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Learning Leader Online Guide

How to Lead Your Group to Maximize the Customer Service Training

Support for Compassionate Geek Training Group Leaders

Please note: This page is a work-in-progress. Do you have ideas that would improve it? Critical feedback is appreciated.

Welcome to the Learning Leader Online Guide for Customer Service Secrets of Successful IT Pros. This page is filled with tips on how to help your group get the most out of the online training, including recommended videos and discussion topics for the group.

Be a Role Model

Great leaders lead by example. They know that their people don't do as you say, they do as you do. You must model the behavior you want from your team members. If you expect your team members to treat customers and coworkers with competence, compassion, empathy, good listening skills, and respect, you must treat your team members that same way. In doing so, you're demonstrating how to act with others.

Review Meetings

Many of our clients have regular all-hands meetings in which they devote time (15-20 minutes) to discussing a section of the training. It's important that such meetings are a discussion and not a lecture.

The benefits of regular review meetings while your team is taking the training are:

  • Repetition and Reinforcement
  • Establishing Expectations

The key to a successful review meeting is to get the participants to do most of the talking. You might even consider assigning each participant to lead a meeting. That forces them to be better prepared.

As with a book group, ask many open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with a one-word answer). Ask how the different concepts might relate to specific situations in your workplace.

When you're team is finished with the training, consider forming a book group to read The Compassionate Geek together and, as with the training, discuss the concepts and issues covered by the book.

emotional intelligence training

Reinforcement and Review Should be Ongoing

Your process of reinforcing and reviewing the lessons of The Compassionate Geek should take place at regular intervals on an ongoing basis.

Completion of Compassionate Geek training is just the first step in transforming your organizational culture.

You can use this page and the discussion topics either while your team is working through our on-demand training, immediately after they finish, or at a future point to ensure they understand your commitment to the 5 principles and remember the lessons.

I'm always available to discuss ways to help your organization excel!

An Exercise for Participants

Here's a simple exercise I've been doing recently as part of my onsite training programs that should also work well in the review meeting. After each new concept, ask the participants to write down one simple way they will implement that concept within the next 24 hours. Give them 60 seconds to do it. Then have them tell it to the person next to them, or, in the case of a small group, have them share it with the group. For example, if you've been discussing compassion, have them each write down one simple way they're going to show compassion to others within the next 24 hours and then share it with the group. Emphasize to them the importance of keeping it simple and small so they'll actually do whatever it is they write down.

You can do that with each of the principles, with how to say "no", with email communication, stress management, and any of the other skills/concepts in the training.

Customer Service Secrets of Successful IT Pros

Section 1: The Five Principles of IT Customer Service

Ask your group to discuss why customer service matters, both to the organization and to them as individuals. Author Simon Sinek says, "Without the why, the how and the what don't matter." He's right. In any training, the participants need to understand what's in it for them.

Ask the participants to describe the characteristics of good customer service providers and bad customer service providers, based on their past experiences. Have them think of all customer service providers, not just those in technology.

Use a whiteboard or flip chart to create lists of the words they use to describe the good providers (heroes) and the bad providers (villains). Then show the video below.

Recommended Video

Customer Service Heroes and Villains

For Reflection and Discussion

  • What are you doing now to improve your technical skills? What certifications are you working on? What is your deadline for taking the test?
  • How have you shown compassion toward an end-user or a coworker during the past week?
  • When do you find yourself most compassionate? How about least compassionate?
  • Think of someone you don't like or with whom you don't get along. Try to be empathetic toward that person. What would it be like to be in her or his situation?
  • Think of someone for whom you have no respect. Maybe it’s a co-worker or a relative. Now, think of things you can do the next time you’re with that person to treat them with respect, as one human to another. How can you maintain your own dignity and self-respect in the process?
  • In anticipation of your next conversation with someone close to you, perhaps your spouse, your child, your sibling, or a close friend, how can you ensure you’re really listening to what she or he is saying? What can you do to ensure you’re really listening and not just going through the motions. Now, think about how you could apply those same principles to work relationships, such as with a coworker or difficult customer.

