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Posts tagged ‘Customer Service Training’

How Fit Is Your Customer Service?


As is the annual tradition, countless individuals (perhaps you) have made a new year resolution to get in shape. That’s great and as I posted in 6 Resolutions for a More Successful New Year! regular exercise should definitely be part of your overall success plan. But what about your business? Have you ever considered the fitness level of your customer service effort? No, I’m not talking about some sort of employee exercise program. Rather, I’m asking if the employees that provide sales and service support to your customers are functioning at peak performance. If you haven’t given this proper consideration, you’re probably not seeing the big picture issues that could be hurting your business performance.

Just like physical fitness, there are many aspects to managing the well-being of a customer service effort. In order to reach an optimal level of customer service fitness your business must condition and strive to achieve peak performance in all of these areas.

With that in mind, ask yourself the questions below to determine your current level of customer service fitness in seven key areas.  The answers will give you a clear overview of where you are succeeding and where improvements need to be made moving forward.

Are You Keeping Them In Shape?


Sales and customer service training and skills enhancements should be ongoing processes to ensure that your team is well-resourced and properly prepared to succeed. A sales organization that is not well trained often loses those precious sales opportunities, costing the businesses they represent substantial dollars in lost revenues and profits. The same is true of customer service. Without a well-trained staff, you’re not maximizing customer interactions and any deficiency in this area leaves the door open for capable competitors to take the business away from YOU! Sales and customer service are the life blood of every business. No Train, No Gain!

Perfect timing plug > Executing Results 

What Is Their Attitude?

Positive attitudes are the fuel that powers a world-class customer service engine, so be honest here. Does your management and work environment contribute or detract from proper attitudes? Do your employees feel appreciated and recognized by the company? Employee dissatisfaction can dramatically affect a company’s customer service culture and, ultimately, its bottom line.  If employees are feeling negative and under-appreciated, you can be assured that they will either directly or indirectly communicate this to your customers.

How Do They Sound?

This is often overlooked but, for effective customer communication, how we sound is actually more important than what we say. Along with appearance, the voices of your employees are a significant part of the first impression that a customer receives from your company. Winning teams (and the professionals in them) sound a certain way; positive, professional, upbeat. Do your employees sound that way or do they sound bored, tired and disinterested? Make some calls to your business and find out for yourself. If you’re hearing less than pleasant, cheerful voices on the line, guess what? Your customers are too!

What Do They Say?

Does your team understand how to have a true customer-focused conversation? Too often employees are me-focused and will recite the company anthem and provide product and service information like they’re reading from a catalog. Not good. After all, it’s about the customer – not you or your business.  A healthy customer service effort consists of 100% customer-focus and personalized attention 100% of the time.

As Stephen R. Covey simply put it, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” To maximize results, employees need know how effectively listen to customers and evaluate needs/wants before making recommendations.

How’s Their Emotional Engagement?

Whether face-to-face or on phone every customer/employee interaction has two elements; a functional element and an emotional element. The functional elements represent the business/transactional side of your customer interactions. The emotional elements are the people/relationship-building side.  For peak customer service fitness employee/customer interactions should have proper balance between these two elements.

Although functional components are a necessary part of customer interactions, it is the emotional elements that build relationships with customers and create lasting loyalty to your business.  Do your employees understand the importance of this and know how to effectively emotionally engage your customers?

Do They Have PRIDE?

As I detailed in Got PRIDE?, this Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence is the commitment of employees to consistently deliver excellence in your organization.

One of the leading indicators of a company’s customer service health is the application of this principle and the consistent effort of employees to perform at a high level and exceed customer expectations. Unfortunately, quite often personnel are not exceeding expectations; they are, at best, just meeting expectations.

Consumer research has shown that companies typically lose 50% of their satisfied customers and that those customers who are merely satisfied will happily leave as soon as they find a business that provides a superior experience.

Ask yourself, do your employees practice PRIDE on a day-to-day basis? Is the service you provide ordinary (like an average competitor) or do you truly exceed expectations and deliver extraordinary service that brings customers back and influences them to promote your business to others?

How Do They Manage Problems?

The true test of a business’s customer service fitness is not when things are going right – but rather what is done when things go wrong. The fact is the customer is not always right and, in many cases, employees can prove that the customer was wrong in a given situation. All too often when confronted with a customer problem, service personnel take on a defensive posture and argue against the customers’ position. This lack of empathy and understanding rarely works to create a happy, loyal customer.

The best companies recognize that, even if the customer is wrong, it is far better to agree with their feelings and concede a little now then it is to risk losing a customer for life and perhaps have that person spread the bad word of their dissatisfaction with their friends, family, co-workers, professional network, bystanders and everyone else. 

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

* Also on LinkedIn @

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at

Pinnacle Performance Training Promo

Check out the new Pinnacle Performance Training promo…

Visit Sale Away LLC. for more information.

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

4 Seldom Considered Reasons Sales/Customer Service Training Fails


Regardless of what your business sells, training to maximize performance in sales and customer service should be an important piece of your success plan. Unfortunately, countless companies waste vast amounts of time and dollars on training that doesn’t produce the desired gains and ultimately fails.

There are a variety of reasons why sales/customer service training initiatives fail. Topics like matching the program to the business and needs of the participants is certainly high on the list when considering outside training resources but there are several other seldom considered factors that directly affect whether or not a sales/customer service training program will achieve a successful outcome.

1) Not Setting The Stage

Typically the engagement planning for sales/customer service training is with ownership and key management behind closed doors and away from the company personnel that the training is intended for. That’s perfectly acceptable as company training should be a managerial decision. However, once an engagement has been planned, ownership and/or key management should prepare personnel so they are properly positioned to most effectively receive the training.

Unfortunately, this step is often missed altogether. I have personally conducted programs (and am aware of many more) where I (or another trainer) arrived for the first day of training with a new organization and no one knows why they’re there. Participants haven’t been told anything other than to “show up”.  While skilled trainers can overcome this and create clarity for a successful commencement, obviously this is not the most conducive environment for learning.

Like a Broadway play, the stage should be properly set before the show begins. However, unlike a Broadway play, creating a positive learning environment need not be a major production. It could be as simple as an email and/or company newsletter announcement like this actual tire/auto service client piece:

“We are excited and proud to announce our new relationship with Steve Ferrante of Sale Away LLC! As the producer and host of the highly-acclaimed “Pinnacle Performance” sales/customer service/winning team culture training program, Steve is the trainer for numerous leading tire/auto service businesses across North America. Steve also serves as the contributing “Selling Smart” editor for Tire Review Magazine and their sister publication, Shop Owner. We have engaged Steve to provide training to all of our sales and customer support personnel and are extraordinarily confident that with his proven expertise and resources we can achieve new levels of success in 2014 and beyond! Our first sessions with Steve will begin on…”

Introduced this way, confusion is eliminated as company personnel know what to expect, and everyone is prepared to enter training with the proper positive mindset.

2) Disengagement

Training is only as good as the trainer providing it. For training to effectively produce meaningful (and sustainable) gains, the employees must first be engaged with the trainer. Many otherwise good programs fail because the attendees were not really engaged, became bored and tuned out long before any real gains were made.

This is the reason the first element in Sale Away’s Pinnacle Performance Credo is ENGAGE.

Any business considering an investment in training should make the “who” will be conducting the program a priority. Often companies sweat the what and where details of training and give relatively little consideration to the importance of who will be conducting their program.

Sometimes companies will appoint an existing employee to conduct training. Many times this presents a significant challenge as this person is already perceived, for better or worse, as something else in the company. Typically, the tasked individual is a sales or customer service manager and, although they may be outstanding in that role, training is almost always not their primary purpose or skill-set. Their well-intentioned efforts naturally don’t carry the weight or have the desired impact with employees as a reputable training authority from outside of the company would.

If you cannot see, feel and experience employee engagement with the trainer on the first training that’s a clear warning sign you’re heading down the wrong path and quite likely doomed to fail.  In a nutshell; engagement first then everything else second.  

3) Inconsistency

All too often sales/customers service training is treated as an event. A business conducts an in-house training and, assuming it was good, participants get energized with new insight, techniques and tools.  Then, with no real follow-up program in place, participants fizz out and return (at varying speeds) to the same level of performance they were at prior to training. Training research has revealed that, without ongoing reinforcement, 90% of what is learned is forgotten within 60-90 days.

Like physical fitness, it doesn’t matter how good your workout at the gym is today. If you don’t continue to exercise on a consistent basis, you will never truly get in shape and stay that way.

Part of the problem is many managers adopt a been-there done-that attitude when it comes to sales/customer service training. It sounds simplistic but training works with consistent training.

The science of training confirms that true ownership of learning is created with consistent exposure and application of the skills over time. World-class sales and customer service companies recognize this and typically engage their employees in 100 or more hours of training in their first year with ongoing training in the years ahead.

At Sale Away , I create consistency and superior results for clients by combining regular in-house sales/customer service training with an exclusive online training/professional development program. Visit Your Teams Training Portal for details.

4) Wandering Off The Path

This reason goes hand-in-hand with inconsistency but deserves separate acknowledgment. Like the proverbial kid in the backseat saying “are we there yet”, many business owners and managers view training as a destination with the goal of getting there.

Training should be viewed not as a destination – but rather an evolution. All too often, businesses will engage in a flavor of the month type of training, never fully developing any one area before moving in a different direction.

Imagine this: You play for a professional football team, let’s assume the New England Patriots under head coach Bob Belichick. Do you practice regularly? Of course. Do you practice at the game? Of course not, you practice for the game. What do you think the odds are that one day at practice coach Belichick will say something like this: “Hey guys, many of you have been training and practicing these same plays now for years. I think we all got it… no need to practice that anymore. Let’s play basketball today.”

Odds of that happening are exactly zero yet many sales managers do it regularly.  They switch things up, fumble the ball and ultimately miss the end zone.

This lack of focus directly correlates to reason # 2, disengagement, with many participating employees not trusting the business will stay the course and see any program to fruition.  If management demonstrates they are not fully committed to stay the course (with a successful program) then they shouldn’t expect their employees to be fully committed as they continue to introduce new initiatives to the mix.

Proper training is an ongoing process of continuous professional development. Just like a professional sports team, your sales/customer service team must regularly practice and work on their game through a disciplined and committed training program if they are to consistently win in (and for) your business.

Make a Great Day!


Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Leadership training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at

 Click-On for printable PDF version of this article >  4 Seldom Considered Reasons Sales Training Fails



Sale Away’s Pinnacle Performance Credo

Here’s my company’s new, special edition, less-filling, environmentally-friendly Pinnacle Performance Credo:

Pinnacle Performance Training

For details visit > Pinnacle Performance Credo

Feel free to share with friends, family, general bystanders and everyone in your professional network.

Make a Great Day!


Let’s Link-In!

Enthusiasts Drive Your Business


Ever been to a NASCAR race? If you have, then you know those are special events well-attended by a special brand of people.

Having partaken in a couple NAS­CAR race-day events at NH Motor Speedway, I can testify that racing is alive and well, and New Hampshire is certainly not alone in attracting the masses to its local NASCAR events.

The first thing a novice attendee (like me) notices is just how far away from the track you have to park – so far removed that I couldn’t even remotely see the track from our parking spot. So you need good walking shoes.

As you trek the five or so miles to the track, the next revelation is the sheer magnitude of campers you encounter along the way. I lost count at 1,271 or thereabouts. And the fascinating thing is almost all of the campers are not locals. Taking in the license plates, you realize the whole country is here and accounted for, from as nearby as the New England states to the South, West, and everywhere in between.

Who are these people? And, more importantly, why did they travel all this way for this?

The answer is they’re enthusiasts, and, like NASCAR, your tire and auto service business is dependent on them to grow and prosper.

At a NASCAR event, these enthusiasts are loyal, devoted, committed followers who happily march the miles (and pay the fees) to attend each event – essentially, doing business with NASCAR as often as possible.

What a concept!

I also learned that there are not only NASCAR race enthusiasts, but more often than not, NASCAR race driver enthusiasts. Case in point: As I was sitting there watching the cars warm up before the flag dropped, the clearly southern gentleman next to me screamed at me, “Who ya here to see?” I wasn’t there to see anyone in particular, but using my keen powers of perception, I noticed he had a Jimmie Johnson hat, shirt and banner so I shouted back, “I like Jimmie Johnson.”

The guy turned to his pals and screamed, “He’s here to see Jimmie!” I was now part of the club, an insider enthusiast among true insider enthusiasts. Coincidentally, Jimmie Johnson went on to win the championship that season, a fact that likely earned me ‘fortune-teller’ status with my new friends.

A Winning Team

People love winners. Which brings me back to you and your business. Have you created a winning team at your business? As I wrote in my article “Eight Great Practices for Creating a Winning Team Culture”, your business must live “winning team” every day with leadership consistently demonstrating, communicating and reinforcing the company’s commitment to excellence.

