Often, individuals with specialized skill sets and years of experience tend to forget that what they do – even the lives that they live, are a continual process – always evolving and developing. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t answer the phone and get a very nice customer calling and telling me that they have decades of experience running their particular saw, yet they are stumped by this, or that situation. It never occurs to me that they are uninformed or poorly trained – they are simply calling for help and it should – it IS – my job to offer them some education and training – or at least, as much as I can to help them through whatever it is that they are dealing with.
My perspective is generally skewed more towards the training of my sales staff and providing them all of the tools that they need in order to offer our rapidly growing client list, all of the information that they need, in order to provide informed options with regards to the band saw blade that their customers need for this or her particular application. As I said above, I get folks calling me, asking about the percentage of cobalt contained in this blade versus that blade; the RC hardness tolerances in certain blades; and why one series of blades is recommended for cutting structural materials while others will not stand the stress(es) associated with cutting those shapes. By the way, in so far as my own education and training is concerned, one thing that I have learned is that I, the layman, never recommend a particular saw blade to the professional operator. I provide the options available to that operator so that they can make the informed decision!
Now, it is niegh on impossible to get young people, inexperienced in understanding machine tools, especially those that are used in production cutting of a full range of materials in the metal industry, to understand the complexities of production cutting in a job shop or fabrication shop. Add to that, the other ends of the spectrum; the hobbiest, who might purchase one or two carbon band saw blades from us each year – trying to purchase as inexpensively as possible; to those companies we provide service and sales to, who describe themselves, quite correctly as experts in, “metal cutting systems”, who purchase dozens of blades per month! What’s a sales manager to do?
The answer is to share the information that the staff needs to have – even though they may not know that they need it, unendingly. Tell them once, then tell them again; and then again, the details of what they need to know about band saw blades. Tell them that they may not ever have to repeat to anyone, the particular piece of information that you share with them, but it is good information to have in their back pockets; easy to pull out (or access from their desk top), should they ever need to. Tell them to the point of them rolling their eyes and thinking to themselves, “again?” Yes again. And again. And again! Make them write essays each week – in a team format. That’s the best way of teaching. Do the research together! Post those essays for publication on the company web site. Essays that anyone can access. Share those essays with everyone on the staff. Then hit them with questions at the most unlikely of moments that test their recall of the essays, so you know that THEY know! Take your new hires and have them spend an interminable amount of time reading those same essays. In my environment, you can be sure, that the new hire is reading this kind of information for the first time and even though some of it is repeative, it will be a invaluable reference source for when that question comes up, that perhaps, they cannot answer off the tip of their tongue(s) have them commit to get back to the customer with the information. Then make sure they do. This is a professionally run business and thoroughness is an absolute! We’re not memorizing the capitals of the 50 states after all!
Another piece of education and professional training that few people realize is uinherently valuable is this. It is OK to say, “I don’t know!”; so long as you follow it up with, “but let me find out and I’ll get back to you!” Then do it! It’s OK. Not everyone knows everything and if you know someone who thinks they know everything, well, you have a “special opinion” of them, don’t you? One of my mentors, years ago told me just that; and I remember the location of where we were and the time, it was so important and became so beneficial to me. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you and give you a call back!” Mind blowing and yet, so, so simple! The second part of that is absolutely critical however and it is another aspect of the job of someone in customer service or sales has, that is often forgotten. Do what you say you are going to do – even if you haven’t been able to acquire the answer yet. Call your customer back and tell them that you are still working on a resolution! Don’t leave them hanging! They will always be grateful for the effort and knowing you didn’t hang up the phone and forget about them!
If you are supposed to learn something new every day, I think this is a pretty important and valuable item to have learned!