While a solid, cohesive customer service strategy is vitally important for businesses in any industry, some take this notion more seriously than others—like our client, retail and lifestyle brand Tommy Bahama. A brief conversation with the company’s director of learning and development, Anne Devney, shows how deeply the company’s leadership has invested in this aspect of their growth.
“I have been in the training industry for 20 years,” says Devney. “And I’ve seen that when onboarding new hires, employers tend to assume that everyone knows what good customer service looks like. But that is not the case. It’s so important for employees to be educated on the basic tenets of exemplary customer service, and that’s exactly what ServiceSkills does.”
One customer service challenge Tommy Bahama has long faced is the discrepancy between its customer service team and target demographic. The lifestyle component of the company in particular aims to appeal to men and women around age 35 and older, with disposable income and excess leisure time. That typically contrasts with the life stage, age and income of sales associates, who tend to skew younger and live on a tighter budget.
“Employees must have the tools and resources to develop cross-generational relationships and sell effectively. That’s really key for us,” Devney notes. “If you’re one of our sales associates starting out on the floor as an hourly employee with no commission, how are you going to sell a $165 silk shirt to someone your parents’ age?”
As Tommy Bahama’s leadership has implemented the ServiceSkills curriculum and courses into their employees’ daily workflow, they have empowered them with the tools to bridge those barriers, whether working at one of their retail locations or call centers. The brand has also set itself apart from their competition in the highly saturated retail space, with the sophisticated level of customer service their clients receive.
The Discovery and Rollout Process
Throughout her decades of experience in the customer service industry, Devney has been exposed to the many training programs for businesses to choose from. When researching options, she appreciated that ServiceSkills never subjected her to excessive marketing, sales pitches or upselling to different levels of membership. ServiceSkills has always sidestepped that traditional model, which often alienates business owners, by setting one yearly subscription fee.
“That is very different from other services we have tried or considered. I have a strong aversion to those kind of sales tactics, because it’s clearly being offered for the sake of selling— not providing a real solution to what our business needs,” says Devney. “I have always felt that the team really listens to what we need and provides recommendations accordingly.”
The customer service team at Tommy Bahama were also impressed with the content of the material covered in the ServiceSkills modules, which can easily be synced with nearly any company’s learning management system. They began by rolling out short modules to employees working in their call centers to strengthen both customer-facing relations and employee-to-employee interactions between departments. They also customized the modules to easily fold into employees’ day-to-day work, with quick, easy topics to review alongside retention tests.
“From working with ServiceSkills over time, I’ve learned that there’s just no need for us to look at other options. Our needs are getting met and then some. I trust the content, the relationship and the support. We’ve been using it for about five years now, and making the choice to continue has been a no-brainer,” says Devney.
Her ServiceSkills contact made sure all elements of the implementation process were worked seamlessly into the company’s pre-existing structure. And given the many different types of modules, her team was able to package several of them together to meet their specific needs, whether for new hire onboarding or a skills brush-up for long term employees. The software even allows clients to customize groups of modules with their own materials, which allowed Devney to create program packages specific to Tommy Bahama.
While we believe there are certain enduring principles of great customer service that will always stand the test of time, clients also appreciate our commitment to utilize cutting-edge technology to make training easy and convenient. Today that means developing streaming, mobile and LMS content that employees can easily access from wherever they are, which is also updated and culturally relevant.
“I’ve seen basic telephone etiquette videos a thousand times at this point, but because ServiceSkills is constantly updating their content alongside our changing culture, I keep learning new things and it’s interesting to watch,” says Devney. “That flexibility works extremely well for us, and it’s one of my favorite things about the product: you can make it your own.”
Impact + Customer Feedback
Tommy Bahama has implemented a few different strategies to assess the efficacy of the customer service training program. Some of the most significant feedback they’ve received has come from their own employees, who feel that the topics covered are constructive, useful and helpful to fulfill their day-to-day responsibilities.
This verbal feedback is backed up by metrics reviewed by Tommy Bahama’s department heads and managers, which show that the training has a positive impact on employee performance. The company also saw a transformation in employees who diligently applied the curriculum to their work, and the short modular format helped quickly acclimate new hires to the unique demands of customer service work.
Tommy Bahama also uses the business management tool Net Promoter, which assigns companies a Net Promoter Score, or NPS, to assess customer satisfaction. This allows the company to pinpoint customer impressions through a series of questions about their experience, such as the level of customer service they received, if they’d return and shop again, and more.
Devney explains that for many companies, their goal is to receive an NPS score of 50/100 or above. Currently, Tommy Bahama has landed at 90/100.
Would Devney recommend ServiceSkills to a fellow business owner?
“Yes, without question. It’s easy to use, the return on investment is huge, you work with real people and you don’t have a new service rep every five minutes, as ServiceSkills has very low turnover. I’d also encourage any company considering ServiceSkills to rely not only on printed materials they’re examining to make a decision, but to have authentic conversations with the ServiceSkills team. You won’t have to deal with any aggressive sales tactics, and they will respond with exactly what you need. The relationship is really fulfilling and healthy.”