Tricks of the Trade: Tips for Facilitators - Encouraging Participation in Class

By Gregg Barratt

Thank you for sharing your questions and comments with me. I frequently receive questions from MAGIC facilitators about encouraging participation in classes and among individuals. In this issue, I will address two such questions.
  1. Gregg, what can we do when someone shows up for class having just been told by a supervisor that they have to attend? The participant then informs you he has no idea why he is there and he doesn't think he can get anything out of a customer service program. Have any ideas?

  2. Sometimes when I am doing the skill practices in the MAGIC session, the group's energy level seems to drag and it is tough to get it back. I know I need to update our skills practices, but what else can I do to keep things alive?


For Gregg's advice to these two facilitators read on. Please feel free to share your own challenges for our next Tricks of the Trade: Tips for Facilitators.
 

1. Gregg, what can we do when someone shows up for class having just been told by a supervisor that they have to attend? He then informs you he has no idea why he is there and he doesn't think he can get anything out of a customer service program. Have any ideas?

We work hard before the MAGIC program starts to create alignment with management and to develop a communication plan to minimize these situations, yet they still occur. It is our responsibility, as facilitators, to overcome this obstacle and gain participant support and buy-in, even from the most challenging participants.
 

Here are three tips that have worked well for me to gain participant support:

  1. W.I.I.F.M.: I communicate the W.I. I. F.M. (What's In It For Me), in my introduction to MAGIC. I spend time talking about what we are going to do and what we are not going to do. This clarifies any preconceived notions they may have and helps to gain support from the participants.

    I make a clear statement that MAGIC is not a telephone customer service program and that it is a program about building relationships. I reinforce one of the core principles of MAGIC -- everyone is your customer and every interaction creates an impression. With this in mind, the skills developed through MAGIC training are skills that help them become more effective with everyone -- not just the “external customer.” I even use a personal example of a difficult customer in my family and how I use MAGIC to get off the phone more quickly while still creating a great impression! 
     
  2. F.E.A.R.: No, I do not try to make the participants fear me as a facilitator; rather, I get rid of their F.E.A.R. (False Expectations Appearing Real). I explain that MAGIC is not a program that “scripts” what people are supposed to say nor does it tell them exactly how to respond to what they hear. MAGIC offers ideas, tools, and techniques that will help them be more effective interpersonally. I emphasize that we are not interested in creating robots that say and do the same things. We want to bring out the MAGIC in each person and let individual personalities shine while they deliver exceptional service.
     
  3. Developmental: Lastly, I explain that MAGIC is developmental and not evaluative. In other words, I do not go around the room after each skill practice and say who was good, bad, or indifferent. In fact, I don't typically share the scores on the skill practices unless asked by the participant or the client. I tend to only share positive and constructive feedback on the 33 points of MAGIC. I also encourage a learning mindset and highlight that my goal is to help participants do their jobs better and reduce their stress levels.

I often find that once this is explained, people seem to relax, become less apprehensive, and be more willing to participate. 

 

2.  Gregg, sometimes when I am doing the skill practices in the MAGIC session, the group's energy level seems to drag and it is tough to get it back. I know I need to update our skill practices, but what else can I do to keep things alive?

Much of the impact of the skill practices depends on the participants -- their energy level, their interest in the program, as well as their willingness to practice the MAGIC skills. I have found that if I am able to keep the momentum going through the skill practices, I see a dramatic effect on the participants' and the program's success as a whole. 
 

Here are a few suggestions to keep everyone engaged:

  • Focus on the How: Even after you update your skill practice sheets, you might find that participants get bogged down in the technical aspects of the call, causing the interaction to drag on. If you see this happening, stop the action and encourage them to come up with another challenging situation on their own. Remind the group that the focus is not on the “what” or the knowledge part of the call. Reinforce that the skill practice is to focus on the “how,” which is key to customer perception.
     
  • Give Examples Unrelated to the Particular Organization: You may want to experiment with doing a skill practice that has nothing to do with the organization at all. I realize this may seem a bit radical, but I have found that it works. It also clearly demonstrates that the skills learned in MAGIC apply everywhere.  Examples I have used in the past include: a cable company interaction, a hotel reservation issue, a call to question a credit card charge, and, my personal favorite, a complaint call to a cell phone company.
     
  • Encourage Active Listening Among All Participants: While one pair is doing a skill practice, I have the other participants listen actively and score certain sections to keep them involved. For example, you can have three or four participants look for point #'s 1-7 and others listen for #'s 8-16 and so on. When the skill practice is completed, you can seek their feedback. This process will not only keep all of the participants involved, but it will reinforce the 33 points of MAGIC on every call.
     
  • Use Yourself as a Demonstrator: If you get really stuck, offer to role play with one of the participants to demonstrate what you are looking for. This also builds your credibility with the group. Of course, you better be MAGIC!
     
  • Bring Samples: Bring a pre-recorded tape with a sample skill practice to every program. You can play it and let them hear what you are looking for in terms of call length, type of complaint, and employee response. I have found that this can be very helpful, especially if the call is realistic and contains lots of tragic phrases. If you ever get a really amusing and engaging skill practice from a participant in a MAGIC class, ask permission for you to keep the tape and share it with other classes.
These tips will help you to maintain a higher energy level in the classroom and, in turn, encourage greater participation making for a more successful MAGIC program.

If you have additional ideas or practices you use to encourage participation, or if you have any questions of your own, please share and help build a strong MAGIC community. Feel free to e-mail your responses to us at info@communicoltd.com so that we can all learn from each other.
 
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