Article | June 22, 2017

Teaching Vs. Training: What's The Difference?

Field Service Training

By John Hamilton,

We all know that customer experience is a crucial aspect of today’s field service interactions. Do you train your team on customer service skills? Isn’t that a good thing? Actually, no. As a field service organization in a challenging market, you need to go beyond training for your team.

Field service organizations recognize the need for exceptional customer service skills for success. The challenge is, many field engineers excel in technical skills but lack the high level of communication skills needed to ensure customer satisfaction. The most common solution to that problem is for the organization to send the field service team to training on communication skills. However, a training program will not improve skills or customer satisfaction — a teaching program will.

How To Facilitate Customer Service Skills

What’s the difference between training and teaching? The purpose of training is to learn a single skill that applies to a single situation. We train a dog to roll over on a particular command. However, if we vary the command, it will not know that it should roll over. It can only apply the skill within a limited scope. The purpose of teaching is to facilitate the acquisition of skills that can be applied in a variety of situations in the real world. The focus is on the concepts and how those concepts can be applied on the job.

Let’s look at an example. A training program will present a list of three phrases employees should use to deal with a challenging customer. A teaching program, on the other hand, will:

  • discuss the reasons customers might be challenging, relative to the situation
  • present three possible phrases employees can use when a customer is upset
  • facilitate an exercise in which the students (your employees) either watch an encounter or enact an encounter to analyze what might work and why

As you’re planning for customer skill improvement, look for courses and workshops that teach your employees rather than train them. Dealing with customers requires the ability to apply skills with good judgment on the spot. Doing so takes practice in a variety of situations. Courses that teach will result in the ability of your team to apply the skills learned. They will also result in the ability to measure the improvement over time.

How do you determine if a program is training-based vs. teaching-based? To determine whether a program trains or teaches, look at more than just goals or headings. You want to take a close look at the objectives listed for the program, as well as what the format of the program is.

Objectives should be clear and behavioral to enable measurement of transfer to the job. The format should teach not just the objectives, but also the concepts underlying them. The course format should include real-world application activities for each concept taught. The format should be clearly structured, enabling you to extend the content in follow-up activities to reinforce the learning over time in your support center.

It is not enough to train your team. Focusing on the skill alone will not improve job performance. Teaching concepts underlying the skill, along with real-world application of the skill, are critical components of successfully teaching your employees to provide the customer service you desire.