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We've all experienced bad customer service at some point, and we know how frustrating it can be. Whether waiting on hold for hours or being transferred from one department to another, poor customer service can leave a lasting impression and even drive customers away.
But what about the businesses behind the scenes? What can you do to ensure your employees are providing top-notch customer service? This is where customer service training comes in.
In this article, we'll provide practical solutions and benefits of customer service training that you can use to improve your support and keep your customers happy. Let's start with the possible perks of customer service training courses and customer service training materials.
What is customer service training?
Customer service training is the process of teaching employees (customer service agents, to be exact) how to interact with customers professionally and effectively, and it's critical for organizations that want to create a culture of service excellence.
Think about the last time you received exceptional customer service. The customer service agent may have listened attentively to your problem and provided a quick and effective solution. Or they went above and beyond to make you feel valued and appreciated. Whatever the case, that positive experience most likely left you satisfied and willing to do business with that company again.
Imagine if all customer service experiences were like that.
Benefits of customer service training
Well-planned, well-executed, and effective customer service will change your business for good in a positive way. What's next on the list of possible benefits?
- Improved customer satisfaction. When customer service employees are trained to handle customer inquiries and issues with care and empathy, customers are more likely to feel heard and valued. As I mentioned before, this positive experience can translate into increased loyalty and repeat business.
- Increased sales and revenue. Happy customers are more likely to recommend your business to others, which can lead to new customers. Additionally, well-trained customer service managers and agents can identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell products and services, increasing your bottom line.
- Reduced employee turnover. Customer service agents who feel valued and supported through training will likely stay with the company long-term. This can save you time and money on recruiting and training new hires. Employee loyalty at its finest!
- Effective communication. When the customer service team is trained in communication skills, they are better equipped to handle customer inquiries and concerns, leading to smoother interactions and more positive outcomes. Effective communication is the foundation for every single great customer service team.
- Enhanced brand reputation. Positive customer experiences can help build a strong brand reputation, while negative experiences can have the opposite effect. By investing in customer service training programs, you can create a positive reputation and stand out.
- Better problem-solving skills. When faced with a challenging customer issue, a well-trained customer service agent can draw upon their training and experience to find a solution that satisfies the customer and aligns with company policies.
- Increased employee morale. Customer service representatives who feel supported and valued through training are likelier to feel engaged and motivated. This can lead to a more positive work environment and improved overall performance.
Investing in customer service training benefits your business and keeps your employees happy and engaged. Win-win!
Types of customer service training
Customer service training can be a daunting task, but fear not! There are many ways to make the process more engaging and effective for everyone involved. Gather around all the customer service reps, and let the fun begin!
But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of customer service training :
- Role-playing exercises: Remember those awkward drama class exercises from high school? They can be a surprisingly effective tool for customer service training. By practicing customer interactions in a safe and controlled environment, employees can improve their skills and feel more confident when faced with real customers. It's also a great way to strengthen their soft skills, active listening, and emotional intelligence.
- E-learning modules: In today's digital age, e-learning modules have become increasingly popular for customer service training. These modules can be completed at an employee's own pace and tailored to fit the specific needs of a company or individual customer service agent.
- Classroom training: This is for those who like to reminisce about “the good old days” in school. The traditional method of classroom training is still widely used, and for a good reason. In-person instruction allows for group activities, discussions, and real-time feedback, making it an excellent option for the customer service team that thrives in a hands-on learning environment.
- Coaching and mentoring: One-on-one coaching sessions with customer service managers or experienced employees can provide personalized guidance and support. This training type can benefit employees who need additional attention and help.
- Gamification: Who says learning can't be fun? Gamification uses game-like elements such as points, badges, and leaderboards to create a competitive and engaging learning environment. Personally, I'm really into the kind of learning where you're rewarded with achievements and trophies. This can be especially effective for younger or more tech-savvy employees who respond well to interactive and immersive experiences. So here's your catch to make exceptional customer service training, especially if your team consists primarily of millennials and Gen Z.
- Feedback and performance metrics: Finally, regular feedback and performance metrics can help customer service agents identify areas for improvement and celebrate success. Whether through annual performance reviews or ongoing feedback sessions, regularly checking in on progress is critical to maintaining a successful customer service training program.
The key elements of effective customer service training
Now that we've explored the different types of customer service training, let's talk about what makes a training program effective. Here are some key elements to keep in mind:
- Clear goals and objectives: Establishing clear goals and objectives for your training program is essential. This helps employees understand what they should learn and provides a roadmap for measuring success.
- Engaging and interactive learning experiences: As I mentioned earlier, customer service training can be exciting. You can make learning more engaging and effective by incorporating interactive elements.
- Relevant and up-to-date content: Make sure the content of your training program is relevant and up-to-date. This ensures that employees learn the latest and most important information and can apply it to real-life situations. Don't spoil the fun by bringing up real-life examples using old memes. It's all about quality customer service training!
- A supportive and encouraging learning environment: Learning can be challenging, so such an environment is crucial. This can include providing regular feedback, recognizing employees' progress, and providing opportunities for practice and improvement. It's also an opportunity to test your communication skills and hone your relations with the customer service team.
- Continuous evaluation and improvement: Evaluating and improving your training program is essential. This can be done through employee feedback, regular assessment of the program's effectiveness, and staying up-to-date with the latest training trends and best practices. By doing so, you can ensure that your customer service training program is constantly evolving and improving.
