In Customer Service Training, Don’t Forget the “Why”

When training customer service representatives, be sure to emphasize the “why” — not just the “how” — of your customer service processes.

During the first few weeks of law school, my classmates and I learned about something referred to as a “motion for summary judgment.” And we learned lots of technical details about a motion for summary judgment. For instance, a motion for summary judgment, together with any response to the motion, had to be filed within specific time deadlines. Also, the motion had to be accompanied by affidavits and evidence, such as deposition transcripts. Lastly, the motion had to be denied if there was a “genuine issue of material fact,” whatever that meant.

But do you know what we didn’t learn about a motion for summary judgment? The “why” behind the motion: in other words, the purpose of filing a motion for summary judgment. Indeed, it wasn’t until I began practicing as an attorney that I genuinely understood the “why” behind — or the purpose of — a motion for summary judgment. Before that time, the exclusive focus was on the “how” of the motion: time deadlines, evidentiary requirements, and the like.

And my experience as a first-year law student reminded me of an important principle governing customer service: the importance of “why,” and not just “how,” of customer service processes.

Let me share an example.

Earlier this year, I worked with an HVAC business — that is, a company that provides heating and air conditioning installation, service, and repair. One of its customer service processes requires customer service representatives to ask customers for their landline and cell phone telephone numbers before concluding a call for service. In many instances, though, customer accounts already included telephone numbers. Consequently, some customer service representatives — not wanting to “bother” or “annoy” customers — didn’t ask customers for their landline or cell phone telephone numbers, which, from the perspective of the customer service representatives, made perfect sense: Why ask customers for information we already have?

And that omission created customer service problems. Although the company trained its customer service representatives “how” to handle calls for service, it didn’t fully explain to its customer service representatives the “why” behind its process, particularly the portion of the process requiring customer service representatives to ask customers for their landline and cell phone telephone numbers before concluding calls for service.

See, for security and safety purposes, the company has a policy not to dispatch a service technician or installer to a customer’s house unless the customer is actually home. Accordingly, a dispatcher calls the customer before the service technician or installer departs to the customer’s house. If there is no answer, the service call or installation is canceled, which brings us to the all-important “why” of the process:

The reason “why” we require customer service representatives to ask customers for their landline and cell phone telephone numbers is because our dispatchers call customers right before our service technicians or installers depart to their homes. If we don’t receive an answer, we cancel the service call or installation. Therefore, it is important that we have accurate telephone numbers in our customer accounts. Because telephone numbers might change, customer service representatives should always ask customers for their landline and cell phone telephone numbers — even if that information is already in our customer accounts — to at least confirm that our dispatchers have the correct telephone numbers to call. Otherwise, a service call or installation might needlessly be canceled, even though the customer was home — merely because we called the wrong telephone number.

Indeed, Dan Pink, author of the best-selling book Drive, has an excellent short video about the tangible benefits of “why.” If you have a few minutes to spare, please consider watching the video, which is both interesting and informative.

This week, consider doing these three things:

  • First, as I suggested above, take a moment to watch Dan Pink’s video. It’s less than three minutes, and it’s well worth your time.
  • Second, share this email newsletter with your team members, particularly those who are leaders.
  • Third, as Dan Pink suggests, have two fewer conversations about “how” and two more conversations about “why.”

In closing, by placing more emphasis on the “why” behind your customer service processes, you’ll not only improve your customer service, but you’ll also strengthen the importance of “purpose” within your workforce.


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