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Customer service training


Our organisation requires that we deliver customer service training to any staff who have not attended such training within the last 3 yrs. As many of the "trainees"have been in customer service roles for many years they are understandably hostile and feel they have nothing to learn. Can anyone share any ideas for activities which would liven up the sessions and help to create a more positive experience for this group?
pat abraham

13 Responses

  1. Soft skills…
    Hi Pat,

    How about focussing upon the soft skills – particularly skills that help dealing with difficult people, starting with emapthy.

    We ran a similar programme earlier this year which worked really well.

    If you drop me an email, I’ll happily send you a copy of the outline.

    Also, this book was really helpful, although the title is somewhat off putting! Its ‘Dealing with People you Can’t Stand’ and the link below takes you to Amazon.

    Good luck!

    Colin Hamilton

  2. Customer Service

    I would also recommend focusing on soft skills as Colin has suggested. Also if you have call recording facilities you could utilise as I have in the past with similarly experience ‘trainees’. Have them listen to a selection of calls and feedback their comments within the group format on the ‘quality of service’ and ‘quality of communication’evidenced. Specifically with ‘Action & Impact’ in mind. I have found this to be benficial and because ‘trainees’ are asked to comment based on their own experience of Customer Service they don’t tend to view the exercise as ‘covering old ground’.

  3. Customer service training
    Firstly, I would challenge the policy. This seems a blunt instrument in improving organisational performance and could lead to wasted expenditure and time on over-training people.
    Secondly, I would look at what the needs are – perhaps by looking at complaints – and using real examples as either case studies or skills development simulations.
    Finally, if individuals have valuable experience, use it. Get them to share best practices, perhaps by re-enacting examples of best and worst practice (then drawing out the learning points in the review).
    I think you are right to focus on activities to create positive experiences – good luck!

  4. An idea
    I agree 100% with Graham’s comments – get them to run the session as a workshop reviewing best practice and problems, and start off by reviewing statistics with the aim of improving them session on session.

    Also, you might want to end the workshop on a ‘new’ topic for the participants.

    Depending on what you cover in the training already, you might like to consider reviewing assertiveness skills, customer profiles or personality types, or dealing with difficult customers (I can also recommend the ‘Dealing with People you Can’t Stand’ book. It’s also a CD ROM I think.)

    You could also add various session on NLP. Try Sue Kinight’s book ‘NLP at Work’ or Joseph O’Connor and Ian McDermott’s ‘Principles of NLP’ to give you some ideas.

    Another relevant topic is Transactional Analysis – try ‘Transactional Analysis for Trainers’ by Julie Hay or ‘Counselling for Toads’.

    Call me if you want any more information on training material.


  5. Revisit Objectives
    This type of question crops up a lot on this forum. How do I liven up some ‘stale’ training package?
    The solution rests with some evaluation of what’s occuring at present. If staff feel they have nothing to learn then what is it that they know already and now need to supplement? As the Graham says I’d challenege the existing policy. If its just refresher training then is it hitting objectives and is it necessary or is there a better solution?
    Livening things up for the sake of it wont turn around a poorly targetted piece of work.

    Good luck

  6. Customer Service Training
    I agree with previous comments re the policy.

    However, if the training does have to go ahead it may be useful to take a pilot group made up of a cross section of staff with different levels of skills/knowledge to find out what specific needs are out there.

    This may help get the “buy in” from staff.

    Another way to get their interest is to use a different format to what’s been done before.

    I was recently involved in developing a workshop for our telephone based staff to help them manage difficult situations and difficult customers.

    Our organisation worked together with a company called Interact to design and write the workshop.

    The bulk of our workshop involves participants role-playing with actors. The delegates bring the customer behaviours they find most challenging to work on and the actors display these in the role plays and help the delegate to find ways that suit the individual to deal with these situations.

    Interact provide the actors.

    The workshop has received great feedback because the delegates work on what’s difficult for them – ie one person may find emotional customers hard to deal with while for another it may be angry customers. The feedback also suggests that the delegates really enjoy roleplaying with the actors.

    If you’d like more information, please feel free to email me.

