Customer service has evolved into a true science, and, like any other science, it requires training. On the other hand, products have become sophisticated and customers have become demanding – you just cannot handle a customer service job without somebody guiding and training you.
Ideally, a company that has a customer service department should start training its agents from day one. By training, we do not mean only the technical side of the job – although, it is an important part of each new employee onboarding – but also more abstract concepts that lie in the area of company culture.
Which goals can you achieve with customer service training? They are quite numerous:
- Introduce the employee to the company. The customer service training program should include information about the company’s history, values, goals, and culture. If you expect people to represent your business, they should know what it is and how it developed.
- Explain the agent’s job responsibilities. The training should give a clear idea of what is expected of an employee and what their working routine will be like. However, do not paint an excessively bright picture. Everyone knows that customer service is hard work, and yours is no exception. Be realistic.
- Let the agents get familiar with the hard- and software that they will be using every day. Show how everything works and make sure to include a lot of practical exercises.
- Describe the system of customer service KPIs and performance metrics that you use, explain their measurement principles and effect, and show the ways to improve them. Your agents should know what to aim at.
We at HelpCrunch see the importance of proper customer service training and train our reps as soon as they join us. We build our customer service training programs using our own software but do not hesitate to adopt ideas and solutions of other companies or experts.
Today, we decided to share some of the customer service training materials that we consider the best in their league. We tried to evaluate their effectiveness and estimate their implementation cost. Well, read on and see for yourself.
Why is customer service training important?
Trained professionals do their job well. This is true for any industry, not only customer service.
However, the benefits of customer service training for employees are much wider:
- Higher personnel engagement and motivation
- Higher agents’ confidence
- Better brand awareness
- Higher customer satisfaction
- More positive customer feedback
- Increased viral marketing opportunities
Proper training has a positive effect on all areas of your business – from the working environment to sales figures. Let’s see how you can organize training for your reps and which customer service training materials you can use.
Customer service training process
Like every process, the organization of customer service training includes preparation, conducting and analysis of the results. In our case, we can interpret these stages as follows:
1. Define the customer service KPIs that you need to improve or achieve.
This will help you outline the training program focusing on achieving the KPIs you found.
2. Identify the customer service skills that you need to train.
Each company has its own specifics; moreover, you may have several departments in your customer service. Sales and complaints handling might need different skills. Take some time to outline the required skill set.
3. Conduct the customer service training.
Based on the skill set you identified and using the appropriate customer service materials, you can prepare and conduct training that nails it.
4. Measure results and repeat if necessary.
Use the customer service KPIs to evaluate your reps’ progress and plan follow-up training sessions on the subjects that require improvement.
Customer service training materials
Let’s see what you can use in your training.
1. Customer service training ideas & tips
Do a personality test
This activity may be the first in your series of customer training exercises. Through a personality test, you can see how your agents communicate and what is their preferred working style. While a personality test is not a customer training activity in its pure sense, it helps to better understand the personality traits of your service reps and assign tasks more effectively.
There are many personality tests out there, and you can choose the one – or several – that fits your purposes best. One of the most popular is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which is more than half a century old but is still valid.
During the test, people complete a questionnaire providing the answers that are then used to identify each person as belonging to a certain psychological type. There are 16 of them, but to keep the long story short, let’s just say the MBTI helps to determine whether a person is an extrovert or introvert, guided by feeling or thinking, relies on senses or intuition. Sounds useful in a customer service job, doesn’t it?
Conduct a product knowledge session
This should rank as a must-have in any customer service training activities. Without knowing the product, your agents will not be able to provide quality customer service. Invest some time and effort to prepare a product knowledge program and include it in your customer service training materials.
Depending on your business area and the product as such, the format and content of your product knowledge program may vary greatly – from real or virtual tours to software demos and practical exercises. Try to sell your product to your service reps showcasing its advantages – and they will be able to explain them to customers from their first-hand experience.
A good idea is to finish a product knowledge course with a test that, again, can have different formats – a quiz, a task, a request to prepare a product demo. Anything that helps your agents organize their knowledge of your product will do.
Cost: may vary depending on the type of product and the chosen presentation format. Even if there are costs related to the preparation of the product knowledge program, they become an investment in your own business.
2. Customer service training programs, seminars & courses
Another way of organizing customer service training for your employees is enrolling them in the training programs prepared by professionals or financing their attendance of special seminars and courses.
Customer Service Representative Training by Service Strategies
Service Strategies is focused on consulting, training, and certification in the industry of service. The company offers many training courses for different service skills, positions, and levels. If you are choosing a course that can help your agents achieve better performance, we recommend that you consider Customer Service Representative Training.
Within this program, Service Strategies provides on-site courses, but this format requires gathering a group of attendees which may be inefficient in your particular case. On the other hand, there is an online individual course that each of your employees can complete at their comfortable pace.
The course includes both theory and practice with a number of interactive exercises recreating real-life situations. Upon completion, the students will gain the skills needed to handle customer communications – and those are not always easy or positive – and be able to deliver top-quality customer service.
