Training For Customer Service Specialists Case Study

John Lewis – a customer service case study

John Lewis are very well known for their brilliant customer service. How do they do it? This article tells the story behind the four key elements, as they see them. Please note, we are not John Lewis. To contact their customer services department, click here.

As Partners in the business, we want to provide the best possible choice, value and service to customers. To be able to do this consistently, we need to know what customers want, which means constantly finding opportunities to listen to them, being open to feedback, and acting quickly on what they tell us, particularly if we’ve got something wrong.

Many of our Partners have worked for the business for many years. They’re interested in what they sell, and have excellent product knowledge: all our Partners are trained on products, sales and service. We treat customers as individuals and take them through their purchases from start to finish: we are delighted that so many customers remark on our Partners’ friendliness and helpfulness.

We also use formal methods of research and feedback, such as customer surveys, panels, focus groups, online feedback forms and regular mystery shopping. These help us monitor levels of customer satisfaction and give us a broad spectrum of customer opinion to respond to.

Recognition for our Partners

The efforts of our Partners have led to the Partnership being recognised in multiple customer satisfaction surveys and awards. For example, in 2010, a survey by retail analysts, Verdict, saw John Lewis voted Britain’s favourite retailer for the third year running. The survey quizzed customers about where they shopped most frequently and asked them to rate those stores in terms of range, price, convenience, quality, service, ambience, facilities and layout. John Lewis has come either come first or second in the survey ever since it began back in 2000 (seven times first place, four times second place). John Lewis increased its overall satisfaction score since last year, and has now been ranked first for service for nine years. Waitrose have also featured in the top ten for many years and this year came fifth in the survey and top for food and grocery in the poll of over 6,000 shoppers.

Also in 2010, was named Best Online Retailer in an annual survey by consumer magazine Which?. We achieved impressive scores from a 14,000-strong panel of shoppers, topping the home and garden, electricals, baby and toddler and toys and games categories.

In 2009, the Partnership scooped two of the top three places in the UK Consumer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service. John Lewis came first and Waitrose third (behind the Fire Service) in the index which pegged ‘world class service’ at a customer satisfaction score of 80 per cent: John Lewis scored 90.9 and Waitrose 87.1 out of the maximum 100 rating. The study asked 25,000 consumers to rate service across 13 sectors, considering factors such as professionalism, quality and efficiency, ease of doing business, problem solving and timeliness. Waitrose was also voted ‘favourite supermarket’ in an online poll of 36,000 viewers of BBC1’s Watchdogprogramme, and by readers of Good Housekeeping magazine for the fourth time.

Our  partnership card™ credit card has also been recognised as the top UK credit card when it comes to the level of service it provides its cardholders. partnership card™ won the ‘Best Achievement in Customer Service’ award at The Card Awards 2009 in London. The award follows partnership card™, which was launched in 2003, topping the most recent Which? Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Survey for the second year running, as well as being voted Which? Best Credit Card Provider in June 2008.

Acting on customers’ feedback

We listen carefully to what our customers tell us. Although it is rare for a single customer suggestion to lead directly to change, when we hear similar views on an issue, or have a business opportunity suggested to us, we do our best to respond quickly. Customers’ views have driven the development of Waitrose’s By Invitation and WaitroseDeliver services, and Quick Check, our scan-as-you shop service. In John Lewis, we introduced name badges for selling Partners to make customer service more personal, in response to customers saying they wanted to remember who had helped them, in case they wanted to return for further help.

Building accessible shops and services

Whatever the format of our shops and services, we want to ensure all customers can access our products. We integrate the principles of accessibility into the design, construction and operation of our shops and services, and aim to meet each customer’s individual needs, whether they need assistance due to hearing, sight or mobility issues, or require information in different formats and languages.

Some of our stores are in old buildings, built before access for people with disabilities was fully considered. Changes to the Disability Discrimination Act ( ) mean that, since 2004, businesses and organisations, including retailers, must improve accessibility by taking reasonable steps to make it easier for disabled people to access their buildings.

A professional opinion

To meet the spirit as well as the letter of the DDA, we worked with an Accessibility consultant – Access Matters – on more than 200 access audits, looking at areas such as entrances and exits, customer catering facilities, fitting rooms and toilets, and improve access to our older buildings. We continue to review our service and physical access levels to ensure we meet the individual needs of all our customers.

