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The Guide to Customer Service and Support Training 

 March 6, 2020

By  Nils Rebehn

Want to know the most crucial thing to do to improve the relationships with your customers? Better customer service. It’s that simple but it’s still overlooked too often. Read our Guide to Customer Service and Support Training.

Your product or service can be great, your team can be talented and passionate. But what customers most likely remember are the conversations they have with your company.

Apart from sales, your support team is often the front line of your business. Gartner reports that business compete through customer service. Therefore, the experience of your customers will be defined by how well the team takes care of them.

Good companies already have great relationships with their customers. But smart companies will always wonder how good service looks like. It centers around listening and paying attention to the need of your customers.  If their needs are not addressed or the quality of your customer service drops, then the relationships with your customers will suffer. And that means ultimately your business will suffer.

Types of customer service training

This guide to Customer Service and Support Training explains the types of training and the necessary skill sets. Here are the three different types of customer support training:

  • New Hire Customer Service Training
  • Ongoing Customer Support Training
  • Unplanned Training

New Hire Customer Service Training

Training a new team member will take weeks and months. However, the first 6 to 12 weeks will be crucial and can set them up for success for the long-term. It should make them familiar with the new role, the company and its culture before they can talk to your customers. A typical onboarding training includes the following components:

  • Getting to know the team. Members of different teams need to work together and be able to rely on each. Give new hires a tour of the office. Make sure they meet their colleagues and get to know each other. Throw in some social activities to make them feel welcome and comfortable.
  • Set expectations. Anyone in a new role needs to know what to expect and what’s expected of them. This avoids confusion and allows new hires to get an idea of their responsibilities. A training guide with an outline the plan and activities will come in hand during the first few months. Make sure they know about any internal resources like documentation and staff members that can help them.
  • Learn your product/service. To best help your customers any new hire needs to know your product or service. Make sure they get dedicated training on that. The better they know it the better they can help.
  • Tools and software. Your new hire might not be familiar with the tools or the version of the software you are using internally. Set aside time for proper training on those components. 

Ongoing Customer Support Training

Like in life, one should never stop to learn. Even once an employee knows all the ins and outs of the company, is trained on the product/service and internal tools there is still more to learn:  Your product or service is evolving. The IT landscape is changing. Workflows are being updated, processes or tools are replaced. Your training should accommodate that:

  • Competence check-in. Schedule regular reviews of their know-how. Best practices can change over time and you need to make sure your team expands their knowledge and adopts anything that’s useful. Other skill-sets can deteriorate over time.
  • Add skills to your team. Regular training can keep everyone aligned and on the same level. Alongside this, you should add new skills to the team. This will improve overall performance and can boost the morale of your workforce. 

Unplanned Training

Every well-oiled machine comes to a halt at some point. This happens because of unforeseen events. But you can prepare for that. There might be situations where a crisis or an emergency arises. Especially then it’s important to react in a calm and efficient manner:

  • Update your customer service team. Full transparency is best because they will be dealing with the customers first-hand. Clear the schedule, prioritise these meetings and train everyone at once.
  • Product or company-wide updates can sometimes call for an ad hoc training. Maybe because of a problem with a release or a marketing campaign your team needs to be brought up to speed. They are not always emergencies but usually time sensitive.

Planned training for new hires or seasoned staff should be scheduled regularly. Common intervals are quarterly or semi-annually once they received the initial instructions. Unplanned trainings can best be prepared for by having a process in place. This was the first half of our guide to Customer Service and Support Training. The second half focuses on the relevant skills for your team.

Skill sets for your customer service team

Each individual in your team should be experienced in and be regularly trained on:

  • Personal,
  • Product / Services and
  • Technical skills

Personal skills

This starts with showing empathy: Ideally your reps can put themselves in the position of your customers. Taking that perspective helps to get insights and build rapport. It’s harder for the more technical, logical thinking members of your team. 

