Customer Service -- Is Your Sales Staff Sending the Right Message

We went wine tasting in Eastern Washington recently. It was a wonderful experience. We enjoyed gracious hosts pouring us samples and sharing details about their vineyards and labels . . . that was until we met the TMI (Too Much Information) Sommelier.

As this woman poured us tastings, she shared details about the wine but then continued sharing information we never wanted to know. By the time we left the winery we knew about her boyfriends, her kids, how many hours she worked that month, the tavern she frequents . . . and I’m just getting started. I bought a bottle of wine just to end the experience.

Coaching Employees

I give TMI Sommelien points for trying to make the wine tasting a fun experience, but she desperately needed coaching on how to best represent her company.

If you're concerned that some of your sales force may not be presenting the best image of your company, here are few things to consider.

• Understand the situation. Don’t assume you know what kind of experience your customers are having. Find out, first hand if possible, so you can fully address the issues.

• Training. In the case of our TMI Sommelier, she thought she was being professional, but may have never received any guidance on what to say and not to say. Make sure your employees are provided training, which can include everything from written materials to videos to roleplaying.

• Scripts. Sometimes employees have a hard time thinking on their feet, especially if they’re new. Providing them a script often eases the tension, and provides some confidence until they are feeling confortable.

• Provide Ongoing Feedback. Let your staff  know when they are doing a great job. And also give them constructive feedback when you notice places to improve. Keep communicating and don’t wait until issues arise.

• Ongoing training. People can get into ruts or develop bad habits. Keep people sharp with ongoing training and resources.

People generally want to do a great job. I'm sure TMI Sommelier would be mortified if she knew what we were thinking when we walked out the door. With a little coaching, she would have left us with a completely different impression. 

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.