, and they expect their equipment rental company to be knowledgeable about products and services. Most customers do not choose to do business with a company simply because of its price. They want a company that is going to anticipate their needs and values their business. They want to work with a company they are comfortable with and trust. Therefore, managers must work diligently to ensure their employees consistently not just meet but exceed their customers' expectations.

Excellent customer relations impacts all areas of your business. Understand the effects and positive impact of delighting your customers and train your employees to do just that, and you will see the return on your customer service training investment. The ROI will not only be in sales, but in employee retention and other areas that can have an impact on profitability. But knowing what to measure is often concerning to managers because a successful training program does not always show a definitive link to sales unless you know what variables to measure.

Knowing this can help show lasting positive changes in financial performance. The four most easily measured are:

Upselling and cross-selling

An employee of your company who provides excellent service always will ask the right questions to determine the customer's needs and get as much information as possible. A customer might not know all of the services and options available to him or her. This presents a great opportunity for the employee to sell other parts and services while offering the best solution for the customer. This will increase the transaction amount as well as showcase a knowledgeable staff member which the customer will appreciate.

With any piece of equipment that is rented, there is almost always a complementary piece of rental equipment or a supply that is appropriate. The mere suggestion by your employee can result in an increase in sales. If your organization also has a parts and/or service department, there are numerous opportunities to cross-sell. Make certain your customers know you are a full-service provider and partner.

Referrals

The equipment rental industry historically has been dependent upon enduring relationships and referrals from long-standing customers. Customer loyalty, therefore, is extremely important to the success of your business. You want to position your brand as being the best at providing customer service, building a solid reputation among your customers. Focusing on repeat referrals and customer loyalty should be top priority, and it is the most affordable sales and marketing strategy available. A knowledgeable staff trained to understand your business as well as your customers will result in the creation of new ongoing relationships, an increase in sales opportunities and the reinforcement of a positive reputation for your business. A referral is the ultimate compliment to your organization.

Greater employee retention

Employees that enjoy their job and working for your company undoubtedly will treat customers better. Investing in customer service training shows your employees that you are committed to their growth as an employee and individual. Consequently, employees feel valued when they see the company invest in them and that their work is important to the vitality of the company.

Consider how much it costs a business when there is significant employee turnover. Experts estimate the cost of losing just one employee results in 30 to 150 percent of that person's yearly salary (whether an hourly or salaried employee). In the equipment rental industry — an industry reliant on experience and technical skills — it's one added cost that you don't want.

Staffing changes and shortages also make it difficult on the employees that do stay with you to excel. Incorporating an ongoing training solution that includes reinforcement encourages employees to stay and creates a culture attractive to results-oriented employees.

Increase in revenues

An increase in sales is the most visible way to see how customer service training has impacted your bottom line. A trained employee knows how to build value for the customer by asking the right questions and determining the customer's needs — prior to providing pricing. A caller receiving great customer service is more likely to place an order than a customer receiving just the basic information and rates because the transaction is more personal. The employee is not simply reiterating basic information and rates.

Converting just two additional inquiries a day could substantially increase your annual revenue. Factor in each business location your company owns, and that number becomes even more impressive. Also, building value for your service allows you to charge higher rates. Most people will pay more for more value and excellent customer service. Employees must be trained to be more than order-takers.

Now that you understand what measurables can help justify the ROI of training, you are ready to implement a successful customer service program.

Begin tracking where your company currently stands in terms of upselling and cross-selling, repeat business, employee retention and revenue. Compare that with where your company stands after implementing a customer service and sales training program, and you will see whether your efforts are successful. Be sure to set achievable goals and clearly communicate them to employees. Provide them with directions on how to approach each interaction, and show them how their success is defined.

Each position within your company will have differing sales and customer service processes, but their measurements of success should be consistent throughout the business. Practice with employees so they clearly understand company and personal goals. Be patient but persistent, and reinforce their training so they are consistently reminded of their job goals.

Performance measurement is key to demonstrating ROI. Mystery shopping calls or visits (where the customer is really a decoy whose goal is to evaluate customer service) help you determine whether or not taught skills are being applied. Properly inform employees about the measurement program so they understand the importance of mystery shops as opposed to them viewing it as management trying to catch them doing something wrong. Instead, show them that you want to catch them doing a good job. Continually review the goals and offer a dynamic and ongoing reinforcement program to give them the confidence to apply their newfound skills.

Compare your employee performance measurements to the conversion rates, referrals, retention and transaction amounts. An increase in employee scores should match an increase in all areas. Set up an incentive program for your employees to reinforce positive results.

By understanding which areas are most impacted by exceptional customer service, conducting training with performance evaluations and measuring these areas, you will see a positive relationship between exceptional service and the bottom line. And that's a result that will be sure to help your company and your employees grow.

Barry Himmel, senior vice president for Signature Worldwide, has provided customer service and sales training across the country. His expertise in customer service and sales and his ability to deliver a fun, dynamic and unforgettable training experience have made him an industry favorite. Himmel has a bachelor's degree in business education from Miami University of Ohio and an MBA from the University of Dayton. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and has written numerous articles. For more information, call (800) 398-0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com.

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