How to Train Great Customer Service Skills in the Next Generation

Great customer service skills is something we all want our next generation of employees to have. But when your employee disappoints your Customer, whose fault is that? Typically, the blame is placed on the employee for using poor judgment or being indifferent to the Customer. However, ninety-nine percent of the time blame should be placed on the company or supervisor for putting someone in a position they were not qualified to handle. Most companies have their new employees go through technical training only, and when they end up delivering poor Customer service, management gets frustrated with that employee’s decision-making. It is not their fault! This is what most CEOs get wrong about customer experience.

Who’s to Blame? 

Most would agree that the hospitality side (how our Customers are treated and cared for) is just as important as the technical/operational side of what the Customer receives. It is an enormous factor in creating customer loyalty. However, our training contradicts this. We would never think of having an accountant, lawyer, nurse, doctor, hairdresser, or technician perform work without the proper technical training, certification, and licensing. Yet most companies have little to zero Customer service certification. To my knowledge, there is no college major in Customer experience that prepares the next generation of the workforce on how to have strong Customer service skills and provide the most positive Customer experience.

Service Aptitude: The Most Critical Component

Companies don’t engage emotionally with their Customers—their employees do. If you want to create a memorable company, you have to fill your company with memorable people. The quality of your Customer service, and the level of your organization’s Customer service, comes down to one thing and one thing only: The Service Aptitude of every employee you have. From the CEO to the account executive, sales clerk, call center, receptionist, corporate office support team, to every front-line employee—it’s all about Service Aptitude!!! The most critical component in building a world-class Customer experience culture and the most effective Customer experience strategies is the Service Aptitude of every individual employee in your company.

Service Aptitude: A person’s ability to recognize opportunities to meet,

and exceed Customers’ expectations, regardless of the circumstances.

MIA: Service Aptitude in the Workforce

Unnamed 34, The DiJulius GroupNo one is born with it; it is not innate. The vast majority of the workforce has extremely low Service Aptitude, especially when they are entering the workforce after finishing school, regardless of whether that is high school, college, graduate school, or a trade school. As a result of poor training and paranoid management, many employees, including management, don’t have a high Service Aptitude even after years of working. And sadly, a high percentage of senior-level executives continue to have low Service Aptitude during their careers. Why? Why is high Service Aptitude so rare? What dictates it, and what impacts it?

There are three things that shape everyone’s Service Aptitude:

  1. Life experiences
  2. Past work experiences
  3. Current work experiences

Life experiences are a significant factor in people’s Service Aptitude level, especially in the younger workforce. Think about your home environment, groups of friends, and life experiences growing up. Front-line employees’ standard of living typically does not afford them the opportunity to fly first class, stay at five-star resorts, drive a luxury automobile, and enjoy other higher-end experiences. Yet we, as managers, expect those same employees to be able to deliver world-class service to clients, guests, patients, or whomever we call our Customers, who may be accustomed to these types of experiences. It doesn’t make any sense.

Previous work experiences have a major impact on a person’s Service Aptitude. Think about how small is the percentage of organizations that are truly world-class at Customer service. It is a good bet that most of your front-line employees have previously worked for an average or less-than-average Customer service company, which means that not only were they not trained on what excellent service looks like, but they were brainwashed by a policy-driven, iron-fisted manager who taught them that Customers are out to take advantage of businesses.

Current work experiences dictate the current state of an employee’s Service Aptitude. Nearly every company states, on paper, plaques, and its website, that it has a Customer-first philosophy, but how many really back that up? New employees typically get initial training on a company’s operational processes—product knowledge, how to do the fundamentals of the job, and so on—but very little if any Customer service or soft-skill training is invested upfront. Actions speak louder than words.

The Golden Rule is a Dangerous Customer Service Compass

I love the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. However, it is a common mistake that can lead to a bad customer experience. It will not give you a competitive advantage and higher customer retention! Let me explain.