Clarity can improve the conversations between your company and your customers. Clear communication can speed things up and avoid escalations of issues. It is something that can be practiced but you need to be on the lookout for this in your team.

One of the hardest personal skills to train is positivity. But you can have your team focus on replacing negativity. It can start with simply replacing negative words with their positive counterparts. Another great exercise is to highlight and review customer satisfaction ratings and the comments customers left.

Product/Services skills

Companies are always changing, some faster than others. Products or services can evolve, new features come in, others might be discontinued. 

Have your customer service team work with other parts of your business to get exposure. New hires can work with other parts of your company for a while. Same for long-term members. Have them shadow other people in your company. This way they learn what’s going on. The time invested is little, but the gains in form of knowledge and motivation are high.

Demonstration sessions within the team. Rather than town hall or business-wide meetings you can opt for smaller, more intimate settings. Have someone in your team pick an area and hold a demonstration to the rest of the team. Everyone gets to know the product or service better and the individuals can improve their presentation skills. Combine that with working in other teams and ask them to share what they learned and it’s a win for everyone.

Technical skills

No matter how big or small the business, there are tools being used to get the job done. For most modern companies it involves IT-Hardware and some form of Software; nowadays more and more SaaS (Software as a service) and cloud solutions.

Hardware

Today everyone takes it for granted that someone knows how to use a computer. However, operating systems and applications can differ a lot. Knowing how to use it – or rather how not to use it – can make a huge difference.

I remember when I started working for Zendesk: It’s the first time I worked with a Mac. I’ve been working with Windows all my Computer-Life. There are lots of similarities but a lot of things are fundamentally different. I got the hang of it quickly and don’t wanna change back anytime soon (don’t judge me for that).But for some people it might be useful to run through the basics of a new (IT-)environment to make sure they know how to be productive with the hardware and tools at their hands.

Nils Rebehn

Software

This is a huge area. Anything from something installed on your computer to cloud-based applications. It’s likely that the people in your team know some of it already. But it’s better to make sure everyone is up to speed. The longer they work with you the bigger a difference it will make.

How to help your team members

When someone joins the team you should assess what tools and applications they good at and which not. Then train them on the gaps. If a new system is introduced you need to give your team the proper preparation – and this is mostly training. If you have a back-end system where data needs to be maintained they need to know all about it. In case your customer service team is using a ticketing-system they need to know how to use it efficiently. If there are tips and best practices they need to learn them. Again, efficiency will add up over time.

Tips for teaching technical skills

  • Online Training. Have them go trough an online training of the specific tool(s) you are using. It’s a small investment. But if they walk away with the important bits it will save time (and money) in the long run.
  • Shadowing a colleague. This is good to build up on the basic knowledge (from an online training for example) and learn the best practices on top. They can learn anything that’s specific to your company and customers.
  • Assign a mentor or buddy. Someone they can ask the “silly” questions that they would not want to ask the manager or team lead. No question is a bad question.

Conclusion

Certainly you want happy and efficient members in your team. They are one of the biggest differentiator for your company. Help them to avoid the build-up of bad habits trough good training and check-ins. The lack of the right skills could cost you a lot – it could cost you your customer.

  1. Start with the basics: First of all, have a Training Plan for new hires and existing staff. Be prepared for the unplanned with a plan.
  2. Work on the skill sets: Furthermore, train for personal and product/service competence and technical experience. Online and team-training is your friend.
  3. Keep up the good work: Finally, have a schedule and regular check-ins.

We hope you found the guide to Customer Service and Support Training useful. Let us know what you think or send us any comments you might have.

About the author 

Nils Rebehn

Founder of Guidoo Services and former Zendesk employee #100. Nils is a Customer Service Expert and a certified Zendesk Administrator. Guidoo Services is "your guide to Customer Service” - the team offers a range of professional services and are specialised in Zendesk. Guidoo is a Zendesk Select Partner, assuring sophisticated solutions for your help desk.

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