In a day and age where instant gratification is the norm, it’s still surprisingly common to come across companies that are colossally failing in the customer service department.
A lot of them are oblivious about the benefits of providing multiple channels of communications, or about using automating software to make their customer service reps' lives easier. But it would behoove any business owner to also pay close attention to the training they provide.
At the end of the day, you can invest all you want in fancy customer relationship management (CRM) tools and omni-channel communications. But if you fall short in providing adequate training, you’re just flushing money down the drain. How so? Glad you asked.
What Is Customer Service Training?
Customer service training is the process by which you coach your team to optimize customer satisfaction. While it sounds straightforward, it’s anything but that.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and you have to keep in mind several aspects to provide proper training. Things to keep in mind include:
- How to use CRM tools
- Information resources
- Product and services knowledge
- The extent of the reps’ authority to make decisions
- Emotional intelligence
- Crisis management
This type of training is crucial for your business’ success, since at the end of the day, happy customers are what leads to referrals and a stellar reputation. In fact, with so many businesses competing for the same target market, people often make purchasing decisions based on a company’s customer service.
Why Customer Service Training Matters: 5 Benefits
Customer service is everything. And that’s not hyperbole. When you take a closer look at the benefits it brings, it becomes clear that it’s not just another expense, but a necessity.
In fact, it’s an investment in your business.
1. It Costs Less to Retain Customers Than Get New Ones.
While it’s crucial to have a marketing budget and related plan to attract new leads, it’s important to keep in mind that keeping existing customers requires a lower investment.
In fact, the cost of marketing has significantly increased in the past couple of years; so making an effort to provide customer satisfaction can help you keep your costs down.
2. Happy Customers Refer You To Their Friends and Families.
Eighty one percent of people trust the advice of friends and family when it comes to choosing a business from which to purchase from. In fact, they trust it more than whatever fancy advertising strategy you can come up with.
3. Satisfied Customers Are Willing To Pay More.
No matter the goods or services you’re offering, chances are high that you have plenty of competitors. And what can make you stand out from all of them is how customers feel when they interact with your business.
In fact, when they feel appreciated, they are willing to pay a premium for products or services, and are even willing to try additional services.
4. You Cultivate Brand Loyalty.
Once a customer has been with you for a significant period of time, you get the chance to develop ongoing relationships with them. Greeting them by name, offering a personalized experience, and doing anything you can to make their interactions with you enjoyable — all of these things keeps them engaged and willing to stay with you long term.
5. You See Increased Profits.
When you take into account all benefits of customer satisfaction — lower costs to retain existing customers, more referrals, and a willingness to pay more than what they would pay to competitors with mediocre service — it becomes clear that if you want to increase your profits, providing stellar customer service should always be part of your strategy.
Important Customer Service Soft Skills to Hire and Train For
In order for your customer service training program to be successful and effective, you will need to incorporate a multitude of different elements. Customer service is a complicated industry, and providers need a wide skill set to be able to do their job well.
Your training program will need to be well rounded in order to teach employees the necessary skills for success; therefore every element listed below should be included in your program.
Lacking one of these essential factors could ultimately be the downfall of your team’s ability to provide quality customer service to your clients.
1. Active Listening
A crucial skill for providing good customer service, active listening and communication shape a customer’s entire experience with your support team.
There’s nothing customers hate more than a passive attitude from a service provider. Train your team to be engaged in conversations with customers by instructing them to ask the right questions and summarize information back to the customer.
The customer needs to feel like the service provider genuinely cares about the situation at hand; otherwise they’ll likely walk away more frustrated than when they arrived. They may also return your product and do business with one of your competitors.
And if that weren’t fun enough for you, they will complain about their experience to their friends and family — maybe even leave you negative reviews in multiple online platforms. Nip this problem in the bud. Train your team on doing this right.
One of the most frustrating things a customer can experience when calling customer service is to pour their heart and soul about what’s bothering them about the product or service, only for the rep to reply with a canned: “I’m sorry for your inconvenience.” And then they go on to state inapplicable or unhelpful statements they memorized from a script.
The ability to express empathy is a crucial skill for positive customer service. Your team should be able to understand a customer’s frustrations and relate to them.
When a service provider expresses empathy, it makes the customer feel understood and valued, which makes for a much more positive experience.
In order to train your team to harbor and express empathy, encourage them to put themselves in the customer's shoes. This will help them better understand the customer's frustrations, and react to them in a more compassionate manner.
3. Product Knowledge
Having expert knowledge of your products and services is perhaps the most basic of the essential skills necessary for providing quality customer support.
If a team member can’t answer a customer’s questions about the features of a product, then they’ll be unhelpful and will quickly frustrate the customer.
Education about the details of all your products and services should be at the base of your customer service training program. You should also provide every employee with a product guide that they can refer back to at any time.
4. Crisis Management
When a customer is angry, things can get ugly. But no matter what’s going on, customer service providers need to be graceful under pressure. They are often forced to manage high-stress situations and mediate irate customers, so they need to have patience, confidence, and the ability to resolve complicated challenges.
Make sure that your team is prepared to handle the worst situations, like recalls or company emergencies. If you guide your employees through the steps they need to take when an unexpected crisis arises, they’ll be prepared to handle almost any situation.
And if the situation needs to be escalated to management, provide them with ways to do so in the most diplomatic way possible.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to evaluate and manage emotions. This skill is helpful to develop self-awareness, pick up on emotional cues, and defuse conflict.
All of these factors are important to make a customer feel heard. They also help your team to manage stressful encounters.
This may sound like a cliché, but the reality is that working in customer service can be taxing. Therefore, it’s imperative that every single one of your reps enjoys what they do for a living.
Having a knack for finding ways to make customers happy will come across in every interaction. It can be the difference between someone going all Karen on them and asking to speak with the manager and someone waxing poetic about the outstanding service they received.
