Best ever Trainer's Tip: Customer service role-play

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Our fourth most popular Trainers' Tip comes from Eddie Newall whose fantastic customer service role-play can be adapted for any organisation.

If one of the learning outcomes is to have enhanced skills for dealing with irate customers then role-play is one way of helping the participants to achieve this. This can be structured to run in groups of 3, an employee, a complainer and an observer. The following is an example for another public service but you could use this as a template for a situation relevant to your agency. You just need a vivid imagination, or access to/experience of previous complaints.

Employee Brief:
• You are Steve, one of the hospital car park attendants.
• You are checking the cars in the out-patients pay-and-display car park.
• One of the cars is not displaying a parking voucher, and after waiting 20 minutes to allow for the owner to return you stick a fixed penalty parking ticket on the windscreen.
• Just as you are leaving the area a very distressed and irate looking Mrs Sortum approaches you.

Complainer Brief:
• You are Mrs Sortum.
• You recently found a lump and your doctor made an urgent referral to your local hospital. You arrived at the hospital about two hours ago for an out-patient appointment. Your journey was delayed by road works.
• On arrival you found that you hadn’t got enough change for the parking machine. You asked in the hospital shop if they could change a £5 note, but the assistant told you in a rather abrupt manner that they don’t give change for parking. As you were a few minutes late you decided to find the clinic otherwise you may have missed your turn.
• You had to wait over an hour until you were called and all the time you were worried about what the doctor would find, and about not paying for parking. You have seen the doctor and he wants you to return in a few days for an urgent biopsy.
• As you hurry back to your car you see a parking ticket stuck to the windscreen. You see the car parking attendant and you run towards him. You approach him very angrily .....

Play:
• Irate and annoyed.
• Point out all the problems you have had getting to the hospital, being late for your appointment, not having enough change for parking, and being refused change in the hospital shop, having a long wait in the clinic, being very worried about seeing the doctor.
• Demand that the parking ticket is removed and cancelled, otherwise you want the name and telephone number of the Chief Executive.

Observer Brief:
1. ‘Employee’ gives their view:
• How do you think it went?
• What went well?
• What might you do differently next time?
2. ‘Complainer’ gives their view:
• What was it like being on the receiving end?
• What was good about it?
• What could have been improved?
3. ‘Observer’ give their view – positive feedback FIRST
• What went well?
• What could have gone better?
• How did the employee come across to you, if you were the other party?
• Summarise your feedback.

As there are angry emotions involved then role-play delivery skills are needed and it is important to de-role afterwards.

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