Above all else, enthusiasts are enthusiastic. Winning teams are much the same in that they look like winners and act like winners. There’s an old saying in sales: “success breeds success.” The same is true for business.

Have a look at your staff. Are they communicating success or distress? Success looks a certain way. It has a good mood, stands tall, looks people in the eye, is attentive, confident and engaging.

Conversely, failure has an unmistakable look all its own. Disengaged, depressed, foot dragging, off-putting. If your business is the only one in town, a monopoly, none of this matters. I bet that is not the case. Given that consumers likely have many choices for your products and/or services, yours better convey “winning team.”

Buying is primarily an emotional experience. Customer loyalty is driven by emotional engagement. You need only be at a NASCAR event for 10 minutes to realize there is a very high level of emotional engagement there. It would take the Hulk to pry the typical fan away from the track.

Emotional engagement and creating enthusiasts is all about how customers feel when they do business with you and, more importantly, how they feel when they’re done.

Enthusiasts’ feel good about doing business with you and take it upon themselves to promote your business at every opportunity!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at

Southwest Airlines Customer Service Recovery In Action!

As I train my Pinnacle Performance clients and wrote about in this Winning and Losing with Customer Complaints article…

The True Test Of Customer Service

One ‘Pinnacle Performance’ company that sets the standard for managing customer service problems effectively is Southwest Airlines.

Here’s a great example of this:

A loyal Southwest Airlines passenger was upset that his luggage had been damaged on a flight.  When the agent he initially reported the problem was less than helpful, he sent Southwest customer care this witty diddy:


Of course, this would have been best managed if the first Southwest employee he encountered assumed ownership and pro-actively resolved the issue.  Fortunately, after that initial misstep, Southwest recovered nicely by taking care of the customer in equally stylish fashion:


In summary, Southwest Airlines passed the ‘test’, recovered what could have been a lost customer with a ‘bad service’ story to tell,  and set a great example for other customer-focused business’s to follow.

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Monday Morning Motivation: Hilton On Success

Conrad Hilton built a hotel empire and a became a legendary tycoon by focusing on positive action and always moving forward despite setbacks.

Monday morning is the perfect time to think about your actions..

What will you do today to put yourself on pace for a successful week?

How will you move forward and be better this week than last?


Make a great day!

Steve 🙂

P.S. Conrad Hilton’s book, Be My Guest, is still kind of a Bible for the hotel/hospitality industry.

P.S. The book, “Be My Guest,” written by Conrad Hilton, is still kind of Bible for all hotels. – See more at:
P.S. The book, “Be My Guest,” written by Conrad Hilton, is still kind of Bible for all hotels. – See more at:
P.S. The book, “Be My Guest,” written by Conrad Hilton, is still kind of Bible for all hotels. – See more at:

Sell Value or Pay The Price

Selling Value Guy

Businesses lose substantial dollars in revenues and profits each year because their sales and service people do not effectively sell the value of their product and service offerings.

Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Inches make the champion.”

The same applies to the selling profession; it’s a game of inches. Every business day your salespeople have opportunities to win new business. How effective or ineffective they are in their customer interactions determines their success or failure – and ultimately the return (or lack thereof) on your sales staff investment.

The fact is your salespeople are always on the verge of either making or losing their next sale. What if they could execute better and win a sale that they would have lost? How about if they did that on a consistent basis? Now multiply that by the number of salespeople you employ. That’s your value opportunity!

Defense! Any coach worth his whistle will tell you that a strong defense is the best solution against a good offense. The reality of many organizations is that their customer’s have a better system (defense) than they do of selling them on their value (offense).

Ask yourself: Ever had a prospective customer request a discount, postpone an order, or worse, cancel purchasing from you? Well, then it’s a good bet they don’t understand your offering’s true value.

Wait a minute you say, no one wins them all. You’re right, but those who effectively sell value win more often, accelerate their sales cycle, and make customers feel better about their purchases in the process.

True Value Areas

Value is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of selling anything, it’s the customer’s perceived value that matters, is essential and vital – not the sellers.

Customers don’t want all your stuff! They only want what they perceive and believe will help them. This is especially important to understand in product or service sales where potential customers can quickly be turned off by technical features and functions they don’t understand or perceive to be unnecessary and of little or no advantage.

