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Training Customers = Losing

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 12/04/2014
man having poor customer service

iStock_000024086772XXLarge“Customers aren’t filling out our form completely. We need to train them to fill it all out, and then we’ll be able to serve them better.”

“Our members just don’t understand the benefits of volunteering. If we educate them better, more will volunteer.”

“We just need to teach our customers how to use our website so they won’t call us so much.”

“If we can teach people trying to get their licenses that it’s okay to wait hours on end in really uncomfortable seats before talking to soul-dead, disengaged employees who are just waiting until 5:00 so that they can go home, everything would be much better.”


These are all actual quotes from employees we’ve worked with while leading customer experience workshops. Okay, I made the last one up (it’s been a bad week at the DMV).  But the other three are real.

Stop Training Customers

Training customers is a losing proposition. If your form or website isn’t intuitive, no amount of training is going to have a lasting impact.  If you can’t clearly articulate the value of volunteering, education won’t bring in the volunteers.

Customer training programs are the last vestige of the internally-focused company. If customers press 0 on your IVR, the answer isn’t teaching them how to use it better (“Please listen carefully as our options have changed.”) – it’s making a simpler IVR.

The CEB reports that 58% of callers to your contact center started out on your website. This is a clear call to action – it’s time to stop thinking about training and time to start giving more thought to our design.

In fact, all of us have metrics that scream to us about the need for better design – but we find it easier to respond with training. One company I worked with found that their top cause for disloyalty was confusion about the login process.  And it’s really no surprise – the login process was terrible. But their first reaction upon hearing the news was to create an education campaign.

That’s compelling. “How to login to your website – a message from XYZ Company.” It makes for great reading.

So look to your journey maps for sources of friction. Interview customers to find out where they’re frustrated. Ask your callers whether they tried out your website first, and then look for where your site is breaking down.

Then put the education away, and start thinking about design. Because Good Design = Winning.

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