John Lewis

When designing and building shops, we aim to make them accessible for all customers, and our Partners work hard to improve access and respond to customer feedback. To help disabled customers, we have reserved parking bays close to shop entrances where possible; and we have installed accessible lifts, toilets and till points, and mobile fixed hearing loops. We’ve made changes to signage and lighting, and are always looking to improve the layout of our shops to make them easier to get around. Customers can get our information leaflets in alternative formats, such as large print, Braille and audio CD.

Services we offer to all customers such as free delivery and purchase collection points are particularly helpful for disabled customers, and our multi-channel approach internet sites and call centres means people can access our goods and services without having to visit our shops.


Waitrose shops offer a wide range of facilities and services to make shopping easier for disabled customers, those with prams and pushchairs, and customers with other accessibility needs. These include: packing assistance at checkouts; accompanied shopping; customer collection points; carry-to-car services; wheelchairs; specialised trolleys; wide-access lifts where required; toilets for the disabled where space allows; hearing loops at customer service desks; clearer signage; designated parking areas; service call facilities at petrol stations; Quick Check, our scan-as-you shop service; self-pay checkouts; home delivery; and online ordering. We provide information leaflets, literature and corporate documents in alternative formats such as large print and audio CDs. Many of our Partners are specially trained to make it easier for them to help disabled customers.

Offering value

John Lewis: ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’

John Lewis aims to provide the best value on the high street by offering a wide range of great-quality products, which are fairly priced and supported by excellent service. Never Knowingly Undersold has represented this commitment to value since 1925 and remains central to our business. Our quality standards are high, we are committed to responsible sourcing and have a regular programme of benchmarking John Lewis branded products against the competition.

The wide range of products we sell means we can offer items to suit most budgets, from our value range launched in 2009 to exclusive products from the best British designers. And, with a dedicated team checking and matching the prices of our competitors, our prices are some of the most competitive on the high street, even during sales. Our Partners’ vested interest in our business success is reflected in the impartial advice and excellent after-sales support we provide. We have recently strengthened our Never Knowingly Undersold promotional material, to better communicate these value messages to our customers.

Download a copy of the John Lewis Never Knowingly Undersold leaflet (PDF size: 91KB).

Waitrose’s ‘Price Commitment’

Because Waitrose has such an enviable reputation for quality, and doesn’t try to grab the headlines with price-cuts the way other supermarkets do, it’s easy to assume that we’re expensive. This simply isn’t the case.

Each week we price check thousands of everyday items we all need to buy – like bread, toothpaste, milk, etc – against those in other supermarkets, to make sure our customers are getting consistently good value for money. Our Price Commitment is a promise to continue bringing you quality food that is honestly priced and represents excellent value. To reinforce this commitment, in 2009, the new ‘Essential Waitrose’ identity was launched across our range of own-brand, everyday products. The Essential Waitrose range provides an easily recognisable brand of products at affordable prices, without compromising the quality standards and sourcing integrity that customers expect from Waitrose.

We are committed to keeping prices for customers as low as possible, but not at any cost. We pay our suppliers fair prices, and believe in paying for quality: what food tastes like; where it comes from; whether it contains additives; and, if it’s an animal product, how the animals have been treated. Waitrose’s ‘Price Commitment’ is our promise to bring customers quality food that is honestly priced and represents excellent value. Each week we check the price of more than 350 of the everyday items like bread, toothpaste and milk against those in other supermarkets, to make sure our customers are getting consistently good value for money.

For more on John Lewis, including their approach to product development and consumer research, see their website here.

Every company offers more than its products. Whether it’s a piece of software or clothing, there’s also customer service behind it, and behind every customer service there are people. This article covers the top six customer service training tools that will help you turn new hires and even seasoned pros into communication experts.

In fact, effective customer service starts with effective hiring. But even if your new employees seem to be wolves of Wall Street, they will benefit from the right training too.

The tools described in this article will help you solve these tasks:

  1. Develop your employees’ knowledge and soft skills.
  2. Evaluate their results.
  3. Manage the training process.

Organize practice

Whether you’re training support specialists, sales reps or other customer service professionals, it’s crucial that they possess up-to-date information on the product. An uninformed employee can easily frustrate a customer, which eventually will come to no good.

