Frontline Training: Empower Customer-Facing Employees

Frontline Training: Empower Customer-Facing Employees

There’s no denying that customer-facing employees have a tough job. They need to balance a wide range of skills to excel in both their job and customer service. This challenge is often exacerbated by a lack of support from employers, which can lead to a host of problems. These include underperformance or even underserved and unhappy customers.

How do we as businesses give our frontline employees the support they need to be high performers in all areas of their demanding jobs? The answer lies within coherent frontline training.

What Is Frontline Training?

Frontline training is the practice of equipping customer-facing staff with the skills they need to render exceptional service. We can achieve this through a blend of coaching, courses, and custom-created training programmes.

Beyond normal role training, employees will learn a host of additional hard and soft skills.

Industries that Utilise Frontline Training

Frontline training can benefit any industry in which you have customer-facing employees. This includes business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) environments, where human customers remain the focus. Industries in which frontline training is crucial include:

  • Retail
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Banking and financial services
  • Call centres and customer support
  • Public sector and government services
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Education
  • Utilities and service providers

Benefits of Frontline Training

Frontline training allowing a successful site meeting1. Higher Customer Satisfaction

Equipping your frontline staff with the right skills can help customers feel heard and cared for. This will directly and positively impact customer satisfaction, and satisfied customers are far less likely to be lured away by competitors. They’re also more likely to engage in word-of-mouth advertising for your business.

The impact of this cannot be overstated. Word-of-mouth is a key driving factor in 20-50% of purchasing decisions. Add to this that 75% of people don’t accept advertising as the truth and 90% of people trust recommendations from friends, and word-of-mouth becomes a valuable source of high-quality leads.

2. Engaged Employees

Frontline training programs also contribute to employee engagement and morale. Employees who feel competent and confident in their roles will enjoy work more. This will help to retain skilled employees and further boost the customer experience.

3. Better Operational Performance

Comprehensive frontline training programs will also help your employees boost their operational abilities. Increasing competency in skills like problem-solving, workflow management, and process improvement will contribute towards a higher operational standard and even better customer service.

4. Improved Risk Management

Training employees in frontline skills such as basic cyber security and compliance management can help mitigate risks for your organisation. This also helps to protect your customers, which offers peace of mind and works to increase customer trust in your brand.

5. Competitive Advantage

Investing in frontline training can also help you gain a competitive edge. Employees on the front lines will be better equipped to handle market changes, lead innovation, and provide exceptional service.

This can put you way above your competition in terms of customer experience, and increase the amount of word-of-mouth leads in your sales pipeline.

6. Higher Customer Lifetime Value

Customers who stick with your business inevitably offer a higher customer lifetime value (CLV). Training your frontline employees offers customers value and contributes towards a better CLV.

These benefits will also filter down into other aspects of your business, so investing in frontline training is an obvious move. But what skills, specifically, should you focus on?

Core Skills to Develop in Frontline Training

Successful business meeting thanks to effective frontline training

The most efficient frontline training programmes will help employees build a vast number of skills. These include both hard skills and soft skills (also known as power skills). To better understand the differences and specifics, let’s go into even greater detail.

Hard Frontline Skills

1. Product Knowledge

Product knowledge is essential for frontline staff. It enables them to provide accurate information and answer customer queries with confidence. This helps to enhance customer trust and satisfaction and presents opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling under the right circumstances. A true case of win-win.

This is best solved by creating custom assessments and courses to which your in-house product experts can contribute.

2. Technical Proficiency

It may be obvious, but frontline employees need a high degree of technical proficiency to provide quality customer service. Having employees who can provide expert guidance on technical matters also helps to build customer confidence.

Depending on your niche, custom solutions may again be required. If you’re in a populated niche, however, external training may suffice or even be unavoidable.

3. Compliance and Safety Standards

Understanding and adhering to compliance and safety standards is vital, especially for on-site employees. This minimises risks and ensures a safe environment for both employees and customers. This also reinforces your company’s reputation as a responsible and trustworthy entity.

To meet these standards you’ll first define the requirements, which can then be signed off by all relevant stakeholders. With this in hand, you can plan out and create the courses and assessments that will lead your employees to compliance.

Tip: Get a solid overview and a sharable badge in our free regulations and standards course

4. Digital Literacy

Modern businesses often use a range of digital tools to capture data, manage orders, track jobs, and even record meetings. Accurate and complete data is a core modern requirement. Hence, your frontline employees will benefit from a high degree of digital literacy.

Digital literacy courses and assessments will help to build your employees’ understanding of their digital toolset.

5. Cybersecurity Basics

Cybersecurity knowledge is critical in our digital world. Understanding best practices in the use of digital tools can help to prevent attacks that could potentially damage your company. A successful cyber attack could also destroy a company’s reputation, so diligence is necessary.

Using a cybersecurity framework as your required standard is a great way to educate employees and keep your business safe.

6. Process Improvement Knowledge

No process is perfect. There is always room for improvement, and having frontline staff who carry knowledge of how to improve processes can create a lasting culture of continuously improving workflows.

To reap the benefits of ever-increasing efficiency, train your employees on methods like

Lean, Six Sigma, or your preferred process improvement methodology.

Soft Frontline Skills

1. Communication

Customers are likely to expect clear information from staff, so communication skills are a core part of any reputable frontline training drive. This can help to create positive relationships and allow employees to meet and even exceed client expectations. There are effective communication courses in which you can enrol your employees to ensure that they have mastered this critical skill.

2. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a powerful skill that applies everywhere – including your front line. This gives employees the ability to regulate their emotions while also being mindful of the emotions of customers. This further contributes to consistently pleasant customer experiences.

3. Analytical Skills

Having the analytical skills to form quick and accurate data analyses can be an invaluable skill on the front lines. This information can help solve complex problems, catch unhappy customers before they leave, or even solve potential problems before they become a reality.

4. Problem-Solving

Problem-solving goes hand-in-hand with analytical skills. Being able to problem solve in dynamic situations can have a powerful effect on both business profitability and customer experience. A good workplace problem-solving course can help build the foundation for this valuable power skill.

5. Teamwork

Teamwork is essential for a cohesive working environment. It enables employees to collaborate effectively and support one another in achieving common goals. It also fosters mutual respect and shared success that benefits the entire organisation. Consider taking a free short course on teamwork and team building to get the ball rolling.

6. Adaptability

Adaptability is key in the fast-paced frontline setting. The ability to manage change on the spot can help employees effectively navigate dynamic situations and offer an exceptional customer experience. This is another soft skill that can be introduced with a free adaptability and flexibility short course.

7. Conflict Management

Employees who are well-versed in conflict management styles can navigate tense situations better and prevent harm to your company’s reputation. A good conflict management course will give them the skills to leave upset customers feeling heard and understood, and the effects will trickle down into CLV and word-of-mouth advertising.

8. Active Listening

Taking an active listening course can add value to anyone in an organisation, especially with customer-facing employees. Truly understanding a customer’s meaning (beyond words) can help employees answer questions before they’re even asked, alleviate fears, and ultimately contribute to that exceptional customer experience we strive to create.

If you’d like to explore more, take a look at our list of ten powerful soft skills courses.

How to Build Frontline Training Skills

Employees attend a frontline training class

You need to build out a cohesive action plan to bolster our frontline skills. You may want to create a small pilot program before a broader rollout. Here are the steps for the successful implementation of a frontline skills development program.

1. Create a List of Core Skills & Employees

The first step to any training initiative is to gather the required skills that employees must possess. The above skills are a good start but don’t hesitate to go as granular as you need to for the sake of clarity.

For example, instead of ‘technical skills’, list the specific points that are unique to your industry or employee roles.

Alongside your skills list, keep a list of frontline employees that require competency in the various skills. Implement a plan to regularly check and update this list so that your available information is always current.

2. Create Assessments to Gauge Current Skills

To curate or create training content effectively, consider rolling out assessments to conduct an in-depth skills audit. Use this data to map out a skills matrix that will allow you to identify core skill gaps and speed up your journey to company-wide competency.

3. Create A Training Matrix

Use the information gathered thus far to create a training matrix to keep track of progress. A training matrix is a table containing employees as row headers, with required training as column headers.

This simplifies progress tracking and can help to manage the progress of your frontline training initiative. You can download a free training matrix template from our resources page.

4. Consider a Software Solution

Software can greatly reduce the time it takes to create and implement your training drive. For example, Cloud Assess allows you to create assessments or courses from scratch and drive competency largely automatically.

Automation is achieved via custom training journeys that can drive learners towards competency without constant intervention from trainers, managers, or administrators.

There are many solutions available on the market that can help smooth out this process. If you would like to explore this option, a great starting point is our list of digital learning platforms.

5. Report on Results

The final step to your training drive will be to report on results. Use your skills matrix to ensure that skill gaps are covered. Compare the results of this to other data you have available, such as customer happiness surveys, revenue growth, customer retention, or job success rates.

This will offer a holistic view of the true results of your upskilling initiatives.

Frontline Training Best Practices

Employees agree on frontline training best practices

As you drive your frontline employees towards a higher level of competency, keep these best practices in mind.

1. Utilise Blended Learning

Blended learning is a mix between traditional learning methods and online learning (or digital tools). Traditionally, online learning was thought to be a bad fit for on-the-job training, where the internet isn’t always available – like for deskless workers.

Modern digital solutions have solved this problem with offline capability, and offer a far more reliable means to conduct training and capture proof of results. This offers employees options for learning in the office or on-site, with few limitations.

2. Implement Holistic Assessment Methods

Assessments should offer a holistic view of an employee’s skill set. Assessing single skills at different times won’t only prolong the process, but it also risks painting a distorted picture of an employee’s skills.

Hence, it’s important to consider holistic assessment examples and implement those that are most relevant to your business. This will help you assess efficiently, and enforce the best employee training methods to cover your skill gaps fast.

3. Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement

A culture of learning can benefit your entire company, not just frontline employees. Continuous learning helps to sustain the impact of training drives and stop potential regression of growth. You’ll also have employees who are better equipped to rapidly adapt to changing technology by learning new things.

Encourage feedback from employees, celebrate learning within teams, and regularly conduct skill assessments to keep the culture alive. Adopting a continuous assessment approach in your business will also help.

4. Encourage the Pursuit of Microcredentials

Short course learning allows employees to gain specialised micro-credentials relevant to their roles and the customer’s evolving demands. This entails brief and focused learning modules that only take 30 to 45 minutes to complete.

This further serves to foster your culture of continuous learning. What’s more, you can get started on this for free with Cloud Assess. We have a library of free courses that you can use to drive microlearning within your organisation.

Commit to Long-Term Dedication to Frontline Training

A simple fact is that learning is never ‘complete.’ There’s always more to learn, with new technologies and subsequent skills emerging regularly. Commit to a long-term training mindset to keep employees engaged, and keep competencies up to date.

This will help to ensure your frontline employees maintain their competitive edge and continuously deliver an exceptional customer experience.

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