To-Dos

  • Set up a test lab using a tool, such as VMWare or VirtualBox. Install the software you support and experiment with some of the same scenarios your users might encounter.
  • Take an online class or watch a series of training videos. Set up your lab, find videos to watch, and follow along in your lab.
    Take a class at the local community college.
    Perform an act of kindness for another person that no one knows about but you. Make it someone you don’t like.
  • Volunteer to help someone less fortunate than yourself, perhaps at a homeless shelter, food bank, or children’s hospital.
  • Find someone who believes completely differently from you, perhaps in politics or religion. Ask that person to explain their feelings to you. Promise that you won’t interrupt, argue, or pass judgment. Tell him or her that you’re working on being a better listener and want to make sure you understand her or his point-of-view. Listen to what that person has to say, asking questions for clarification, and explain it back to their satisfaction. Ask questions as a student, not as a prosecutor! Look for common ground.

Recommended Video

The 5 Principles of IT Customer Service

Section Two: Practical Emotional Intelligence

This is a good time to discuss how some people are more successful in their lives and careers than others due to their emotional intelligence skills. A big part of how to run a review meeting successfully is in getting everyone to participate in the discussion.

For Reflection and Discussion

  • When have you let your emotions control your actions to your detriment? When has that produced an undesirable result? When did your actions produce a positive result? What is the difference between the two actions?
  • When have you felt proud of your ability to maintain your composure during times of stress?
  • Are there times when it’s appropriate to let your emotions dictate your actions?
  • Have you ever misjudged another person’s emotional state? What went wrong? How did you misjudge them? How could you do it differently in the future?

To-Dos

  • Think about the times when you’ve reacted poorly to emotions in others. Think about what you did that didn’t work. On a piece of paper, write down how you want to react the next time you encounter a similar situation. Remember to evaluate your reactions based on causing a positive outcome for you, your customer or end-user, your colleagues, and your company.
  • Try Viktor Davich’s idea of meditating for just eight minutes each day for fourteen days in a row. At the end of the two weeks, ask yourself how you feel at the end of the meditation session. How do you feel overall?
  • If meditation just isn't your thing, what activities can you do that focus your attention and help you feel calmer?

Recommended Video

How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Improve Customer Service

Section Three: What to Do When the User Isn't Right

For Reflection and Discussion

  • Recall the last time you called a company, got disconnected, and had to go through the call tree and queue all over again. How did that make you feel?
  • Think back to a time when you were trying to get support for something and the support agent didn't ask enough questions to fully understand your issue. Perhaps they even gave you bad advice. How did that make you feel?
  • Have you ever had a support agent end a support session without confirming resolution? What did you have to do to get the issue resolved?

To-Dos

  • Do a role-play with a colleague and work through each of the six steps in a support call. Practice until it becomes second nature.
  • If you don’t work in IT, ask your boss if you can have access to some sample products to better familiarize yourself with them. See if you can re-create some of the more common problems customers call about.
  • Set your alarm for fifteen minutes earlier than usual and start leaving fifteen minutes earlier than usual to allow time for bad traffic, crowded trains or busses, or a raised drawbridge. Get the frantic out of your life! It’s amazing how, when we’re early, things are so much calmer.

Recommended Video

Why Things Go Wrong with Customers

Section Four: The Art of Listening Well

For Reflection and Discussion

  • Have you ever been talking with someone while he or she is texting or on social media? How did that make you feel?
  • How would you listen differently to a person if you wanted to understand her or him instead of just mentally preparing a response?
  • How would you listen differently to someone if you wanted to make sure they felt dignified and respected by the way in which you listened?
  • Has anyone ever finished sentences for you and completely changed the meaning of what you intended to say? How did that make you feel?

To-Dos

  • Find a friend you respect but feels differently from you on an important issue. Ask them to explain how they feel and promise that you won’t interrupt or challenge what’s being said until they're convinced that you completely understand how they feel. Ask questions for clarification, but don't let your feelings influence the conversation.
  • Ask your spouse, partner, significant other, or close friend how their day was. Ask questions to gain a deeper understanding and avoid talking about your day. (Caution: For some people, they’ll be suspicious and wonder about your ulterior motives!)
  • The next time someone tries to talk with you, stop what you’re doing. Close your laptop or turn over your tablet, face the other person, and focus completely on what they're saying. If you really need to finish what you’re doing, say so and say you want to give the other person your full attention as soon as you’re done.

