Its Almost September Time for Managers to Make the Most of Teachable Moments

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Managers donÂ?t have to take employees away from their desks for days at a time to train them in customer service. According to JoAnna Brandi, the Customer Care Coach, one of the most effective ways to create a profitable, customer-focused culture is to make the most of everyday, on-the-spot learning opportunities. Here are six quick tips for putting Teachable Moments into action.

Aah, school days. Even if it’s been decades since you last started a new grade or studies, for many the season evokes the sense of a new start, anticipation and sharper attention and focus. Customer Care Coach JoAnna Brandi recommends that you make the most of those feelings in yourself and your team by adding more "Teachable Moments" to your management style.

“Teachable Moments are spontaneous opportunities to use an experience at hand to demonstrate a skill or principle, to train your staff in some way, shape or form,” says Brandi. “They’re one of the best, most effective ways I can think of to support your staff in developing powerful ‘soft skills’ that create the kinds of customer experiences that yield profits.”

Brandi offers six quick tips for making the most of everyday Teachable Moments:

1) When you hear team members talk about their experiences as customers, ask them how they felt during and after they purchased the product or service. Was the experience positive or negative? Was the service provider attentive, friendly and responsive or cold and removed? If the service was poor, what choices might the provider have made to make it better? Did the company live up to the expectations it created? What word best describes the overall customer experience? Will they return as a customer? Will they refer friends to the business? When they understand the emotional impact that their service providers have upon them, they'll better understand the impact that they have upon your customers – how everything they say and do can make or break a valuable customer relationship.

2) When you see team members ‘walking the company talk,' acknowledge and appreciate them for delivering the value your company promises to deliver, being as specific as possible. For example, when you overhear an employee patiently talk a customer through your company's delivery process, that's the perfect time to say, "I'm really happy about the way you just showed your customer how knowledgeable, thorough and dependable our company is. Keep up the great work!" If you notice that a team member is returning customer calls quickly, praise him for demonstrating how responsive your organization is. You might add, "Responsiveness is something that we promise the customer, and that's what you're delivering-- super job!"

3) When your radar picks up grumbling about customer complaints, gently assist your team in reframing their perspective of customer complaints as ‘gifts’ to your company; they offer ‘free consulting’ that lets your company know where there are gaps in your service and problems with your products. Questions will help you to positively shift your team’s focus (and decrease their defensiveness). Ask your team:

  • How is that information a gift to us?

  • What opportunity does that information open up to us to improve our customer care?
  • What gap in our service did our ‘free consultant’ just identify?
  • How can we use this information to add value to our customer experiences?
  • Wasn't it thoughtful of that customer to take the time to share that important information?
  • Wasn't it brave of that customer to approach us with that difficult situation?

4) When you become aware that employees are making tough choices that will benefit your company in the long run, praise them for thinking ahead, for thinking about the effects and outcomes of their words and actions and how they're impacting others. Say, "I like the way you think." It's a simple statement, but it's packed with appreciation, motivation and affirmation that will fuel your team to keep up their great work. "I like the way you're thinking about that.”

5) When you notice team members are visibly stressed, remind them, kindly to “Breathe.” Taking a few deep breaths is one of the most simple and effective ways to handle oneself in a stressful moment. Better yet, give them a few minutes to walk away from their desks, stretch, or get a glass of water. They’re likely to return with a fresh perspective, which makes them better able to provide excellent customer care. It’s also important that managers themselves handle their stress well. Says Brandi, “When you’re a leader in any situation, what you DO is always louder than what you SAY.”

6) When your staff needs a shot of empowerment or an attitude adjustment, ‘deputize’ everyone to be on the lookout for co-workers who are doing things RIGHT, who are delivering value, who are creating the kinds of feel-good customer experiences that keep customers coming back. Have them submit their findings to you in writing at the end of each day, and then post the "great news" in a weekly "Brag Board" email message or on a poster board conspicuously displayed in a high-traffic area of the office.

Says Brandi, “Teachable Moments are a free, convenient and powerful way to teach your team and to create a positive environment of continuous learning and improvement. The more you make the most of them, the more focused everyone will be on adding value and taking care of customers. And don’t be surprised if improved soft skills yield hard, bankable results as customers become happy and loyal and talented staff sticks around because they love where they work.”

The Customer Care Coach® is a customer service training program for managers. For more information, visit or contact Amy Schulman at

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