This post was originally published on lessonly.com.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a bad customer service experience? We’re all consumers, so it’s safe to say that we all have at some point in our lives. But when you need help solving a problem, the last thing you want is to interact with someone who is less than enthused, maybe a little apathetic, and unskilled.
With nearly 3 million customer service employees in the U.S. alone, customer service is a relevant and necessary job. And if you’re responsible for training these agents, there’s more pressure on you now than ever before to build a successful team.
If you aren’t quite sure how to improve customer service for your call center (or really any customer-facing team), you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to share with you some practical tactics that are used in the best customer service training programs in the world. Let’s explore…
- How to assess, plan, and build a great training program
- Why practice is so important
- Soft skills to look out for when hiring new agents (and evaluating current ones), and
- Metrics to consider when measuring success
Assess, plan, build
When thinking about ways to improve customer service training programs in your call center, the first thing you should do is assess your current training program. There’s really no better place to start than with gathering feedback directly from your team about what could be better about their role; what do they like, what do they dislike? In doing this, you’ll be able to identify where gaps might live, if information is siloed, or if it exists as tribal knowledge. Work together with your agents to set big goals as individuals and teams, establish desired outcomes and work backwards from there.
A few examples of measuring success might include:
- Increase NPS (net promoter score) by 2 points by the end of the quarter.
- Decrease agent onboarding and ramp time from 3 months to 1 by the end of the year.
- Increase the number of positive resolutions by 20% by January.
Understanding what you need to do to be successful helps lay the groundwork and establishes a clear path to keep you accountable and on track throughout the year. From there, you can use the information you gathered from your team and the market, to identify what projects are top priority, that will impact your metrics for measuring success.
Once you’ve got a plan in place, the building begins. Customer service teams use lots of tools for chat, email, phone and text support, so make sure you have the right software in place to support your ambitious goals. Consider tools like ticket and handling, quality assurance, knowledge base, reporting, workforce management, voice of the customer, and training.
Use these tools to develop robust onboarding and ongoing education with elements of practice, role-play, reading, videos, knowledge checks, in-person and virtual training. With a blended approach to learning, you’ll encourage self-pacing and self-directedness, which enables accountability in the learning process. Self-paced learning keeps agents engaged and reduces resource burden of 100% in-person training. While onboarding is important, don’t neglect ongoing training—your agents will be better enabled and more likely to stay for the long haul.
Perfect is the enemy of practice
If you’re already familiar with us, you know we love practice. We live and breathe it.
Practice is the act of doing something again and again in order to learn or improve. It takes vulnerability and accepting that you might not get it the first time around. Practice exists in sports, cooking, music, etc., but why don’t we think about doing it at work? It takes a fundamental shift to think about customer service training exercises and how to put those exercises into place. In order to fuse practice into your training, there are three types you can leverage:
- Formal assigned practice: allocating and protecting a small amount of regular time for online and virtual practice sessions that are tied back to metrics.
- Ad hoc practice that happens at the point of need: during a 1:1 for example.
- Informal, spontaneous, and individual practice: on-demand and self-directed.
Soft skills make the world go ‘round
The secret sauce to any customer service team: soft skills. Soft skills are vitally important to ensuring your customers receive a great experience when interacting with your agents. When interviewing new agents and evaluating current ones, keep these soft skills in mind.
Empathy is one of the most important skills a customer service rep can have. It leads to happier customers and higher CSAT scores. But what are some ways someone can have empathy and most importantly, put it into action. Teach your agents to view each ticket, chat, text, email as a person to help, not something to fix. Let them know that it’s okay to be vulnerable and by doing so, this will fuel connection. At the end of the day, hire people who genuinely care about others, and your customers will be in good hands.
Some additional skills to be mindful of include: collaboration, adaptability, and curiosity. Nurture team collaboration and non-violent communication. Ensure your agents can pivot quickly, and roll with the punches when ticket volume is high.
Don’t forget to measure
If there’s one thing you’ll want to make sure you do for your customer service training program, it’s measuring data. The best types of customer service training programs do this, and it’s imperative you do too. There are tons of metrics and KPIs you can focus on, but the two most important ones that shouldn’t be optional are CSAT and NPS scores.
CSAT scores measure a users’ satisfaction with a product or service, calculated on a 1-5 scale and measured on individual interactions. They’re normally tracked by surveys, immediately following a resolved ticket.
NPS scores measure customer loyalty. The net promoter score will normally range from 1-10 and evaluate how likely your customers are to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague.