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23 Red Flag Warnings That it's Time to Get Your Employees into a Customer Service Training Program

Bruce Claver | Insightful Service | March 4, 2023

This week's question came in from Tracey S. who asked Insightful Service, "Sometimes I feel like the CEO thinks the training department is the ugly stepchild of the company. How do I convince him that training is not only critical to the success of customer retention but also the oil that keeps operations running smoothly and efficiently?"


I like that analogy, Tracey. Training is like oil that keeps operations running smoothly and efficiently. Without training, your operation will suffer breakdowns. Breakdowns such as a breakdown in communications, breakdown in customer service, breakdown in teamwork, breakdown in standard operating procedures, and the list goes on and on.

Have you ever said to yourself, "My employees don't work as a team, our customer service standards fall flat, and my employees act as if the customers are a bother?" How about this question, "Why don't we have more repeat business or more referrals?"

When customers don't return, you have a problem with attrition rate or churn. Churn or attrition rate is the percentage of customers who do not return to a business over a specific period. It is the opposite of the customer retention rate or survival rate. To learn more about churn, attrition, and retention, have a look at these two good articles on the subject, here and here.

At some point, senior leadership has to address the issue head-on by recognizing that without low attrition rates and high retention rates, your costs to acquire new customers (advertising & marketing) will continue to escalate as profit margins go down.

Marketing Costs + High Attrition = Lower Profit Margins

Put a simpler way, the less you have to advertise, the more profit or stronger budget you have. Repeat after me: "Enough is Enough" and recognize that businesses lacking strong customer retention rates, either have terrible products or terrible customer service. I get it. It can be difficult for our fragile egos to look inward and learn to recognize and accept, despite good products or our best efforts to practice good customer service, that customers just don't like us. So you have to ask yourself why this is. Why are they not returning or referring business your way? Why does the competition seem to be thriving? We have to come to terms with this reality when repeat business falls flat.

As a business leader, teaching your team the true methods of executing exceptional customer service as you know it, can be a real test of your patience, especially when you have to do it over and over and over again. You can become more and more frustrated as you struggle to get your employees to understand the concept of building relationships with customers and why it is the key to customer retention and brand loyalty. That's why a system, a consistent system of training, is the key to a successful training program. A consistent training program means a training program that trains staff consistently while training on the execution of consistent service standards.

Consistent Training Program = Consistent Service Execution = Customer Retention

Repeat customers are the true test of the success of the employee's sales aptitude, customer service skills, and commitment to overall customer service training.

There are three key hurdles a business has to overcome in order

to be successful with their customer service program and drive repeat business to brand loyalty.

1) Defining what customer service means for your specific business.​

2) Training your team on how your definition is accomplished.

3) Repeat steps 1 & 2 over and over, forever.


Your repeat customers are the "low-hanging fruit" and the cheapest and best form of marketing and promotion for your business. That makes training your team on the specifics of exceptional customer service, absolutely critical.

An internal culture change that focuses squarely on the needs and happiness of the customer will no doubt be encouragement enough for customers to return.


The finest & best possible customer service begins with the senior leader of the company who immerses his/her team in a culture entirely focused on the complete and unwavering satisfaction of the customer's experience with the products, the services, and those with whom the customer meets and interacts.


Here are 23 customer service red flag warnings that should raise leadership eyebrows, cause concern, and prompt immediate action to hire a specialized trainer to facilitate a customer service workshop. Look, let's face it, we all can't be experts at all things, right? Perhaps it is time to invest a little something into training. The ROI can pay back tenfold.

  1. Employees are texting and using their phones in plain view of customers.

  2. Employees are taking a smoke break or eating where customers can see them.

  3. Employees are joking and goofing off with each other and customers can hear them.

  4. Telephones are not answered within 4 rings. (phones not getting picked up)

  5. When the telephone is answered and the employee needs to finish with a customer, the customer on the phone is not asked permission if they could be placed on hold or get their phone number to call back when the lines die down.

  6. When a customer has waited (on the phone or in line), they are not thanked for their patience.

  7. When a call is picked up (or picked up from hold), employees do not introduce themselves.

  8. Employees are not using the 5/10 rule for greeting employees.

  9. When a customer walks up to the counter, the employee does not immediately stop what they are doing to address the customer.

  10. When a line forms for checking out, the customers are not acknowledged and informed that "one of us will be with you momentarily."

  11. When an employee is assisting a customer and another customer asks for assistance, the employee only says, "I'm already helping someone" (or words to that effect) rather than politely informing the customer that s/he is with another customer but will be finished shortly or call another employee to assist the customer.

  12. When a customer asks where an item is located and the employee points in the general direction rather than walking the employee to the location.

  13. Customers are not thanked for their business or encouraged to return.

  14. Customers are not addressed by their (last) name if the employee has access to learn it.

  15. Employees are wearing clothes that appear to look as though they just rolled out of bed.

  16. Hair (including facial for men) is not properly maintained.

  17. Body odor (need I say more?)

  18. A name tag is not worn when one is required.

  19. A customer is not actively greeted by an employee with an introduction (name) and offers to assist.

  20. Employees do not repeat to the customer what the problem is (ensuring it was understood) or do not explain to the customer what steps will be taken to resolve the issue.

  21. Customers are repeatedly asked for the same information. For example, a manager is told the specifics of a customer problem, then proceeds to engage with the customer by first asking, "How can I help you?" making the customer repeat their entire problem.

  22. When a customer has a complaint, the employee does not actively listen, empathize, take responsibility for the issue or apologize, even if the issue concerns another employee.

  23. Waiting longer than 5 or 10 minutes for a confirmed appointment or a status update that the appointments are running behind.


If you answered, "Yes" to SEVEN or more of these red flags (that's a score of 70%), then it's time to make a no-brainer decision to give your team the gift that gives back, a customer service workshop.

It's important to teach your team the importance of NOT using hyperboles and metaphors that are empty and fall flat. For example, saying, "Treat every customer the way you would want to be treated" or "Give all the customers the BEST service" are empty phrases with no clear or specific definitions. Remember, your employees come from diverse backgrounds and one employee's interpretation of "BEST" will vary far & wide from another employee's interpretation of the same word. So how do you avoid such a pitfall? How do you get everyone to understand your expectations exactly the same way?

With Insightful Service, employees and managers are shown how to tie everything together and form a cohesive and customer-centric team. This is how dance partners and skating partners win competitions. This is how sports teams win championships. By the time they get to the championship game, they are speaking and playing as one cohesive organization. Business customer service is no different. Your team should be trained on what your company vision statement is. Your company culture must be defined by senior leadership and lead by example. Action steps must be demonstrated to ensure everyone is saying the same thing, handling processes and procedures the same way, and interacting with customers with the same consistency and level of service execution across the board.

Insightful Service clearly communicates your expectations, defines your company culture for service, and then demonstrates specifically how to achieve them successfully. ​Insightful Service helps you with this by teaching:

  • How to build relationships with customers so they return again and again.

  • How Soft Selling your products & services is the best way to win more sales, more referrals, and more customer retention.

  • Service standards that will not only serve as your road map to consistency and success but will also continue to harness success for years (that is not a typo!) long after training has ended.

When you are ready to elevate your team and your business from excellent to exceptional & dominant service standards in your market that your customers will appreciate and return to experience, then it is time to learn how easy, cost-effective, and fast it is to implement a training program that will be used continuously without the burden of endless training fees. My bespoke workshops are tailored made to your specific needs and your industry. Contact me today and we'll chat for 15-20 minutes about how your customer service goals will be elevated, achieved, and set for your customer service model to be classified as exceptional far and higher apart from your competition.


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