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Customer Service Boot Camp

By Ty Bello

As the evolution of customer service continues, so does the way you measure success, coach your teams, and provide knock-your-socks-off customer care. The scope and depth of interacting with your customer – both internal and external – is growing exponentially.

I recently worked with an amazing group of dedicated customer service agents who knew their products, understood the complexity of their organization, and served both their internal and external customers with precision and care. They truly delivered knock-your-socks-off customer care. Their leader was a great individual who came through the rank and file to become the leader of this dynamic team. As we discussed the role of her team, she made the following statement about how she viewed the team role in serving the customer: “We are customer engagement officers.”

Wow, yes, and amen. That is exactly it. A title means nothing without clarity and purpose to support it. This conversation would be the genesis of transforming this customer service team into customer engagement officers.

When you look at how to transform your customer service team, you need to go to boot camp. For those of us who served in the military, boot camp was truly the genesis of our transformation from civilian to military life – an indoctrination, a new identity, a calling, a purpose, a regimented training that created lifelong behaviors. So what does a customer engagement officer boot camp look like?

Here are the seven boot camp steps that will transform your team and customer engagement.


Fall in!

Let’s start by aligning your team with your mission, vision and purpose. This goes beyond a mission statement, and embraces “why” you are here, and how your products, parts and services change the life of the customer.

“Fall in” occurs whenever those who are in charge need to get everyone together. This is group control at its best. When a leader has something important to share, or needs to update the team on an issue or item, “fall in” is loudly announced, and everyone knows what to do. From the information shared, the team now has a new direction and/or understanding.

Whether it’s parts, equipment or service, your team should “fall in” on a regular basis so you can announce or clarify. The customer will then be able to do a task better, safer, more efficiently and faster because your team has the latest information to share.


Indoctrination and direction

Now you need to review your processes and make sure that they resonate with the type of equipment, parts and service you deliver.

Boot camp is about changing individuals into a team. That does not come easily, and it does not just happen at “fall in.” In boot camp, making a group a team is a well calculated process that not only transforms “I” into “we” – while providing direction for every day, week, month, quarter and year – but is also a continuing rally cry to be the absolute best.

When you arrive at military boot camp, you get your fatigues. Your name, which will appear above your right pocket, is peculiarly missing. Why is that? Could they truly be printing them and just did not have them ready? No way. This is a calculated training effort. You see, in those fatigues with no name, you all are the same – just a green pickle in the jar. You are in the beginning stages of building We, Team, Us. A subtle, but transformational, message is being delivered that we function as a team, together, as one. Then, in a few days, your nametags are ready, and you all become a canned pickle. The beginning of a team, made up of individuals with specific skillsets that complement the mission.

You have the same opportunity in your business. When someone is recruited and hired for your business, they need to understand that they are part of a larger functioning machine. They need to realize the key elements that they bring to complement the existing team. Maybe they need to earn their name badge, and for the first couple of weeks need to wear the uniform with a name badge that says “trainee.” Although they bring a unique set of skills to the business, they function as an individual. One does not achieve “team” status until their skillset actually functions with the rest of the group. That is teamwork.



Cadence is the lock and step of the team. This is how everyone marches to the same drum. As mentioned, one does not achieve team status until their skillset actually functions with the rest of the group. Cadence is achieved by working together, practicing, and refining how to function as a team. Taking a group of recruits, indoctrinating them, and giving them their name badges is just the beginning. You need to now walk, march, and run together every day; through a variety of work-related scenarios involving the customer and other team members.

In your business, this evolves over time. Through a variety of issues and situations – both internal and external – your team will learn to work together to deliver knock-your-socks-off customer service and stay in step.



Every team wants to know how they are doing. There are scoreboards at all sporting events for both fans and players. There is even instant replay.

In business, we often call these measurements our metrics. They can be delivered to a team in a variety of ways, and will provide them the scorecard of the business. What you measure and how you present those metrics is another topic entirely.

In boot camp, we were saturated with feedback on everything we do. This is done to drill into our core the behaviors most desired by our leaders.

You too want to change behaviors in your business; and by implementing some of the tools already discussed in this article, you will achieve that goal.