What Should You Include in Customer Service Training?
Company’s Mission, Vision, and Values
As representatives of your company who directly interact with your customers, all of your support providers should communicate in a way that is synonymous with your brand and company vision. If your employees act poorly toward your customers, it reflects badly on your business.
Make sure you cover the company’s core values within your training program so employees know how to behave within those important guidelines at all times.
For example, here at Bluleadz one of our core values is "treat everyone with respect, honesty, and consideration." Our team takes this to heart and always communicates with each other and our clients in a way that honors this core value. We are always honest and transparent with our clients, and treat them with the utmost respect and consideration, no matter the situation.
Your customer service reps have to be well versed in explaining everything in easy to understand terms. It’s also essential to communicate everything clearly to avoid misunderstandings or for the customer to end up feeling even more confused.
Effective communication skills will leave customers feeling reassured that their concerns are being addressed.
Customer service can be a tough industry to work in, as support providers are often dealing with frustrated, complaining customers all day.
This is why it’s essential to include self-care training in your program, so your employees can positively handle the stress factors that come with their job.
Encourage them to incorporate healthy relaxation practices like meditation, breathing exercises, or physical exercise into their daily routine. You can even foster these healthier habits by providing PTO and gym/fitness memberships as part of your benefits.
This isn’t so much a training exercise to include in your program, but it’s a good idea to implement team building practices into your work environment.
Company culture makes a big impact in employee work experiences, and encouraging camaraderie among your team will greatly improve their happiness and, thus, their performance.
Your service members will likely need to work together to come up with a solution to some problems. Additionally, positive support provided by fellow team members is uplifting and relaxing.
Following Up With Customers
Once an issue has been resolved, following up with customers shows them that you genuinely care about their experience. This increases the likelihood that customers return to you instead of a competitor the next time they need your products or services.
In addition, by reaching out to them, you are able to get valuable insights that you could use to improve customer service — what they liked, what they didn’t, and what would’ve made their experience better. This may even shed light on blind spots you weren’t even aware you had.
How To Develop a Customer Service Training Program
In order to develop a fully fleshed out, comprehensive customer service training program, you should implement multiple means of education for your team. Different aspects of training will be useful for different sets of employees.
For example, new hires will likely go through an initial training program, while existing employees will participate in refresher courses each year.
Assign a Mentor.
This is a good option for new hires and individuals who may be struggling with their customer service skills.
Assigning a mentor to your employees will provide positive guidance and allow them to have a friendly leader to turn to when they need advice in a sticky situation.
Offer Job Shadowing.
This is another great option for new hires. Job shadowing will help new employees get the lay of the land and obtain a better understanding of how your company operates and speaks to its customers.
It’s an effective method for allowing newbies to get hands-on experience in customer support situations before they have to dive in and manage similar issues on their own.
Provide Video Training.
This is an effective method for employees at all stages, whether they're new hires or seniors. Customer service training videos can be used again and again, providing valuable education with very little effort after initial creation.
You can use videos to cover a wide variety of topics, including common customer support situations that employees might need advice or guidance on or how to handle a company crisis.
Host Interactive Exercises.
Traditional presentations are also an effective means to providing customer support training, and they're especially useful when doing team building exercises.
Incorporating interactive exercises for employees to participate in throughout the presentation is a great way to implement impactful, active learning.
The 9 Top Customer Service Training Programs to Provide For Your Team
Providing customer service training programs gives your employees assurances that you are equipping them with the tools they need for success. In addition, earning the accompanying certifications — which you can display on your business and website — lets customers know that your customer service team is well trained.
Fortunately, there are several programs to choose from.
1. HubSpot Academy
HubSpot Academy trains individuals on how to manage customer questions and requests through their help desk software. The CRM is designed to manage and prioritize tickets and find fast solutions.
It also provides metrics to help you identify trends, such as volume and average response times, so that you can strategize accordingly.
What's more, they offer a lot of helpful certifications across a variety of topics, so your team can stay certified and continue educating themselves on current customer service tips and best practices.
2. Disney Institute
Disney Institute provides online courses on many business topics, including customer service. Following their own modus operandi, they focus on finding opportunities to exceed customer expectations
3. Universal Class
Universal Class customer service training includes basic concepts such as developing soft skills — active listening, communication, and empathy.
However, it also provides insights on how a customer’s age, culture, and background may affect the way they interact with others. This focus on diversity allows reps to best meet customer expectations.
AXELOS offers globally recognized certifications for customer service representatives who work in the information technology (IT) industry. These include ITIL Certification Schemes focused on digital transformations.
SkillSoft provides training to help customer service professionals to develop a service mindset. They cover a long list of useful skills, such as building a rapport with customers, complaint management, and honing soft skills.
7. The Success League
The Success League offers manager training programs, with courses such as Customer Success Leadership Program, Customer Success Performance Index, CSM Training, and Customer Success Career Study.
8. MSI Management and Strategy Institute
MSI Management Strategy Institute training is designed to help call center agents understand customer service etiquette, including how to ask efficient questions, how to minimize misunderstandings, how to respond to angry callers, how to develop listening skills, and how to close a conversation.
Alison provides a free training course outlining the basic concepts of customer service. It delves into an in-depth look at different types of customers and how to best meet their needs, as well as how to handle difficult situations.
Organization Is Key to Customer Service Success
Developing a well-rounded customer training program is a long process. In order to cover all your bases, you'll have to be thorough and methodical. Your program should include a mix of video, interactive exercises, mentorships, and management presentations.
Also, make sure that you organize the program efficiently — covering the most basic skill sets first, before diving into more advanced skills like crisis management. This will allow your employees to fully digest information on their path to becoming an excellent service provider.