Customer experience has become a top priority for any modern-day business, whether it is about banking transactions or daily grocery and luxury shopping.
In today’s highly competitive scenario where everything is edging towards going virtual, interactions with a business’s customer service team are not only inescapable for customers but also paramount for the business to stay afloat.
This has made customer service training not only an integral part of a business but also a top consideration in their annual investment and training plans.
What do customer service teams do?
Interactions with the customer service team of a business may comprise the following – helping customers place orders, answering their queries on products and/or services, and handling their issues and complaints.
With the virtual boom and the need for quick, any-time any-place solutions, businesses have now opened up interaction with their service agents on email and a myriad of social media channels.
Why train customer service agents?
With the role that customer service plays and the various communication channels that have mushroomed, customer service agents have become the business’s external face. The first line of contact with customers.
Today, the customers’ loyalty is no longer determined by what the business sells or provides. What now satisfies them and influences their purchases is the service agent’s efficiency with query and issue resolution.
This good customer experience means customers spend more, hence more business revenue. Even 1 in 10 bad customer experiences could prove fatal for a business.
A PwC survey of 15,000 customers showed that while of them would leave a brand after just bad experience, or bad experiences would impact more than 90% of these customers.
A loss of 80% customers due to a bad experience is a clear indicator that the business either needs a new customer support interaction or needs to existing services.
Either way, it mandates an effective customer service training program designed to provide a complete and cohesive experience for its customers. One that also aligns with the business’s vision and goals.
At the same time, offers its customer service age
nts an opportunity to build their knowledge and expertise to better serve customers and boost productivity.
Required skills for customer service agents
Exceptional customer service hinges on the following three Ps – communicate with People, know the Product, and understand the Process. These translate to the following core skills for service agents.
Process and assessments to train customer service agents
Building and delivering an effective customer service training program aligned around the core skills is a holistic process that stands on three pillars: Teach, Test and Track, and Improve.
Teach Skills: Here, we list the key components or design strategies that a good customer service training program should embody.
Onboarding: Design a comfortable onboarding program to introduce new candidates to how a typical customer service environment operates and what it will be specific to the business in question. Also, orient them on what and how the desired customer service experience will align with the business’s core values and brand. Onboarding is especially important for fresh candidates.
Professional skills: Design training materials to focus on the key tenets of customer service. Include the right skills and competencies that will enable agents to better serve customers.
Learning Assessments: Build online, graded assessments into the internal Learning Management System (LMS) to test learners competences and for them to take prior to and/or post training completion.
Conceptual knowledge: Cover aspects around products and/or services, steps and best practices to diagnose and resolve common support queries/issues, process/workflow to report an incident or escalate an issue, company policies, support tool steps, and using various social media channels. Important to note here is that training of fresh candidates will always require more sensitivity and take more time.
Interactive design: Make the trainings more interactive and . Offer job aids for learners to take away and refer to on-the-job, such as process workflows, service scripts, and decision trees software. These act as quick reference guides for agents while they are on a customer call and require a query/issue resolution approach.
Simulated setups: Include exercises and group activities that mimic real-world scenarios. This is an effective strategy to train candidates on tools, problem solving during calls, and soft skills in dealing with angry customers.
Personal skills: Inculcate personal development skills in candidates such as how to be professional, how to engage and interact with customers in a way that it meets the business’s vision and purpose. Also, include topics on how candidates can manage job stress.
Peer training: Learn to leverage the existing knowledge and skill base of the more experienced candidates. Allow experienced and senior employees to mentor and train junior agents. This acts as a very good opportunity to transfer skills and share real-world experiences and best practices within the team.
Internal knowledge base: Though not part of the training program, but providing a knowledge base software for candidates to refer/use also acts as a key job enabler for them. This knowledge base should contain internal documentation on company products and services, process/workflow, and various policies that candidates can easily access during their interactions with customers. The customer service training program should help them understand where and how to access this knowledge base in a short span of time.
A satisfied employee makes a happy customer. And a good training program will deliver that positive employee experience comes through:
Employee development: Building the right knowledge and expertise that will give agents the ability to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Employee retention: Helping employees align the taught skills and competencies to build their own personal goals and career paths.
Employee engagement: Giving employees a sense of partnering with the business to meet the desired revenue targets.
An important consideration in designing these training programs is their learner base.
Most customer service teams will have both fresh and experienced agents with a varied set of educational and professional backgrounds, and operating across a multitude of customer communication channels.
Hence, it is important to create training programs that offer different levels of knowledge and complexity to suit each learner profile and maintain consistency in how service staff across all channels are trained.
Test and Track Competencies:
Performance assessments: Incorporate both in-training quizzes and post-training assessments that mimic real-world scenarios, to engage learners and assess their knowledge.
Performance tracking: Build mechanisms into the internal LMS to track how learners are completing their training milestones. A good rewards and recognition program will ensure that they stay motivated and in turn will boost overall productivity.
Performance reviews: Analyse data from service tickets, customer satisfaction surveys, and manager feedback to assess learners’ on-the-job performance. This also helps identify gaps in the current trainings and/or any additional trainings that may be required.
Identify Future Improvement Areas: A good and effective customer service training program can imply major time and cost savings for the business by reducing the need to re-train its service agents.
But when it comes to their success, it is not just about the tangible and intangible benefits that they help reap but also about sustainability.
cannot be one-off, but need to be ongoing and continuous. What the business needs to look at is:
How long can the existing training programs support the business?
What technique does the business implement to identify gaps in them?
How does the business know that existing trainings need to be updated? For example, how does it identify skill gaps, performance gaps, and new skill requirements?
What factors enable the business to identify the need for new trainings.
How does the business track and use customer survey data in training development?
The emergence of rtificial ntelligence (AI) and machine learning in the customer service space is now enabling businesses to provide their customers with self-service portals and online knowledge repositories.
Gartner predicts the future of customer service to be automated, and estimates that by 2030 a billion service tickets will be raised automatically by customer-owned bots.
This will completely transform the customer service landscape as we see it today, pushing businesses to design their existing training programs to support more back-end rather than front-end service skills.