Recommended Video

10 Ways to Be a Better Listener

Section Five: Making Sure They Know You Care

For Reflection and Discussion

  • Have you ever dealt with someone who was “strictly business” in their demeanor? Did you feel a connection with that person? If not, what could they have done to create a human connection with you?
  • Do you ever find yourself thinking negative thoughts or dwelling on the negative things in your life? How does that affect the things you say to those around you? What about your actions? Are they affected by your negative thoughts? What would happen if you changed some of your negative thoughts to positive ones, thinking of possibilities instead of problems.
  • Has anyone ever tried to be funny with you, but ended up saying something unintentionally hurtful? How did that make you feel?

To-Dos

  • Create an email signature including your name, title, and contact information.
  • Review your email exchanges to see if you might be coming across as unnecessarily cold, brusque, or even rude.
  • Try to be more aware during your next support session of how the other person is reacting to you. See if there are some things you can do to be more understanding and reassuring.
  • Think about what you can do to give your customer or user a “baker’s dozen.” Maybe it’s printing out a tip sheet for the software or product you support. Some people keep small chocolates to share with co-workers or customers.
  • Consider setting up a wiki to consolidate and share information.

Recommended Video

8 Ways to Show You Care

Section Six: Communicating Through Email, Text, and Chat

For Reflection and Discussion

  • Consider your text exchanges. Are you trying to text with people who might prefer another means of communication?
  • Think about the last time you tried to find contact information for a business contact, but there was nothing in any of your communications to help.
  • Have you ever dealt with a support rep who assumed you had a particular level of knowledge, but you didn’t?
  • Have you ever dealt with a support rep who used very casual language and shortcuts in a business setting? Did that feel right to you?
  • Think about any pet peeves you have that may not bother other people. Might those pet peeves influence your decision if you were in a position to hire someone?

To-Dos

  • Sign up for an account on Grammarly.com.
  • Create a customized email signature for the bottom of all your emails. Include your basic contact information, office hours, and other information that your end-users or customers can use to simplify the process of contacting you or otherwise obtaining support.
  • Review past emails and written communication for grammar and spelling errors. Looking at past mistakes can help prevent new ones.
  • Ask a colleague to review some of your past emails for grammar and spelling errors.
  • Review the section on commonly misused and abused words to ensure you don’t make those common errors.

Recommended Video

How to Communicate Successfully Using Email

Section Seven: How to Say No Without Alienating Your Customer

For Reflection and Discussion

  • Think about the times when someone has told you “no” without offering an alternative or workaround. How did that make you feel?
  • Think about the times when someone has told you “no” and offered an acceptable alternative or workaround. How did that make you feel?

To-Dos

  • Think of some of the requests your users or customers make of you where you have to say no. What are some possible alternatives or workarounds you can offer that might help solve their problem or issue?
  • Still thinking of the customer or user requests from the previous question, what are some of the language choices you could make to soften your responses?
  • What are some things you might do to prevent your customer or user from feeling like you left them hanging, even when you have to say no?

Recommended Video

How to Say "No" to a Customer Without Being a Jerk

Section Eight: Stress Management for IT Professionals

For Reflection and Discussion

  • What are the things that cause you to feel stress? What can you do about them?
  • Think of someone you know who seems to rarely be affected by stress. Do you notice any differences between how they deal with stressful situations and how you deal with similar situations?
  • Do you ever find yourself worrying about things over which you have no control? Can you think of ways to accept those things in your life?

To-Dos

  • Make a list of the things you eat during the day. If your diet consists of a lot of processed foods, artificially flavored or sweetened drinks, or high-fat content foods, consider modifying your diet to include more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and water. Pay particular attention to the amount of water you drink every day. We’ve all heard the recommendation to drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day.
  • Enroll in a yoga class, an exercise class, or a meditation class.
  • Go for a walk in the park.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
  • Volunteer as a mentor for a high school student.
  • Listen to calming music.

Recommended Video

Stress Management for IT Professionals

Final Thoughts

Much of this training and The Compassionate Geek book focus on changing your view of the world. Some people go through life seeing beauty in spite of extreme difficulty or the cruelty of others. Other people go through life seeing ugliness in spite of the beauty around them.

What is the benefit of seeing ugliness? What do you get out of it?

What is the benefit of seeing beauty? What do you get out of it?

What difference does it make?

Can your point-of-view influence your level of happiness in your life? Can it affect how fulfilled you feel?

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