Cost: $199,00 for an online course
Communication Training by SkillPath
Communication occupies one of the top ranks in customer service skills training. In customer service, poor communication means disaster – unhappy customers, negative feedback, unfavorable reviews. Thus, communication training should become your priority in organizing an effective educational program for your agents.
SkillPath has been on the market of workforce training for three decades and has earned a reputation of a company that delivers on its promise. Their enterprise training suite includes Communication Training – a course that teaches all aspects of quality communication. The program covers everything from listening and diplomacy to public speaking and presentation.
After the course, your reps will be more confident in their communication with both the customers and their colleagues. Bringing communication to a higher level can have a positive effect on the overall company performance.
Cost: upon request
3. Customer service training videos
In your internal customer service training, you can use videos as examples of customer service excellence. Many successful companies share their ideas of training their personnel in motivational videos that you can also include in your training program.
Ritz Carlton Customer Service Tips
Few companies invested more in training their customer service representatives than Ritz Carlton. This luxury hotel chain does everything to make each stay a great experience for their customers, and the quality of customer service plays one of the key parts.
In organizing customer service, Ritz Carlton takes a no-nonsense approach of setting Gold Standards that both ensure the guests’ comfort and excellent service and maintain the employees’ dignity and self-respect. One of the first things the hotel chain teaches its representatives is “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”. Any business can benefit from such an approach, won’t you agree?
This and other nuggets of Ritz Carlton’s customer service wisdom are in the following video:
Don Crawley’s videos on IT customer service
These videos will be especially interesting for companies offering software products and maintaining a service to help customers with their IT solutions. Don Crawley is an expert in IT customer service and teamwork, and his motivational videos and posts are focused on the issues that may arise specifically in this industry.
Don Crawley’s YouTube channel is a wealth of videos that view the IT customer service issues from different angles – how to deal with an angry customer, how to show that you care, how to resolve conflicts effectively. You can choose virtually any of them to include in your training program. We recommend starting with “Top 10 Ways to Be a Great Listener: Customer Service Training 101” below. To a large extent, customer service is about listening, isn’t it?
4. Customer service training games & exercises
We are all grown-up people here, but even grown-up people learn better when knowledge is delivered in the form of a game or a funny exercise. The customer service skills can be trained through many activities that relax the atmosphere and give your agents a chance to reboot a bit while still learning.
Most customer service training exercises require little or no special equipment or materials, thus, their cost is next to nothing.
Role-playing is included in most customer service training programs. Have one of your agents step “into a customer’s shoes” and act the part. Have another agent respond to the situation. Afterwards, you can propose the entire group to analyze how the communication went, what was brilliant and what could be improved.
Customer service training scenarios are literally endless. An angry customer, a distracted customer, an “expert” customer, a polite but scrupulous customer – we have them all and much more. Play different scenarios to see which techniques work best in each particular case. Of course, let all your students be both a “customer” and a “rep”.
Never say “never”
Sometimes customers want impossible things. The true art of customer communication is to refuse without openly saying “no” or “we can’t”. This exercise can help your agents turn a negative scenario into a positive one and leave the customer with options rather than close the door in their face.
Ask your group to think of a couple of requests, both realistic and downright impossible. Then, ask each student to voice their request to a colleague who has to refuse without saying “no” even once. The exercise teaches you to say what you can do instead of what you cannot do.
Instead of saying “No, we do not have a free trial” say “We have a very flexible starter package”. Instead of saying “We can’t give you a discount on this” say “Let’s review your requirements to the service and see if another pricing plan may be suitable for you”. You get the idea.
Ask one of your agents a question that will seem to come “out of the blue”, for example: “Can you stand very hot weather?” Let the person answer but do not provide any other details.
Then ask another person the same question but provide a wider context: “We are opening a new branch in a tropical country. It is warm there all year round and summers can get really hot. We are looking for customer service agents to offer a transfer to that branch and want to make sure that they are comfortable with it. Can you stand very hot weather?”
You will notice that people are much more willing to provide information when they know why it is needed. Your customers feel the same. Thus, try to always give context when you ask something. For example, if you want to ask how many users of the product the company has, explain first that each pricing plan is intended for a certain number of users, and that may be the reason why the application does not work for a new user.
5. Customer service software
Your customer service must use a software solution to communicate with customers and monitor the performance. Depending on your business specifics, you may have several tools, each for a particular function, or an all-in-one solution, like HelpCrunch, that serves multiple purposes and has all the features needed.
Cost: from $15/mo/team member
In any case, you will need to train your reps to use it effectively and to make the most of it. Set up practical exercises that will allow your personnel to feel how the tool works. Let them talk to each other in a live chat, practice composing various automated messages from templates, explore the knowledge base. Such practice will help your agents in real-life customer communications when they will be using the tool by “muscle memory” giving their full attention to the customer and their problem.
On a final note
Training, certainly, has its cost in both the financial and resource sense. You need to engage experts, prepare the training materials, set up rooms and equipment and allocate trainers to conduct the courses. However, the customer service training costs are, rather, an investment. You are investing in your service agents’ professionalism which leads to confidence which, in its turn leads to loyalty and dedication. And you can’t have too much of those, can you?
Check these 7 elements of topnotch customer service management to make sure you're nailing it.