In my last article I talked about the need to rethink hiring when it comes to finding a customer service representative. You must deal with the fact that few candidates will appear with the appropriate skills, that you need to be open to find the people who have the right attitude and aptitude, and that you need to be prepared to invest in training.
It doesn’t matter what size company you have or what industry you are in, training is an essential ingredient of the business. You are much better off if you make sure your hires are smart and that they fit your team and your corporate culture. Training cannot be an afterthought. It must become an integral part of your staffing and business strategy.
But what training do they need to have? Whenever you intend to hire, you need to clearly think through the position and define the duties and responsibilities in a job description. So often we see owners and managers pull out an old shop worn job description and base their hiring strategy on what used to be. They do not stop to consider what is going on today and what will be happening in the future. I strongly advocate a regular examination of your infrastructure and the skills and competencies that are going to be essential in today’s high-tech world and adjust the job description accordingly.
As I think you know, I took a sabbatical from speaking and consulting because the travel was getting to be too much. But because ink and toner are in my blood, I had to stay connected with the industry. So I took advantage of an opportunity to be a general manager for a printing company here in Tucson. That was almost five years ago.
During that time, I have seen the changes that are taking place in our industry and I have seen the need for a new kind of CSR. The day of the order taker is long gone. For your business to be successful today, CSRs must be fully conversant in all aspects of the industry and be capable of educating customers who have no idea of the possibilities for expressing their ideas.
Real World View
When I do MBWA (Managing by Walking Around) I spend time with each of our four CSRs, whom we designate “account managers” because they truly manage all aspects of the account. It is always fascinating to see what they are up to. It is so much more than placing orders in our point-of-sale system. Often, they are reviewing and preflighting customer files that came through our Web portal, or they may be doing preliminary design to help clients understand how their needs can be met.
They have to be conversant in all of our capabilities as a full-service printing and mailing company, including offset, digital devices, vehicle wraps, wide-format, and marketing services. Our account managers are able to discuss and explain all of this to customers. The scope of activity is incredible. Additionally, our account managers participate in our Lunch n’ Learn sessions, where they provide training to existing and potential clients. They often also attend conferences sponsored by our larger clients, and they staff a booth to bring our capabilities direct to the customer.
A New Day for CSRs
Clearly, it is essential that our account managers have the necessary intelligence, the upselling sales mentality, and a comprehensive knowledge of all that we do. They must have the capacity to acquire new skills in order to cope with technological changes and help our business beat the competition. I have always maintained that CSRs must score at least 24 on the Wonderlic test. Our current account managers all scored in the high 20s or low 30s. They have the necessary competence to learn everything they need to know.
Learning to be a top performing CSR is accomplished through a visible and meaningful training program. Translate your up-to-date job description into a program that addresses all of the skill requirements in that job description. Find the right means to impart this knowledge, including cross training, attendance at schools and seminars, vendor equipment training, and sources like www.prepresstraining.com.
Have your CSRs spend time working in each department to fully understand both the capability and complexity of the equipment. Just remember that training is like the adage, “It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” It takes time and effort to create your Grade AA team.
Debra Thompson is president of TG & Associates (MyPRINTResource.com/10139915), specializing in human resources for the graphics industry. She can be reached toll free at 877-842-7762 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.tgassociates.com for free management tips.