Raising the capability of your frontline teams is usually one of the first large-scale interventions a CX Practitioner will want to make. Designing and developing an effective training program that will kick-start the upskilling process. Predominantly programs of this type focus on going back to basics in order to bring employee capability closer to that of the expectations of customers. 

Based on my experience, there are five essentials that will underpin your program and place it on the path to success. 

  • #1: Assess employees’ customer experience capabilities. Understanding capabilities at an individual versus at a team level is important. Some people are naturally good with customers, while others need help getting the basics right. Putting high-performing team members through some very basic “sheep dip” style training, without considering their existing capability level will switch them off and bring negativity to discussions around the training. Individual self-assessments provide insight into current capabilities, allow you to start each person at the right level, and help identify some of those high performers who might lead portions of your training. 
  • #2: Tailor training to employee personas. A  great way to design training that resonates with employees is to use personas. Just as they do for customer experiences, personas provide the kind of understanding of your target audience which is required to deliver a positive employee experience. This empathetic approach lands well with employees, meaning they see activities and materials that align with their thought processes and fit in with their roles. An additional step I found to be invaluable was to road test each exercise with individuals who were representative of each persona. Their feedback was very insightful and triggered the redevelopment of some exercises to use different methods with different persona groups to achieve the desired goal. 
  • #3: Empower your employees to raise the standard. One of the things I was continually asked for was guidance on what a great experience looks like. The reality is every customer is different so defining this could lead to less personalization and create a ceiling that employees don’t strive to break! Instead of defining ‘great,’ I outlined what the basics should include when aligned to customer needs and brand strategy. A strong understanding of minimum standards presents a solid platform to build upon that doesn’t limit personalization or innovation. Coaching people to continually raise the bar against these standards helps them grow in capability and understand their customer’s needs. 
  • #4: Introduce real customers to your training. One of your primary training objectives will be to help employees understand customers’ feedback and emotions, and then take action on what they learn. Bringing customers into your training is an excellent way to get employees into the frame of mind required to empathize with customers. One of the most powerful (and challenging) elements of my training program was asking employees to speak directly with customers about their experiences. I crafted a simple set of three questions that employees could use as a conversation starter with customers. The aim was to build a discussion from these questions in order to directly understand customers’ opinions and how they felt about their interactions. Including an exercise later in the training to match the learnings from this activity with insights from your voice of customer survey will provide valuable context as well as quantitative understanding. 
  • #5: Have employees take note of behaviors when they are the customer. Another essential element of successful frontline training that helps people get a useful perspective on their own behaviors is to ask employees to observe other employees’ behaviors in situations when they themselves are a customer. Then, when employees return to work they compare the human experience they received to the ones they offer themselves. Employees often identify gaps between the two experiences that become valuable personal action points. 


The bottom line: Place people and customers at the heart of your frontline training program to underpin its effectiveness.

James Scutt, XMP, is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute.