Beyond the Technical
GRIFFIN VOLTMANN, Certification Program Manager, QualityPro
It can be easy to focus on the technical aspects of pest management—in fact that is why customers hire us. But customer service is why the customer ultimately chooses your company and a big reason why they keep you. Our industry is a people business, not just a pest business. Ours is one of the few remaining industries where customers welcome a relative stranger into their homes, so the skills of building trust and emotional intelligence will always be necessary. The last few years may have seen some changes to how business operations look, but the principles of good customer service remain the same.
Customer Service Skills are Human Skills
One of the first hurdles to overcome is the idea that so-called “soft skills” are something potential employees either have or don’t and that can’t be trained. QualityPro has gathered customer service training topics and is working to build a program that supports QualityPro accredited companies in training for customer service. Our argument is that these are human skills—skills that individuals have been learning their entire lives as they interact with others, and skills we can continue to develop through training after employment. An example we like to use is phone etiquette.
To some, phone etiquette would fall under “soft skills.” But most companies develop guidelines and template calling scripts. Tactics for how to deliver the script is just one more step. Best practices exist for teaching and refining this skill— through role playing, recorded calls and coaching, we’ve seen companies have great success training and reinforcing basic phone skills. You can train someone to give standardized answers to common questions, ask further questions to gain understanding, and to smile while using the phone. Companies have taken the skills a step further and, through roleplaying common conversations, trained sales personnel on situations where upselling is encouraged and situations where de-escalation tactics can save an account. Companies have built excellent training programs by focusing on uniformity of experience for customers and cross-training within the company departments to ensure that when office staff sell services they understand what goes into the customer’s experience at each touch point.
We tend to think of necessary customer service skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence as qualities humans either have or don’t, but both are built through exposure to others and developing an understanding of others’ experiences—something a company can easily do internally. A better understanding of a technician’s day, or the details of a particular service, or the standard customer experience will help CSRs communicate both internally and externally, and prioritizing cohesion between departments, whether accomplished through regular staff meetings or training, helps create a smoother, uniform customer experience.
Customers react to energy and passion, and both are easily detected over the phone. Employees become passionate about subjects they understand and become energetic in a work setting that fosters their personal excellence. Giving them a firm foundation through training and a varied toolkit of template answers and interactions to build from while providing the foundation for the more intangible, expressionistic elements of customer service to develop over the employee’s career. Training human skills requires time, reinforcement, and a professional atmosphere where employees can thrive, and there are scalable training solutions for every business.
The Mark of Continuing Excellence
Our industry relies on the tireless work of customer service experts making the sales, arranging the services, problem solving, and sometimes even planning the routes. Historically, our training programs have focused on the technical aspects of the business, but as we hear more from companies looking for resources to train their office staff to the same level of excellence—and as we hear from office staff that they want an industry credential as prestigious as QualityPro’s technician training certificates—we’ve begun developing a customer service credential. The development of our newest credential is drawing on the expertise of industry specialists, CSR trainers, and the wealth of experience provided by QualityPro accredited companies. Just as technicians look to work for companies that give them the opportunity to be trained to the QualityPro standard, customer service professionals will soon have an equally prestigious training certification of their own. The credential will serve as a draw for both new hires seeking to better themselves and their career, and customers who are coming to expect the level of professionalism and service excellence that QualityPro companies consistently provide.
Look forward to more news from QualityPro as the credential develops. In this, as in all things, we hope you will continue looking to QualityPro, and QualityPro companies, certified technicians, and soon-to-be certified customer service representations to set the industry standard and work tirelessly to raise it further.