To acquire knowledge and solidify it, your employees need practice. Of course, you could simply toss them in the mix, but using customers as “guinea pigs” may not be the best idea. Instead, try to use behavioral simulators that imitate real interaction with customers. This way your employees can practice in a safe environment and learn from mistakes that do no harm to anybody.

Apart from knowledge itself, simulators help train important soft skills, such as empathy, positivity, the ability to listen, and others. This type of training can teach employees how to cross-sell and handle delicate situations. It can also identify their knowledge and skill gaps and tell if they are ready for the real thing.

The following tools will help you launch simulation-based training.

1. iSpring TalkMaster 8

iSpring TalkMaster 8 allows users to create scenario-based dialogue simulations with voice overs that imitate real-life conversations. The software contains a ready-made collection of characters with different poses and emotions, as well as a location gallery. It’s also possible to upload custom images, for example, photos of familiar people and environments. Employees learn by choosing what to “say” to an interlocutor in a particular situation, and getting feedback based on their choice.

Users can choose to imitate various situations, such as a phone call from a bank client, a face-to-face conversation between a sales manager and a customer, or even a support chat or correspondence. Characters may check employees’ product knowledge, ask them perplexed questions to see if they understand or misread the problem, and even get irritated to test employees’ patience in a challenging situation.

The ready simulations can be published for the Web or an LMS. iSpring TalkMaster generates content in HTML5 and Flash, as well as SCORM, AICC, and xAPI learning standards.

Tip: A great way to test product knowledge is to use frequently asked questions. Evenif there’s an FAQ section on your website, it doesn’t mean clients will consult it before trying to contact the support center. After all, they are not called frequently asked questions for no reason.


iSpring TalkMaster is available for Microsoft Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP(SP3) operating systems. The software costs $497 and it is a one-time payment. It’s possible to try iSpring TalkMaster for free for 30 days.

See how far you can go in a sample dialogue simulation created with iSpring TalkMaster.

2. ITyStudio

ITyStudio allows users to create serious games and simulations without having to acquire programming or design skills. According to its developers, the only technical skills required are drag-and-drop, and right click. The software has a built-in library of animated characters and 2D and 3D environments that make simulations look extremely realistic. Apart from the characters themselves, learners can interact with objects and maps that redirect them to another scene of a simulation.

ITyStudio has a flexible scoring system that enables evaluation of various skills, such as empathy, engagement, staying focused, listening, and others. These criteria should be defined by a user and linked to certain scenes in a simulation. It’s also possible to customize specific feedback for each skill that will give learners insight into mastered skills and areas of improvement.

Overall, ITyStudio is made for developing highly interactive and engaging content, allowing learners to study in a game environment. At the same time, one shouldn’t underestimate the creation time, as there are a number of flexible settings to configure.


ITyStudio works as SaaS (software as a service), which means that it’s accessed from the Internet and can’t be downloaded. There are two subscription plans available: for $220/month and $400/month. The 30-day free trial provides users with the full content library and all types of scenes, but prohibits export and limits the number of scenes to 20.

3. Branch Track

Branch Track is another tool for creating scenario-based training. It’s a cloud-based solution, which means that all the simulations are created online in a browser. The drag-n-drop editor makes it easy to design a scenario tree and connect and move scenes. You can select from the built-in galleries of characters and environments, or import your own assets. All the characters are presented in different poses and emotions.

Apart from dialogue simulations, Branch Track allows you to create video-based scenarios. To do that, shoot a few clips and add them to the branching scenario. It’s also possible to brand the simulation by adjusting the visuals to match your corporate style.

Simulations created with Branch Track can be exported either to HTML5 for the Web, or SCORM for an LMS. However, the export option is only available under the Enterprise subscription plan.

The Branch Track solution looks similar to iSpring TalkMaster and shares a few common characters from the e-Learning Brothers library. With its higher price, Branch Track is more suitable for the enterprise sector rather than small businesses around the world. Plus, you literally don’t own content because it’s in the cloud, and there is no option to publish a dialogue simulation to a single Flash file to easily distribute it using your corporate mail. There is an option to download dialog simulations in the Enterprise subscription plan only.


A single-author license for Branch Track is $2,900/year with each additional author for $900/year. This plan covers 50 projects, branding, custom assets, voice over & video, online delivery, and email support. The Enterprise plan goes further and offers bulk pricing, teams, export to offline SCORM/HTML, personal account manager, custom onboarding and more. You can try Branch Track free for 14 days.

