Customer Service Training Topics for Successful Employee Training Programs
Kayly Lange | 17 min read
Your customer service acts as the front line of your brand. No matter how you market your company, your customer’s experience with your team will shape how they view your organization.
Technology gives customers more options to choose where they shop. The customer experience is critical to stand out from the competition and create loyal customers. That is why 73% of companies with above-average customer experience do better than their competitors.
Customer service can be an intense job filled with emergency situations and need to be graceful under pressure. The right customer service skills training gives them the tools they need to provide quality customer service.
To achieve customer service excellence, training is essential. Here is how to train customer service with the right topics, effective tutorials, and best practices.
What is Customer Service Training, and Why Does it Matter?
First, we need to discuss exactly what customer support training is and why it’s worth the investment of time and money. Customer service training is used to teach employees how to improve the support they provide and improve the customer experience.
Customer service training is more than just training for your customer service representatives. The customer experience is shaped by each employee they encounter. Guest service training skills are vital for almost everyone in your company. It means improved service no matter who the customer contacts in the company.
Organizations that invest in training their employees will see a healthy return in happy and loyal customers:
- Investing in customer experience can potentially double your revenue in 36 months.
- 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
- By the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the critical brand differentiator.
A couple of decades ago, the quality of the product and the price determined what business a customer would choose. Now, though, customers care more about the experience they get with a brand. Organizations that invest in the quality of customer experience will experience greater growth than those who don’t.
While hiring highly skilled customer support is foundational to making sure they provide a better customer experience, training is still necessary. It helps them understand how to work best as a team, and how you want your company represented. This should help guide when to train your employees and what should be included in customer service training.
Three Types of Customer Service Training
There are certain critical points when training is necessary to make sure that your team is cohesive and knows best how to portray your company to customers.
Times when you should expect to provide training to your employees include:
Onboarding. The first couple of months an employee spends with the company are critical for ensuring success. The impression and training they get will decide how they represent your company long-term.
Specific training for new employees should include establishing expectations, so they know exactly what their job entails, getting them comfortable with the team, product or service training, and setting up various tools and software.
Emergencies. There are situations that regular customer service training is not prepared to handle. When your team is faced with a new situation, the right training ensures that they are ready to field questions and handle conflicts that may arise. Whether you are facing a recall, rebranding, or global crisis (such as COVID), further training makes sure that your team is prepared and knows how to do their job.
Regular Updates. Training should never truly end. No matter how long your employee has been around, regular training every quarter, half-year, or year ensures that they continue to deliver high-quality service.
Routine training helps keep the team’s skills fresh and reinforces earlier training. It also allows your employees to create a strong connection with team-building exercises.
Wisetail’s LMS, Apex, hosts onboarding, emergency protocols, and regular updates for every department.
Basic Customer Service Training Topics
While some training you may choose is specific to your organization and industry, basic customer service training topics apply across the board. Some of these include:
Product and Technical Skills
To provide a high level of service, your employees should have a thorough understanding of the product that they are selling. They will likely have to teach your customers at some point, so they should have in-depth knowledge that allows them to be clear and concise. Since companies are often changing and evolving their products, this will be a continuous process.
Demonstration sessions can challenge your team members to both understand the product and communicate it with their teammates. A knowledge base, such as a guide or directory, also gives employees a place to refer to for clarity. Job shadowing and mentors can also help provide a deeper level of understanding.
If your employee cannot answer a customer’s questions about the product, customers will get frustrated. A solid understanding of the product should be basic for every employee.
Most likely, you hired a new employee because of their basic personal skills. Personal skills are fundamental of customer service. However, training will help reinforce your expectations and how to respond to customers. Vital skills to emphasize customer service include:
- Empathy. Understanding and relating to customers’ frustrations helps create a more positive experience. Practice exercises that put customer service in the customer’s shoes. Encourage them to respond compassionately.
- Active Listening. When customers are frustrated and need help, a passive attitude from customer service will only make them more frustrated. Encourage engagement in conversations with thoughtful questions and summarizing the issue back to the customer.
- Clarity. Your customers might not be experts in your product or service. Employees should make the information simple and easy to understand. Many customer service reps follow the ELI5 (explain it like I’m five years old) technique to ensure clarity.
- Transparency. Customers shouldn’t be left in the dark. Psychology shows that unexplained waits are more painful than when the reason is clear. Customer service should be trained to explain to the customer what they are doing for them.
The personal skills for customer service are not always obvious. By training your employees to think and respond like customer service, you can create a better customer experience.
Dealing with customers every day can be stressful. A strong team and positive company culture can help combat the pressures that come with customer service. Training is a valuable time to reinforce a strong company culture and team building.
Training should cover the core values and mission of your company. Employees should have a thorough understanding of what the organization stands for and how to apply it while dealing with customers practically.
Fostering a connection with the entire team will help improve the employee work experience. Exercises help them come up with solutions as a team and provide positive support.
Crisis and Customer Management
The right training ensures that your workers are prepared to handle potentially stressful situations. From irate customers to unexpected crises, customer service should have patience and confidence to navigate the situation.
