Whanganui businesses wanting to improve their customer service can take advantage of a free training programme.

Tertiary education provider Training For You is providing the programme as part of a government-funded workplace training initiative, particularly targeting staff who may have customer service as only a small part of their role. Participants in the first course recently graduated.

Tutor Diane Paterson said Training For You worked with employers to tailor programmes to meet workplace needs.

"We incorporate the employer's workplace documents, processes and tasks so that participants can directly apply the skills they develop," she said.

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The training includes, amongst other topics, effective listening skills, assertive communication and handling difficult customers. The programme is held in weekly two-hour sessions.

Graduates of the first course said they had learned new skills and confidence.

Renee Martin, of Parkwood Doors, attended the programme to address the challenges she faced in dealing with customers over the phone.

"Before I did this course I felt very scared to answer the phone because I wouldn't know how to answer [the caller's] questions. Now, I have full confidence in answering the phone."

Richard Tidbury, of Pirtek, was initially unsure how the programme would benefit him.

"There are certainly things I've learned on this course that have added to my current skills and experience - such as self-awareness, using empathy and the importance of responding instead of reacting."

Appliance Repair Care managing director Njela Turia said the positive impact had immediate results for her business.

"Following completion of the training, I've had some great feedback from our staff member Bruce Peterson and I've even had customers call up to rave about Bruce and request that only he visits their house. So it's a 'win' for us."

• Inquiries about the customer service training programme can be made to dianep@trainingforyou.co.nz or by phone on 349 0047.