Evaluate results

Effective assessment will make both you and your employees aware of current knowledge gaps. Tests can help you monitor employees’ progress and measure training outcomes. It’s equally efficient to use a preliminary “placement test” to choose the right course for a particular employee. Finally, you can use interactive tests as an independent mode of instruction by providing learners with personalized feedback.

These pieces of software will help you create comprehensive tests and publish them for the Web or an LMS.

4. iSpring QuizMaker 8

iSpring QuizMaker 8 lets users choose from 23 types of graded and survey questions, such as Multiple Choice, Fill in the Blank, Matching and others. Apart from the questions themselves, learners can see various information slides and feedback messages, depending on the answers they give. These can include images, graphs, formulas, audio, video, and other relevant content.

iSpring QuizMaker is incredibly simple to use. Every question can be opened in a slide view mode (the way learners will see it). Flexible grading options include choosing a passing score, number of attempts, time limits, and more.

Tip: When talking by phone or communicating in a live chat, customer service professionals have to act quickly. To see how well prepared a learner is, you can try setting a time limit per specific question or the whole test.

iSpring QuizMaker publishes quizzes and surveys for the Web and LMSs. Those who don’t have an LMS can track learners’ results too: a detailed report with an answer breakdown can be sent to the indicated email or server.


A lifetime license for iSpring QuizMaker costs $397. The free trial version is available for 30 days.

An international leading wholesaler, METRO Cash and Carry, used iSpring QuizMaker to test product knowledge among its staff. You can read this case study here.

5. Articulate QuizMaker ’13

Articulate QuizMaker ’13 is powerful software for creating animated quizzes and surveys. Users can add illustrated or photographic characters from the integrated gallery. The tool has 25 question types, including freeform questions that allow users to transform any object into an assessment. As a result, tests created with Articulate QuizMaker are visually rich and engaging.

With Articulate QuizMaker it’s easy to test learners from all over the world. The software supports right-to left languages and double-byte character sets, which means that quizzes can be translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

The program’s interface is similar to that of iSpring QuizMaker. There are two development modes: a form view and a slide view. Any question slide can contain images, audio and video. There are also a number of animation effects to choose from.


Articulate Storyline is available for Microsoft Windows 10/8/7/Vista/2003/XP and Mac OS X 10.7.0 or later with Parallels Desktop 9+ or VMware Fusion 6+. A lifetime license costs $699, and further upgrades require additional payment. You can try the program for free for 30 days.

For more information on these and other tools, check out this comparison of the top five test makers.

Manage customer service training

Now that you have created e-Learning materials, it’s high time to assign them to learners and monitor their progress. To automate the management and tracking of your training courses, use an LMS. Whether your company resides in the same office or all around the globe, a centralized system will help you keep control of any number of learners.

6. iSpring Learn LMS

This system is perfectly integrated with the aforementioned iSpring authoring tools. Unlike with other LMSs, iSpring desktop tools allow direct one-click publishing to iSpring Learn right from the program interface. The integration also provides users with an advanced set of customizable reports, including user activity, performance summary, and others.

Apart from iSpring-created content, users can upload any SCORM- or xAPI compatible courses, videos, Flash clips, audio, and supplementary documents (in PDF, DOC, XLS, and PPT). There are simply no limits on the number of hosted files.

Both administrators and learners in iSpring Learn access content from a convenient content library. The account can be customized and branded to match any corporate style. Overall, the system has a user-friendly and intuitive interface with all the main options displayed on a left-hand menu.


The price for iSpring Learn LMS depends on the number of active users, and starts from $127 per month. You can try iSpring Learn for free for 14 days.


There are different ways to train customer service professionals, and different types of tools. Use dialogue simulators to develop product knowledge and practice in a safe environment. Simulations are all about making the right decision at the right time, just like in real life. Use a test making tool to identify employees’ achievements and knowledge gaps. Finally, an LMS will help you assign training and monitor the results.

You can go further and create comprehensive, informative courses for your new hires and seasoned professionals. To learn more about authoring tools, check out this detailed comparison of iSpring Suite 8, Articulate Storyline 2 and Adobe Captivate 9.


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