An example of a customer service training plan
I will review our methods to train LiveChat Support Heroes to better understand how you can organize customer service training. We came up with and refined the whole process over several years of training new agents for our customer service.
Here's what worked for us and can also work for you.
1. Start with a big list of tasks
Everything starts with hiring a new agent. Once we hire someone, we send them a extensive to-do list they must complete within two months.
The to-do list includes stuff like:
- setting up all communication channels and accounts (Gmail, Slack, LiveChat, etc.),
- reading up on our product and the resources we have available on our website (knowledge base, ebooks),
- learning from past conversations to get a good feeling for the flow of support chats.
2. Straight to chat
We primarily use the field training method, meaning new agents start chatting immediately. Since we usually don't hire more than one person at a time for a support position (because we got pretty good at anticipating our support needs), it produces good results because the new hire gets all the attention.
The bigger your support is, the less viable this method will be, so it's best for small and medium businesses.
3. Only one at a time
New LiveChat support agents start chatting right off the bat. Initially, they handle one chat at a time, so they don't have to stress out over unanswered questions and have plenty of time to find answers.
4. Help is always at hand
There's always someone more experienced nearby to provide some vital tips and help with the more difficult questions. Are there any other options? A "whispering" option is also available, which lets other agents help online. They can see the conversation and type their answer inside the chat - the answer is only visible to agents.
5. Shorter workdays at the beginning
Since there's much to learn in the first few days, we don't force agents to work the full 9-5 shift. Usually, we limit the training to 4-5 hours since there's a limit to how much knowledge a person can absorb in one sitting.
6. When to move to more advanced stuff
After the first 2-3 weeks, we move on to more technical matters: support. There's a technical training session, followed by a technical task and another round of technical training.
7. Giving new agents a taste of different shifts
When it comes to the hours when new agents work, we give them the full experience. This means we want them to work on each shift at least once, including the graveyard shift.
8. When the training ends
The training ends when the new hire starts catching up with the rest of the team regarding various customer service KPIs. For example, if the average customer satisfaction of our chats is 90% and the new agent is consistently getting around 85–88% average satisfaction rate, we clear them for full-time work. This takes about two months and usually coincides with completing the to-do list.
After the training, the wheels are off, and the one-chat limit is removed.
Customer service training tips
Here are a few additional tips that helped us prepare, implement, and flesh out our customer service training program:
1. Make sure your agents know how to find answers
One of the first tasks new agents should complete is determining where they can get an answer or who can help them when dealing with specific cases.
It's even more important than learning the answers themselves. Since it's impossible to learn everything by heart before talking with customers, it would be more useful if they knew where to look. This takes less time and provides the same results.
For example, all our agents learn what kind of articles we have available in our knowledge base or what kind of chat window customizations we have stored in our internal CSS library.
2. Using tools and resources
You can use tools like Todoist or Trello to keep a shared to-do list to help you better coordinate different tasks. We found out that a simple shared Google Doc works too, and can help you plan the work of new agents.
You can set up a Slack account for the support team to facilitate faster team communication. Besides improving their communication, new agents can immediately get help when a more challenging case arises.
We've also set up a shared Amazon account where we have many books on customer service and ecommerce available. We also offer additional training opportunities like a programming course.
3. Pay more attention to the most common cases
It would be best to spend more time explaining the problems that come up often. Since it will make up the bulk of an agent's work, spending extra time on these cases to ensure they know how to solve them makes sense.
For example, if you tend to get a lot of questions about applying a discount code to an order, ensure the new hires know how to do that.
4. Customer service training is not only for support
Every person in your company can benefit from customer service training. They can get first-hand knowledge about customer problems and use cases by dealing directly with your customers. Later on, this will turn into delivering a better product and service.
The training doesn't have to be as extensive as in the case of a support agent. Focusing on getting the customer's perspective instead of the methods used to solve specific problems is more important.
For example, at LiveChat, we have a 2-week mandatory customer service training for anyone working in marketing. This was introduced to ensure that new marketers are aware of the customers’ needs and can address them in their marketing campaigns.
5. Make sure the new agents don't work alone
Keep checking up on new agents. If you leave them alone for too long without help, they will get stuck.
You can shadow their customer interactions to provide pointers and useful tips on what they can improve. You can also check their conversation history for cases with bad ratings to find what they still need to work on.
6. Hand out homework assignments
The training doesn't have to end when the new hire leaves your office. Since you should initially limit the amount of in-the-office work to a couple of hours, this gives agents time to learn additional skills.
For example, when new LiveChat agents go home after a few hours of chatting, we encourage them to check out a few HTML tutorials to employ this knowledge the next time they come to the office.
The warm-up is done. Time for intense exercise!
Well, folks, we've ended our customer service training journey! Let's recap the benefits of this training: happy customers, increased sales, reduced turnover, better communication, enhanced reputation, improved problem-solving skills, and higher morale. And remember the key elements of practical training, such as clear goals, engaging experiences, and up-to-date content.
If you haven't already, invest in customer service training for your organization. Your customers and your employees will thank you! With the proper training, you'll be able to tackle any customer service challenge that comes your way, and you'll do it with a smile on your face (well, most of the time). So what are you waiting for? Let's get training!