Guide your workers through potential crises, such as a recall or natural disaster. That way, they’ll be able to handle any situation when you need their expertise most.
The right customer service with personal skills and technical knowledge will keep customers reasonably happy. However, training customer service to go above and beyond for customers will remain customers for life. Customer advocacy encourages customer retention, and your customers will happily promote your company and brand.
Train your customer service to exceed expectations. Challenge your team to do their best every day and take feedback on how the company can improve.
Bridger Bike and Ski’s resource library is an incredible resource for all of their customer service representatives.
Creating Effective Customer Service Tutorials and Training Plans
Once you know what topics you need to have covered, you can start to create customer service training plans that help you cover them. The plan on how to train customer service skills should include all of the information needed while keeping your employees engaged.
The most popular framework for training is the 70:20:10 model. It entails 70% experiential, 20% social, and 10% formal training. Experiential means that employees get on-the-job, hands-on experience. The social components involve mentorship, role-playing, and team-building exercises to learn as a group. The formal training is the traditional video, customer service training curriculum, and instructor-led training.
The 70:20:10 framework encourages knowledge-retention, as well as active engagement. It can be easy for employees to lose focus, especially if it is a long course. Breaking up the content into different presentation formats helps keep their interest and concentration. Alternate between customer service tutorials, videos, games, role-playing situations, etc., to break up the learning format.
Also, add assessments and knowledge checks along the way. It will help your team better retain what they are learning if they need to apply that knowledge then directly. It can also give you a sense of where the team is at with the material and if it was effective. You can then make sure the training is as effective as possible.
Best Practices and Procedures to Maintain in a Customer Service Program
Not all customer service plans are created equal. By following the best customer service practices and procedures, you can create a training program that creates a better company culture and customer experience.
Know Your Audience
Get an understanding of your employees before creating a program. What you cover with a veteran who has been at your company for many years, for example, is different than someone starting on their first day. If you start too fundamental, you risk losing their attention and focus. However, if it’s too technical or in-depth, they will be overwhelmed.
Create a training program based on the level of knowledge your customer service has and the issues they are likely facing.
Successful training starts at the top. Leaders should communicate why training is important to employees. If the leadership seems unengaged or ambivalent, then employees will be less likely to take it seriously.
Start with a Solid Framework
It’s easy to get lost in the details and miss the important aspects of training. Clearly lay out your goals and objectives before planning to shape the training plan. Without objectives, training may not achieve what you want.
Create an outline based on your goals and make sure that each part aligns with your objectives.
How to Set Good Objectives
Setting realistic objectives is critical to your entire training program. They help you make sure that everything is aligned with your overall goal. By creating learner-focused objectives and concentrating on how to train customer service representatives, you should highlight the skills that they will acquire through the course.
Start by formulating a clear purpose. What issues are training trying to address? You might need your team to acquire new skills, for example, or address a knowledge gap. Define the purpose to address the specific reasons the training needs to take place.
Many use the SMART model to define their objectives:
A SMART objective will create actionable goals that you will know if the team achieves it. Examples of customer service training objectives could be:
- By the end of the session, employees will be able to process orders on the new computer system.
- By the end of the week, customer service will be able to diffuse highly emotional situations using empathy and active listening.
With specific objectives that have time limits, you can better assess whether you meet your goals or not.
Other Key Considerations During Customer Service Training
With clear plans, objectives, and background information, you are ready to create a program that will make your customer service more effective. Keep these tips in mind as you put your plan together:
Sometimes you can set aside a block of time specifically for training, especially with onboarding. Most likely, though, you won’t be able to take out an entire department for a whole day for training. Flexibility will allow employees to participate in customer service training activities when it works best for them and the company.
Mobile learning, for example, allows employees to learn from anywhere. Make training flexible to meet their needs.
Don’t Overdo It
Although you may be anxious to provide thorough training, too much information risks overwhelming your staff. They will be more likely to forget everything if there is too much to learn. Keep training to 3-5 objectives to make it clear.
For example, instead of tackling both technical and personal skills at once, stick to how to serve customers better. You can then use a separate training to delve into the technical information.
Monitor feedback to assess what everyone liked about the course and if the training is meeting their needs and concerns. A class that works for one audience may not work for another, so continue to gather feedback. Customer service training for managers, for example, may not answer the issues that front-line workers have.
Connect Training to Real Life
According to one survey, almost half of the employees found that their training was not actually relevant to their duties. Combat this by providing realistic scenarios. Role-playing and creating real-life lessons can help them connect how their training can be applied to their interactions with customers.
For example, if you are looking into types of training in the hotel industry, create hotel customer experience examples your employees might find relevant. This will allow them to connect how their training will help them.
Create a Stronger Business with Customer Service Training
Companies that invest time in learning customer service will experience a substantial return in a better customer experience. Training employees in customer service takes organization, clear objectives, and connection. However, teaching customer service will create a stronger company culture, more loyal customers, and a better brand.
BY KAYLY LANGE
Kayly is a freelance writer who has spent years studying the intersection of company culture, technology, and the customer experience. She uses her expertise to help leaders shape the companies they envision.