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Opinion: Try training processes to fill in holes

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Do you ever spend time side by side with your customer service representatives? Do you ride along with your service technicians?

When I hear a business owner say, “My techs always … wear booties/offer financing/ refer to the customer by Mr. or Ms.,” I think, “You have no idea what they are doing on every call.” When they brag about how polite their CSRs are, I wonder, “Is every one of them nice on every call? Even the new hires?”

You can’t know. Because you aren’t always there. Very often, employees are working alone. The only way to find out what they are doing is to ride along, or to sit side by side. It is, of course, a limited look into what happens in the day, week and life of that team member. But it is a great start, and an awesome opportunity to be of service. And, even better and more likely, to learn a few things yourself. It’s not about catching your employee doing something wrong. The primary purpose of spending time together is to help your team members be successful. 

Management by walking around
Walking around, ride alongs and side by sides will open your eyes to the holes in your team members’ training. Maybe they just don’t know how to do a portion of their job. Maybe they aren’t willing to do it. Find out by engaging in the training process.

When Abraham Lincoln was asked in 1861 for his reason for relieving Gen. John Fremont from his command in Missouri, he replied, “His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.”

Enter the training process. It’s got six steps:

1. “I’ll do it.” As the trainer, explain the reason for and demonstrate the procedure. Refer to the written procedure as you go.

2. “Now you do it.”
Ask your team member to demonstrate the behaviors and duplicate the procedure.

3. Role play
. Now act it out together in your training center or mechanical room. It’s like a coach running plays in practice. 

4. Ride along. Head out into the world. Observe the required behaviors in real time, in the field. Refine and improve behaviors. 

5. Sign off. “Sign off” on the procedure when you and your employee are both comfortable with their understanding of the procedure and their ability to perform it in the field. Both of you initial and date a copy of the procedure.

For the willing
Use the sign off to mark the end of the training process. As people learn new skills, make sure they are acknowledged – with a handshake, a diploma or a standing ovation at your next company meeting. Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, understood that people are hungry for praise. Her company has grown to multibillion-dollar sales by praising the representatives. From personal notes to diamond rings to pink Cadillacs, Mary Kay managers shower their team with rewards for good performance.

And, if someone has been signed off, and chooses not to do a portion of their job, then it’s a willingness issue. Not a training issue. For that, you would engage progressive corrective action. For instance, verbal warning, written warning, suspension, then termination of employment.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at


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