Customer service training, or service education. What’s the difference?


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Customer Service Training Actionable Service EducationMany companies provide customer service training for some or all of their employees. But soon after the leaders of these same companies ask why everyone in the organization hasn’t embraced a true understanding of – and commitment to deliver – service excellence?

To address this gap and answer this question, we must understand the difference between customer service training and actionable service education. Training provides scripts, steps, answers, and procedures to use in specific situations, while education offers a framework for creating value, developing new solutions, and building a stronger service culture.

Let’s start with customer service training. First, consider the word “training”. Training implies teaching someone what to do – an action or particular skill to use at a certain time. We can train pilots how to handle certain flight situations, or workers how to handle sharp objects safely. We can even train our pets to perform new tricks.

So when you know exactly what a situation will require and what the outcome should be, then training can be entirely appropriate.

But what happens when someone who has been trained in customer service encounters to a new situation they haven’t been trained for? They may not know how to handle it appropriately, and fall back on their trained response in a scripted and robotic manner. This leads to poor service performance for the customer – which is exactly what we want to avoid.

In unpredictable customer service situations (which happen all the time), service leaders must enable employees to think and come up with the best ways to respond. Training provides for precise reaction, but it doesn’t prepare for analysis, understanding, new ideas, and then appropriate action. Customer service training is a great starting point, but it isn’t the full solution when want to provide superior service all the time, across your entire organization.

To build a consistent, top-notch customer service culture, you must embrace actionable service education as an essential foundation.

Education means going beyond mere service training, encouraging your employees to think about a situation and the people they service, creating and collaborating to choose the best course of action, and then implementing together to deliver an excellent service experience. Education is also an ongoing process: the learning must continue with best practices and new examples always being shared.

Customer service education means remembering that customer service is always viewed and evaluated through the eyes of the customer (or the internal colleague), so you first must understand what that customer (or colleague) really cares about.

As your team members better understand the expectations, needs, and wants of a person in a particular situation, then they can apply the principles of customer service instead of just reacting with the policies and procedures they were trained to follow.

Customer service education is the foundation of a stronger service culture, where people ask open-ended questions with curiosity and concern for others.

  • What does this person I am serving truly want, need, and value?
  • How do the principles of service excellence apply in this situation?
  • What actions can I take? What new ideas can I suggest?
  • What can I learn and share with others to provide even better in the future?

This type of customer service culture requires thinking, and not merely following. It requires leaders who enable the organization to respond, and not merely react.

Are you looking to create a culture of superior service? Provide ongoing customer service education for everyone in your entire organization, and you are on the path to building the service culture you need.

Actionable Service Education video

Watch Ron Kaufman on video discussing this topic.


Categories: Service Education

4 Responses

  1. Dhammika Kalapuge says:

    Dear Ron,

    Your article on Service Education is very precise with regard to what the service providers should do at present. ‘The experience modifies expectations’. Service Training will help to give a ‘basic’ experience. With escalating customer expectations ‘Service Education’ helps to provide an ‘Unbelievable’ service experience. To reap the real benefit of it organisation’s ‘service culture’ plays a vital role, where staff are empowered to creatively come out with solutions that will eventually build a ‘trust’ towards the service provider.

  2. Sreenivasan says:

    Excellent narration on two important concepts. Since we are in Real Estate business, may I request you to send suitable illustrations/examples for our understanding, if possible please.



    • Ron Kaufman says:

      One example (of many) in Real Estate occurs when someone receives their new property keys in the “handover” transaction. This can be an emotional moment for the new owner, especially if the owner is a first-time buyer, a couple with a growing family buying their first (or larger) home, etc. In this instance, the handover should include emotionally rewarding gestures: flowers, bottle of wine, taking photographs, etc.

      On the other hand, for a professional property investor, the “handover” may be a far less emotional moment, and much more a moment of property evaluation and identification of issues needing attention or repair.

      So what is the best way to do a “handover”? Clearly the answer depends on the customer, not on the “standard handover procedure”.

      Is the standard procedure useful? Yes. And you should train your team how to use it. But is the standard procedure enough to deliver service excellence to your customers? No. For that, you need service providers who are curious, who listen, who can be creative, who think and then take action.

      Customer service training and actionable service education. They are not the same thing. And both are needed to build a culture that consistently delivers excellent service value.

      I hope this helps. We have worked with many large property companies including developers, sales organizations, maintenance and management teams. It’s a wonderful industry. Use the “Contact Us” link on this page if we may be of assistance to you.

      – Ron Kaufman

  3. Francis Sopper says:

    I’ve read this mailing with interest and gratitude. I’ve forwarded this to my associate, Robert Brown, because I’ve spoken of your writings as exemplars.

    This distinction between service training and service education caught my interest because it nicely illustrates the distinction between our mind’s sequential and associative processes.

    The sequential helps us understand the rules and processes of complexity. Training supports this kind of thinking.

    The associative helps us manage predictable randomness: things that are ultimately predictable, but show up at random times. Education prepares us for what David Allen calls “work that appears” — that integration of experience to meet the context which is the domain of the associative.

    Many thanks.

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