Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks


There are still far too few organisations that seem to understand the inextricable link that exists between a strong service culture and the ability and willingness of their staff to deliver the type of excellent customer service that their customers deserve.

While external incentives may boost service delivery in the short term, true and lasting service excellence is really only possible when it comes from within – both the organisation and its employees. For this reason, it is vital that a commitment to service excellence needs to be integral to any organisation’s culture.

However, even if yours is one of those special businesses that have managed to entrench such a service culture, you should never assume that every new person you employ will automatically subscribe to it – or understand it for that matter. Which is why induction programmes are such an important part of any service-driven company culture.

And that makes it odd that the majority of small and medium sized business still seem to view induction as the exclusive domain of large companies and corporations.

The power of training

Nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of the size of your business, a solid induction programme can work wonders for the development of a unified, service-based culture. It’s particularly vital for any employee that has to deal with internal or external clients.

Apart from the fact that a well structured induction programme gives you a good platform on which to make your company’s values and vision known to new recruits, it allows you the opportunity to give them a thorough understanding of why your customers (and serving them exceptionally) are at the core of everything you do.

Of course, an effective induction programme will also include some intensive training around the actual products or services you deal in, as well as making clear your expectations regarding how employees are expected to deliver those products and services to your customers.

A good induction programme is also a unique opportunity to use one-on-one interaction – with an employee that is probably very eager to please – to obtain their buy-in to your service ethos and expectations. For this reason, it’s essential that an induction programme is built in a way that encourages two-way communication. Standing at the front of a room full of new recruits taking them through a three-hour PowerPoint presentation about your company is not induction.

Finding a way to have short but intensive conversations with each of them in which they are able to show that they believe in the value of customers and recognize the importance of service as part of your business culture – now that’s effective induction.

Creating valued members

Of course, while ‘selling’ the service belief is a big part of any induction programme, there’s far more to it than just that. It’s also a unique opportunity to demonstrate to your employees that they are valued members of your team and that their contributions are important from day one. It’s also a great way to get new employees settled in quickly and make sure that they hit the ground running.

This is especially true if you are able to tag a system of job shadowing or mentoring onto the end of your induction programme. By spending a few hours with their new colleagues or team members, your new recruits will have a clear idea of what everyone does, where everything is, and who to speak to when they need help or guidance.

And remember, induction doesn’t end when the new employee finally pulls up a chair at his or her computer. They need time to fit in and find their feet. So be sure to schedule a ‘phase two’ for a few days or weeks later so that you can spend some time ensuring that they have fully bought into your business culture and are on their way to becoming the service champions you want them to be.

Nathalie Schooling
Nathalie Schooling has more than 25 years' experience in the customer service industry. She is the founder and managing director of N’Lighten, a company committed to promoting service excellence through research, training, and strategic insight. For more info, go to the N'Lighten website.