Listen up, managers. Customers know in an instant if your agents will meet and exceed their expectations, and all it takes is one bad experience to lose them. It’s on you to ensure that every agent is prepared to delight customers day in and day out — and in this blog post, we’ll lay out customer service training tips you need to know.
As a result of a high-performing customer service team, your brand will establish a reputation for quality service that keeps customers coming back. But if agents routinely fail to deliver satisfactory service interactions, customers will never return.
In the report Customer Service Trends for 2022: Preparing for the Future of Customer Service, 60% of consumers said they would stop buying from a brand after a disappointing service interaction; therefore, it’s critical to position your customer service team for success before customers ever reach out.
What should you do? Examine the customer service training that agents receive. As a manager, you’re able to make a difference in agent performance by the way you train agents. If you’ve taken a relaxed approach in the past, chances are your customer service team is struggling whether you know it or not.
Now is the time for a big change to benefit every stakeholder — you, your agents, your customers, and your brand.
Successful leaders in customer service take an active, collaborative approach to train agents and build their skill sets. Realize that not every agent will be an all-star on the first day. But you can absolutely cultivate a roster of talented, impactful agents over time with an effective customer service training program.
Customer Service Training Tips You Need to Know
To simplify the most important actions you can take, we’ve summarized a list of customer service training tips proven to drive results.
Every manager can find value in the tips, and there’s also flexibility to modify any of the advice shared to fit the unique attributes and needs of your business or industry. The same will always remain true: doing what feels right to you as a leader to train agents and position the entire customer service team for success.
Here are tips that you and every manager need to know to run a successful customer service training program.
#1. Don’t Hide Customer Feedback, Share It
Customer feedback says a lot. It’s a source of truth revealing what your customers think about your brand, the products or services offered, and the agents they interact with. If you’re not sharing customer feedback directly with your agents, you’re doing them all a great disservice.
Embrace both the good and the bad of customer feedback, sharing it all with your agents. Positive feedback from a customer builds confidence in an agent while negative feedback clearly draws out where an agent can do better.
#2. Host 1:1 Meetings Regularly
Agents deserve your undivided attention. You’ve likely told everyone that you have an open-door policy, but it’s still a challenge for agents to always get in touch with leadership out of concern of seeming annoying or weak. 1:1s, however, ensure you and your agents meet to review customer feedback, discuss performance, and answer any questions.
Group meetings feel overwhelming with several people talking, and it may be awkward to review negative feedback in front of the customer service team if an agent’s name is attached. In a 1:1, you can analyze negative feedback together privately and offer guidance on what went wrong and how they’re able to improve.
Keep group meetings on the schedule, but don’t make a habit out of canceling 1:1s with agents. 1:1s indicate to agents that you’re invested in their individual performance and long-term growth with the company.
1:1s (and group meetings) should be consistent at the very least. While you might not need to host them every week, aim to run meetings bi-weekly or monthly. The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to fall behind in the event performance slips and the customer service team needs recalibrating. Stay on top of performance with regular meetings, and you’ll get ahead of issues as soon as they arise.
#3. Step Into Your Agents’ Shoes
Walk a mile in your agents’ shoes and you’ll fully understand who they are and what they experience on the front lines. Managers typically spend their time managing, so there could be a disconnect between what you perceive the day-to-day for an agent to be and what it actually is.
Maybe this means you try your hands as an agent in the trenches. Sift through email tickets, field a few live chats, or trade-in the keyboard for a headset and answer customer calls.
In doing so, you’ll realize that agents’ jobs aren’t exactly easy and identify operational inefficiencies that need to be addressed. From there, your customer service training will be tailored specifically to the everyday role of an agent and, hopefully, make their lives easier.
#4. Leverage the Power of Micro-Coaching
1:1s and group meetings will always be necessary, but what if an agent needs advice before the next session on the calendar? Sure, you can wait. But you really shouldn’t — an opportunity exists to coach and train while a service interaction remains fresh in the agent’s mind.
Coach in short bursts, which is known as micro-coaching. It allows you to run impromptu sessions that utilize real-time customer feedback in the moment rather than days or weeks later.
Agents appreciate micro-coaching to get help staying on the right track. Here’s an example: an agent goes a week or two without any input from their manager, so they assume they’re doing good work. When the manager finally offers input and tries to correct their behavior, the agent feels deflated that they’ve been underperforming for weeks without knowing. Now you’re dealing with weakened morale, and that could permeate throughout the customer service team.
Yet this could be prevented easily with micro-coaching as the manager would pop in with a brief Slack message, email, or Zoom call as soon as they discovered negative feedback from customers. It’s the same input from the manager, but providing it so quickly after a service interaction means the agent can process what you’re saying and modify their behavior immediately.
Micro-coaching is beneficial with positive reinforcement, too. Send a note to an agent that tells them they’ve done a great job and that a recent service interaction is exactly what you like to see from the team.
#5. Have a Data-Driven Mindset
In any line of work, the ‘guessing game’ doesn’t get you very far. Customer service leaders need to collect and analyze data at every turn to make swift, effective decisions.
Analyze customer feedback and use a QA scorecard to uncover why customers walk away from service interactions positively or negatively. It’ll allow you to be more exact in your training. Rather than guessing what customers say or feel about your brand, you’ll have the voice of the customer (VoC) at your fingertips to leverage.
#6. Recognize, Celebrate, & Reward
Nothing gets your agents to feel motivated quite like recognition and rewards. In a successful employee recognition program, what you’ll find is that acknowledging agents for their contributions not only improves agent engagement but also morale for the entire customer service team. Agents come to realize that leadership holds the value they bring to the organization in high regard.
Interested in creating an employee recognition program? In another blog post, we’ve shared top-rated examples to try out with your customer service team:
- Share ‘Weekly Wins’ Emails
- Build a Dedicated Channel for Kudos
- Coach Using Standout Service Interactions
- Offer Rewards to Make Recognition Real
- Put Bonuses in Agents’ Bank Accounts
Keep in mind that an employee recognition program doesn’t necessarily need to be focused on tangible rewards such as a gift card or cash. Many companies motivate agents just by bringing their success to light either within the customer service team or company-wide.
While celebrating all that your agents do, you might also reduce turnover and retain agents due to the tighter bond between them and your organization.
#7. Remember Who Agents Are: Humans
Even a little bit of empathy goes a long way. Just as you want agents to treat customers with empathy, you and other managers on the customer service team should treat agents with the same level of understanding and respect.
Agents deal with a lot both personally and professionally, so remember that before you engage in a conversation with an agent who may be underperforming as of late. Talk to the agent like a human, and listen to what they’re saying and how they’re feeling rather than adding more pressure to the situation. Offer your unwavering support, and an agent will rebuild the confidence needed to get back on track.
Here’s How to Create the Best Customer Service Training Program
Separate yourself from the competition with brand-differentiated experiences throughout the customer journey. It may seem like the actual products or services offered are all that matter; however, the truth is that the interactions with your brand when a customer needs information to make a decision or has an issue create the divide between leaders and laggards.
Leaders who create the best customer service training program take the tips described in this blog post into account. Beyond utilizing real-time customer feedback and performing QA efficiently, they’re training agents with the understanding that agent performance correlates to significant business outcomes.