Group Problem Solving: Customer Service Challenges

In this post, we offer an idea for a customer service call center exercise with groups of 10-60 people — you need a large space, chart paper and markers.  The goal is to allow people to share their customer service experiences — and fears — in a safe supportive forum.

  • First, tape chart paper on the walls in different parts of the room — each is a station for participants to visit. At one station, write on a chart: “List words that describe the perfect customer.” At another station, write on a chart: “What do you most like about customer service?” At a third station, write: “What are you most worried will happen when serving a customer?” Finally, at a fourth station, write: “I would like advice about this aspect of customer service.” Make sure there are several blank pieces of chart paper posted near the written question at each station.
  • Next, with these labeled charts up on the wall, provide each participant with a marker, so they can write on the charts at each station. Instruct participants to visit each station and write down their responses — usually 1-3 items per station. They can visit the stations in any order and for any length of time. If they agree with something written, they can place a check mark next to it, but they cannot strike out anything they disagree with.  When I do this workshop with 20-40 people, it takes about 15-20 minutes for everyone to finish. The benefit of this approach is that everyone gets a marker, so everyone gets a voice, but with lots of people moving around, people can post their questions or fears in relative anonymity.
  • After everyone is done, visit each chart and briefly review the content — noting any patterns or trends. Be sure to spend ample time at the positive charts (the perfect customer, and what I like about customer service), to remind people of the positive aspects of their work.
  • Then, have the attendees form small groups. Instruct them to select one item from the “What am I most worried about” or “I would like advice about” charts.  Tell them to take some time to write a thoughtful response to that item.  For example, if the item is, “I am scared that a customer will yell at me…..” or “I am afraid that a customer will cry,” create a list of things that someone could say or do if confronted with that situation.  Have each group post their responses on the charts, and then give all participants time to individually walk around the room and read the charts.

The goal here is to facilitate conversation about potentially uncomfortable subjects, while also getting real answers and advice to the people that need it. People also generally see that they share many of the same experiences and feelings, which can help morale. Finally, this kind of forum helps you as a manager understand what motivates and concerns your employees, which you can use to shape future conversations and communication.