All too often sales staffs employ a one-size-fits-all, throw it against the wall and see what sticks presentation. I’ve witnessed countless phone and face-to-face encounters that were cut short because the sales person says some version of “just let me show you” and moves too quickly into the product demonstration without first really understanding the customers’ needs and true value areas.

To effectively sell value, sales people need to engage the customer in a proper discovery process first to uncover what is important to them and why. It is only with this understanding that the sales person can effectively communicate value and tailor a presentation to fit the needs of the customer. By implementing this consultative approach, the buyer-seller relationship is strengthened by properly positioning the sales person as a consultant/advisor.

In addition, sales people need to know what their competitive differentiators are, the areas that their product/service business is better/faster/more cost effective than the competitive offerings the customer may compare them to.

When these Selling Value areas are proper incorporated, sales people have much better control of the sales process, become more efficient, improve customer experiences, and ultimately produce better results for themselves and the businesses they represent.

Sell Value or Pay The Price

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For detailed information visit Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at

Click-On for a printable pdf of this article > Sell Value or Pay The Price

The Truth About “Born Salesman”

Born Salesman

No doubt you’ve heard someone referred to as “a born salesman” but is this old adage true?

Having spent 25+ years in the sales industry in every role from rep to manager to trainer of reps and managers, and having observed a countless number and wide variety of salespeople over that time, I am uniquely qualified to answer that question with a tried and true “yes and no”.

How many born doctor, born attorney or born scientists do you know? Likely not many. With many years of teaching and training to achieve those occupation designations it would surely be improper referring to those (or any other honorable profession) that way.

Put in an athletic perspective, you are not “born” to be a great basketball player, a great golfer, a great tennis player, etc. It is true, however, that many great athletes are indeed born with good genes and innate physical characteristics that, when properly developed and applied, result in great achievement.

So while many “born salesman” have natural attributes like “outgoing, articulate, optimistic, assertive, nurturing” that lend themselves well to success in the sales profession, top ‘Pinnacle Performers’ combine this with a set of skills learned over time, and reinforced through continuous practice and disciplined application.

For companies that are hiring new salespeople, that means ideally you would want to start with an individual that has that strong foundation of natural attributes and then build a top performer through a consistent skills development program.

As I cover in my Strong Selling In A Weak Economy presentations, this is especially important in a down or ultra-competitive market. Why? Because many of those alleged “born salesman” (and saleswoman) fail under those circumstances. Often these folks have those natural ‘gift of gab’ attributes to talk the talk but come up short in the training and development required to walk the walk and perform in those tougher selling environments.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” That applies to success in sales and any other profession. Top performers don’t rely on fate/destiny, they decide and commit to being a student of their profession and work to master their craft over time.

The fact is, top performing sales people are not born. However, they can be made by combining natural talents with proper training and development.

The Only Person

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services for your team visit Sale Away

Monday Morning Motivation: The Ant Philosophy

For this weeks Monday Morning Motivation, below is a great little piece from renown business philosopher, Jim Rohn.  This is a perfect lesson for Pinnacle Performers and those who would like to be one.

Walk The Path!



The Ant Philosophy
by Jim Rohn

Over the years I’ve been teaching kids about a simple but powerful concept—the ant philosophy. I think everybody should study ants. They have an amazing four-part philosophy, and here is the first part: ants never quit. That’s a good philosophy. If they’re headed somewhere and you try to stop them, they’ll look for another way. They’ll climb over, they’ll climb under, they’ll climb around. They keep looking for another way. What a neat philosophy, to never quit looking for a way to get where you’re supposed to go.

Second, ants think winter all summer. That’s an important perspective. You can’t be so naive as to think summer will last forever. So ants gather their winter food in the middle of summer.

An ancient story says, “Don’t build your house on the sand in the summer.” Why do we need that advice? Because it is important to think ahead. In the summer, you’ve got to think storm. You’ve got to think rocks as you enjoy the sand and sun.

The third part of the ant philosophy is that ants think summer all winter. That is so important. During the winter, ants remind themselves, “This won’t last long; we’ll soon be out of here.” And the first warm day, the ants are out. If it turns cold again, they’ll dive back down, but then they come out the first warm day. They can’t wait to get out.

And here’s the last part of the ant philosophy. How much will an ant gather during the summer to prepare for the winter? All he possibly can. What an incredible philosophy, the “all–you–possibly–can” philosophy.

Wow, what a great philosophy to have—the ant philosophy. Never give up, look ahead, stay positive and do all you can.

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