  7. Perhaps games will help
    Pat –
    My comany specialises in developng board games that are designed to address the kind of problem you are facing. We use them in areas where ongoing training & refresher courses are seen as ‘boring’, with great effect – with competition between teams adding to the impact. If you would like to know more then please feel free drop me an email or look at

  8. Is my mood worth catching
    Hi Pat,

    I’ve recently delivered a ‘Complaint Handling’ course and I touched on self motivation. In hindsight I wish I had explored this a little further. If the employee is happy then usually they are good at keeping the customer happy.
    People are in control of how they feel and need to avoid disempowering ‘self talk’.
    I have a few powerpoint slides on this I can send you. Hope it will help

  9. Prisoners, Vacationers, Students and Levels of Competence
    Three ‘kinds’ of people turn up on training sessions: Prisoners, Vacationers, Students.
    Prisoners are people who have been told to be there, or think they’d better turn up (in case their reluctance is exposed); Vacationers see it as time away from the office (“Don’t expect me to turn up on time or to do any serious work!”).
    Students are people who decide to make the most of being there.
    I often use this notion at the beginning of sessions, letting people know it is their choice whether they choose to stay in P or V roles, but it is my responsibility to help the Students get the best they can from the training.

    I also use the four levels of competence model

    Unconscious Competence
    Conscious Competence
    Conscious Incompetence
    Unconscious Incomptence

    this should be read from the bottom up to indicate stages of development.
    People who believe they have nothing to learn (Prisoners) can often revert to studenthood by re-evaluating ‘told-to-go-on-training-is-an-insult!’ and reframing it to ‘chance-to-reflect-celebrate-share-my-expertise-maybe-pick-up-a-few-tips-along-the-way’.

    I recently ran a training where one delegate was galvanised into adamant rebuttal of everything I said because “…I don’t see the relevance of this to what we do!”
    I accpeted that he might have a point and might be speaking for the whole team, and asked each person if theye shared that view (in case I needed to amend the structure and content of the training).
    Others said they were getting a lot that was useful.
    I then asked each person to say how they could see themselves applying the material, which they did.
    Returing to the objecter, I said that, even if my style and input wasn’t right for him, did he feel that he might learn anything from what his colleagues had said or were intending to do.
    He pondered for a few moments, then said, “I just don’t like change.”
    He became an ardent and enthusiastic student.

    If you (or anyone else) would like a copy of an OHP / handout I’ve created which combines the 4 levels of consciousness with the appropriate management style (and more), email me at

    And you might want to consider joining my Living On Purpose group – details on

    Michael Mallows

  10. Using their experiences as customers
    As all your delegates are also themselves customers of many products and services, ask them to bring to the training session examples of excellent/poor customer service they or their families have experienced over the last year, what was particularly good/bad about it and lessons to be learned, especially how they might have handled things differently.

  11. Don’t do training
    You ask what traning to give and yet you recognise people are hostile. I suggest you work with them to study the work: what demands do customers make? How well does the system (NOT the people) handle that demand? Some demand might be what I call ‘failure’ demand (caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer). It may very well be caused by things beyond their control. All ‘value’ demands (demands we want from customers) should be studied from the point of view of ‘where and how do we do the value work and what else do we do’ – all the latter is waste. These ideas will engage the people, for you are, with them, working on the work. And you are NOT starting from the assumption that they are the problem (which would upset anyone).

  12. Re: Don’t do training
    I think John has an interesting approach to these issues. I recently read his book on command and control and found some of the arguments pretty compelling. Has anyone had experience of using the systems thinking method he talks about to solve this problem?

  13. Look at the system
    I would ask the question why do you need to train – especially as it is a company policy. You must have lots of money to spend.
    If that is John Seddon who wrote the book Freedom from Command and Control, then this excellent read highlighted to me that the problems I had with training my staff was that I was doing the wrong thing. Forget the training and focus on the system. The system affects customer service far more than people.

    I now spend little on training, and it is limited to basic skills training – like office IT applications. With the money you save you can use it for something really useful, and your employees will thank you for it.



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