The metrics in boot camp also provided a huge morale boost and confidence level in our team. There was no sugar coating – we were told if we failed to hit the target, and, as a result, we pushed to do better the next time. When we achieved the mission, we also celebrated and knew that we had done something great together.

Business teams of all sizes want to know how they are doing – as a company, as a department, and as an individual. The consistent feedback of business metrics plays a major role in providing this information to the team, and driving their confidence.



To be awarded the Marksmanship ribbon in any branch of the armed services takes practice and precision. You don’t get the ribbon for missing the target. First, we need to know what the target is. Sounds crazy, but part of military weapons training still makes certain that the recruit knows from which end the projectile comes.

To achieve hitting the target of customer service and care, you too need to know what the target is and how to hit it. The three key elements of customer service marksmanship are 1) know your products and services, 2) know your customer, and 3) measure your results.

Knowing your products and services was already covered in the “indoctrination and direction” section. Now, let’s look at knowing the customer, and also measuring your results.

Knowing your customers goes beyond just knowing their name. You need to engage your customer in such a way that you understand their needs and even wants. You don’t do this by standing behind the counter and never coming around to engage them as they are looking through your store. There is a balance between letting the customer roam freely and engaging them. How do you measure customer satisfaction? Well, the most obvious is if they are coming back – but that is subjective. You may be the only game in town, and they don’t like ordering online. So how do you really get to know if you are serving the customer? You must deploy short, but effective, customer surveys.

Customer surveys need to be deployed strategically throughout the engagement process. There are at least three opportunities to deploy a simple survey that will provide valuable customer feedback: first, at the close of the sale; second, with a phone call follow-up soon after the sale; and third, by conducting an annual customer survey online that awards a prize to the lucky customer who completed the survey and whose name is drawn.

Be a marksman in customer service, and hit the target.


Combat skills

You have to know the enemy. So, who is your enemy in customer service? The customer who has not been served by your products or services. The customer who does not like the tone in which you are communicating. The customer who, for whatever reason, is yelling and not listening. The list goes on. Sure, the enemy could be the competition, but for today, let’s focus on customer objections. You need to be combat ready for all of these encounters, and be able to handle customer objections.

In the military, we spent as much time if not more on understanding our enemy – how they function, how they will engage, what they will counter our aggression, etc. You must not just understand customer objections, but how to handle them when they arise. You must practice how to defuse an angry customer, say the right things, and use empathy to calm them. Combat ready here is not about reacting, but about second nature. You should practice so much that your response is second nature.

There are four customer objections, and a list of ways to “overcome” each. The following chart will help you and your team as you try to overcome customer objections. Remember, you still will need to be combat ready, so practice.



Customer Objection Definition Solution


Customer doubts that you can… Let the customer know that you understand and then provide proof, that YES you can


Customer has a concern that you cannot… Confirm the need behind the concern, and then describe the relevant solution





Customer expresses indifference, passiveness or apathy toward your product or service.


You need to probe to uncover unrealized needs that the customer may have.






Customer has a complete, correct understanding of your product or service, but is dissatisfied with the presence or absence of a feature or benefit.


Acknowledge the concern, and refocus on the bigger picture. Outweigh the drawback with the previously accepted benefits.





Graduation Day from boot camp in the military is parade day. Your entire team is outfitted in their dress uniform, and the base commander speaks to the graduates. The commander reflects on all that has been accomplished, how purposeful the training was, and how truly ready you and your fellow graduates are to serve your country and each other.

Parade and graduation for a customer engagement team happens every day on every call. When you deliver care and service with empathy and precision, you deliver knock-our-socks-off customer care, and can proudly wear the uniform of customer engagement officer.



Ty Bello, RCC is the president and founder of Team@Work, LLC (T@W). He is an author, communicator and registered coach. The team at T@W has more than 50 years of combined experience in assessing, developing, and coaching sole proprietorships, sales teams, C-suite executives, individuals and teams in a variety of industry settings. Ty also served as a sergeant in the United States Air Force, and was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his distinguished and meritorious service. Contact Ty at ty@teamatworkcoaching.com for your sales, customer call center, and management coaching needs, or visit www.teamatworkcoaching.com for more information.


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