You don’t want your front-line employees to treat customers the way they want to be treated. Let’s consider most people 22 years or younger. They are probably extremely nice. However, if you hired one and threw him in a Customer-facing, front-line position and told him to treat Customers the way he likes to be treated, you would probably see him greet people with, “Hey, what’s up, dude?” He may just give them a fist bump, and you might have to ask him to pull up his sagging pants higher than he is wearing them. It’s how they like to be treated. Now give him a few weeks of soft-skill training and he will be one of the most hospitable employees you have, with high customer service motivation genuinely focused on creating exceptional experiences— resulting in the best customer outcomes.

For servicing Customers, it is the Platinum Rule that we need to focus on: treating others how they enjoy being treated. It is essential for offering the most personalized experiences across the entire Customer journey.

It Isn’t Their Fault; They Don’t Know Any Better 

I have this sweet niece whom I bugged for years to come to work for me. She has those qualities any business would love in an employee who comes in contact with Customers: always smiling, very friendly, and outgoing. We were celebrating a holiday at my house, and I asked her what she was doing. She said she had been working at a restaurant as a hostess/receptionist. She also explained that one of her responsibilities was to police the restrooms. I told her that the cleanliness of the restrooms was so important to the image of the restaurant. She said, “No, that’s not what I mean by policing the bathrooms. My boss says it is my job not to let anyone use the restrooms unless they are paying Customers.” My eyes lit up. I said, “Really?” She replied, “Yes, we even have a sign on the door that says so. In fact, last week I saw someone who hadn’t purchased anything headed to the restroom, so I ran after him and made him leave.” I was horrified! This is my sweet, adorable niece with the same DNA as me, and the same last name. How could she think like this? How could a business leader, for that matter?!

You may be thinking how wrong I am about my niece being a wonderful employee. Actually, she may be too good of an employee. Her boss (sadly, the owner of the restaurant) has told her, “Your job is to not let people take advantage of us,” and my niece has said, “Okay!” And she does what she was told, protecting the business like she has been instructed. Unfortunately for that business, this translates to creating bad experiences for potential customers and quite possibly alarming current customers who witness such interactions in the restaurant.

What Every Leader Needs to Realize about Service Aptitude

Each of us has plenty of current employees who have worked elsewhere and have been influenced by other bosses who don’t think as world-class Customer service companies and leaders do. They are more concerned that people are out to take advantage of them than they are about taking care of the Customer and overall keeping Customers happy. With such a defensive approach they are all but guaranteeing low levels of customer satisfaction and customer acquisition as well as less than stellar employee experience. It is not exactly a recipe for low churn rates and long customer lifetime, and it has zero chance of adding up to a world-class customer experience.

To wrap this all up, every leader needs to realize that it is not the employees’ responsibility to have high Service Aptitude; it is the company’s job to teach it to them.

*RelatedSoft Skills Training is the Secret of Customer Experience

*New Customer Experience Executive Academy starting in September ’23

Shep Hyken Keynoting the Customer Service Revolution Conference

Unnamed 35, The DiJulius GroupWe are thrilled to announce that Shep Hyken will be keynoting at this year’s Customer Service Revolution. Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, researcher, and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. 

The title of Shep’s presentation is “How to Create an Amazing Customer Experience”. Our customers are smarter than ever. They no longer compare us to a direct competitor but instead to the best experience, they have ever had from anyone in any company. To remain competitive, businesses must continuously raise the bar of customer service and CX to keep up with customer expectations. In this fast-paced and informative presentation, you will learn about customer amazement (it’s not what you think) and other strategies and tactics that can differentiate you from your competitors and create fierce loyalty. Now, more than ever, we must deliver an amazing customer experience that sets us apart from our competition and has our customers saying, “I’ll be back!”

Episode 119 of the CSRev Podcast 

State of Customer Service with Shep Hyken

Chief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of the DiJulius Group talks with several-time best-selling author Shep Hyken. Shep and John discuss the state of customer service today, how it has changed since the pandemic, and where it is headed. 



“While customers are not always right; 

It is important that we do not make them wrong.”


Register for the 2023 Customer Service Revolution Conference and save $250

Unnamed 7, The DiJulius Group


About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.