The EIC guidelines, developed by Daniel Goleman and Cary Cherniss, are based on an exhaustive review of the research literature in training & development, counseling & psychotherapy, and behavior change. They are divided into the four phases of the development process: preparation, training, transfer & maintenance, and evaluation.
The guidelines are adapted below for specific application in customer service organizations. This is a summary document, with links to more detailed entries in this blog.
Assess the organization’s needs. Determine the competencies that are most critical for the effective performance of customer service jobs in the organization.
Assess the individual, based on the key competencies needed for the customer service job.
Deliver assessments with care. Give the individual information on her strengths and weaknesses. Be specific and clear. Provide the feedback in a supportive environment in order to minimize resistance and defensiveness, but also counter excuses, and stress the seriousness of deficiencies.
Maximize learner choice. Where possible, allow people to decide whether or not they will participate in the training. People are more motivated to change when they freely choose to do so. Start with voluntary attendance. This practice will also help you identify promoters and detractors.
Gauge readiness. Assess whether the individual is ready for training. If the person is not ready because of insufficient motivation or other reasons, make readiness the focus of intervention efforts.
Sell the program. Explain how your customer service training is worthwhile and effective. Support from supervisors will motivate participation, provided that the supervisors are credible practitioners of customer service.
Link training to personal values. Help people understand how the customer service training will benefit their personal lives. People are most motivated to pursue change that fits their values and hopes.
Give hope. Let people know that that the social and emotional competences required in customer service can be improved, and that this improvement will lead to valuable outcomes. But ensure that they have a realistic expectation of what the training process will involve.
Foster a positive relationship between the trainers and learners. Trainers who are warm, genuine, and empathic are best able to engage the learners in the change process. Select trainers who have these qualities.
Make change self-directed. Allow people to set their own learning goals, let them continue to be in charge of their learning throughout the program. Learning is more effective when people direct their own learning program, tailoring it to their unique needs and circumstances.
Set clear goals. Spell out the specific behaviors and skills that make up the target competencies. Be clear about what the competence is, how to acquire it, and how to show it on the job.
Break goals into manageable steps. Classify customer service competencies and behaviors by level of difficulty. Dedicate training modules to each level.
Use experiential methods. Develop training activities that engage all the senses, and that are dramatic. Active, concrete, experiential methods tend to work best for learning social and emotional competencies.
Use models. Use live or videotaped models that clearly show how the competency can be used in realistic customer service situations. Encourage learners to study, analyze, and emulate the models.
Enhance self-awareness. Help learners acquire greater understanding about how their thoughts, feelings, and behavior affect themselves and others. Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional and social competence.
Transfer & Maintenance
Provide opportunities to practice. Encourage the trainees to try the new behaviors repeatedly over a period of months. Lasting change requires sustained practice on the job and elsewhere in life. An automatic habit is being unlearned and different responses are replacing it.
Encourage use of skills on the job. Reinforce and reward learners for using their customer service skills on the job.
Give performance feedback. Provide focused and sustained feedback as the learners practice new customer service behaviors. Ongoing feedback encourages people and directs change. Ensure that supervisors and peers give periodic feedback on progress. Structure the feedback process.
Build in support. Encourage the formation of groups where people give each other support throughout the change effort.
Prevent relapse. Use relapse prevention, which helps people use lapses and mistakes as lessons to prepare themselves for further efforts.
Lead by example. Change is more likely to endure when supervisors and upper-level management consistently display the competencies themselves.
Develop an organizational culture that supports learning. Change will be more enduring if the organization’s culture and tone support the change and offer a safe atmosphere for experimentation.
Find unobtrusive measures of the competencies before and after training, and at least two months later. One-year follow-ups also are highly desirable. In addition to charting progress on the acquisition of competencies, also assess the impact on important job-related outcomes.