Most employees might prefer a root canal to a company training session. It doesn’t have to be that way.

By John Tschohl, President, Service Quality Institute

When companies announce a customer service training session, most employees think they are about to be subjected to a day of mind-numbing lectures and pie-in-the-sky theory. Given a choice, they might prefer to have a root canal.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Training can be fun.

Training PartyHere are three proven ways to have employees racing to the classroom and embracing the new training materials:

Use lots of humor. People don’t like to be bored. They want to be entertained. You can create videos that make fun of things and show them scenarios that will make them laugh. Incorporating humor is the most effective way to make training fun.

For example, you can have a video showing people doing all the wrong things. We have one customer service video that shows a woman chewing gum, saying the customer’s name wrong and the customer hangs up on her.  It’s the way people really do things, but people laugh at it. They know it is wrong. Then we show a video where she treats the customer properly. People love this.

Avoid theory. Nothing will put employees to sleep faster than spending time on theory. Executives love theory, but employees hate it. They want tools they can use right away. Employees like action. Make it easy for them to understand and implement the new ideas rapidly.

Make it interactive. Get the employees involved in the training session. If the facilitators do all the talking, employees will not change their behavior or attitude. Trainers should map out their script so that employees do most of the talking. For example, they should say: “That’s a good question. Mike, what do you think?” Or  “Shelley, how would you handle this situation?”

The best facilitators never answers questions. They toss the question back to the participants, saying “Greg, you have more experience in that area, what would you do?”

Bonus tip: Create controversy and invite debate. That will get people involved and will affect their attitudes so they are more positive about accepting the new ideas. Ask questions like:

  • “How do you feel about that?”
  • “Do you agree with what Cathy said?”
  • “How does this impact your job at our organization?”
  • “Does that really work here?”

A good rule of thumb is to have 80 percent of group discussion time spent with the participants doing the talking.

Trainers also should make sure that everyone participates. In a typical class, three people will do all the talking. If you have 15 people in the class, you have to ask questions of all 15 people and get them involved.

The facilitator’s role is to get participants to discuss, debate and argue the ideas. You don’t want them to blindly accept the information.  That doesn’t lead to changes.

When you make training fun, employees will listen and — most important — your employees will be more willing to implement what they learned because the training will change attitudes and behavior. Your company will move forward.

John Tschohl – described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru and service strategist – presents strategic keynote speeches to companies worldwide.  He is the author of “Empowerment, A Way of Life.” Contact him at John@servicequality.com or www.customer-service.com/

(This article was first published in Real Business, a website from Xerox that provides ideas and information for decision makers in business and government.)