Customer Service Training for the Modern Team
If you have customers, you have people whose job is customer care. We know it’s more costly to gain a new customer than it is to retain a current one. Customer care, customer relations, or customer service are synonyms for the teams responsible for protecting this part of the business. For many companies, that has traditionally meant trained professionals in a call center or at a customer service desk in a brick and mortar location.
I worked in a customer service call center in college. They put me in charge of responding to complaints and dissatisfied customers. I would have to research the issue, solve the problem, and write and mail a letter back to them. I wonder how often this happens now!
One of my co-workers spent time as a switchboard operator/receptionist/customer service rep in college. This was in the 80’s before every employee had their own direct-dial phone number and every inbound call had to be manually transferred to the appropriate person or department. I imagine Lily Tomlin’s character, Ernestine! One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy!
Over time, customer service has been a bit of a chameleon. Sometimes it was less about service, answering questions, or solving problems, and more about call volume, minimizing call length, and throughput. Now you have companies like Zappos that brag about a record setting call that lasted 10 hours while the rep bonded with the customer!
Sometimes it is a frustrating and annoying process of pressing “3” for billing or shouting “operator” in a manner in which the computer could understand. Now you see a credit card company that runs TV commercials “bragging” that you can call and talk to a real person.
So, while call centers may still have a role to play in customer service, the times have definitely changed. There are now more ways for customers to reach out to companies and actually interact with them. Who looks forward to calling customer service? Customers seek help when and where it is convenient. Not all issues arise during business hours so companies can use these new channels for communicating with the customer, problem-solving, marketing, and brand-building around the clock.
It’s highly likely these new channels are already in place in your organization but the question is, has every customer-facing employee received the appropriate customer service training content? With a little planning and flexibility, you and your teams can be better prepared to take on modern customer service.
Why Customer Service Training Videos Include So Much More These Days
Let’s say you’ve hired five new reps, and you’re about to spend the next two weeks training them. They will learn not only about your company processes, products/services, policies, and culture, but also about the skills needed to do their job: phone etiquette, keeping a positive attitude, and so on. It is likely they will learn these skills either through instructor-led sessions or customer service training videos, or more likely a mix of the two.
Let’s unpack some of the assumptions that might go into that training:
- Traditional customer service will be handled exclusively by customer service reps.
- Those reps will be together in a call center or at a designated counter in a retail location.
- Interactions with customers will primarily be via the phone and face-to-face.
The customer service rep will most likely be following a script or pre-planned workflow.
I would be willing to bet that at least one of these is not entirely true in your organization today. If that is the case, the training content you are using will need to be expanded. It’s no wonder that customer service training videos include so many more skills today than they did a decade ago.
What follows are just a few examples (along with some video recommendations from our own library).
Customer Care from Afar: Training on Remote Technology
Many call centers these days are no longer actual physical call centers. They are composed of teams of people working remotely and connected by technology. This is great because it gives those teams much more flexibility and widens your talent pool.
Now consider: Are the members of your team ready to work remotely? For example:
- Have they created an appropriate work environment wherever they work?
- Do they know how to use all of the relevant remote communications tools? Project management and scheduling tools?
- Are they practicing appropriate time management skills?
Being able to do these things requires adequate training in working remotely, whether your reps are doing customer service over the phone or online.
Speaking of online: Providing customer service via LiveChat or email is much different than talking to them on the phone. With a phone, a lot of emotional meaning is conveyed by tone and timing. These are not available when typing. On the other hand, people will assume a lot about a person (and the company they represent) based on how they write. Improper grammar and punctuation, for example, can give the impression that your rep does not care or is not paying attention.
You could build a whole curriculum on business writing for customer service via chat, with topics like:
- Why Care About Writing
- Misused Words
The Increasingly Blurry Line between Marketing and Customer Service
Technology is not only making customer service teams more distributed and remote, but also spreading out the responsibility for customer care, too. One of the biggest areas where this is happening is between marketing and customer service.
A lot of times you’ll see marketing departments running social media accounts, for example. How often have you seen a customer complain to a company via Facebook or Twitter? (Maybe you’ve even done so yourself.) The marketing team responsible for these social media accounts will need to have the appropriate customer service training so they can handle these interactions.
Then again, maybe you have your customer service team handling customer interactions via social media. That’s a sensible move, but it will mean that those customer service reps will need some training on these platforms, along with some training that covers basic digital marketing.
You will also need to consider new processes for these online customer interactions.
- You will want to protect the privacy of the customers asking questions on public channels and move the conversation to the private messaging feature.
- If you have a team handling Twitter questions, you may ask each person to “sign” their Tweet with their initials so the interaction looks more personal.
- Be sure someone is monitoring and responding to the public reviews like Google Reviews, Glassdoor, and Yelp.
- I would also suggest that you create a strategy on how to handle sarcasm or humor in social media interactions with customers. This can be extremely popular and successful and it can also backfire. It may require additional training on your brand voice.
Face-to-Face Interactions and Technical Support
Customer service is not just online; it is increasingly offline as well.
I’m reminded of this every time I swing by Smoothie King for breakfast. The servers are always friendly, helpful, and unbelievably patient when someone customizes their keto kale concoction! The company understands that these employees are the ambassadors for the Smoothie King brand, and offers franchises access to world-class training. I imagine they must cover a whole range of topics, from dress code to emotional intelligence to deliver such a positive customer experience.
Another example from the cable industry. The customer experience extends beyond daily use of the TV and Internet services. The true test occurs with the face-to-face interactions with the installer or the technician sent to fix a problem. They might not be an official customer service rep per se, but some customer service training will be required.
Do all the installers know how to present themselves in person? Is their uniform clean? Do they wear shoe covers? How to communicate with customers, even when the customers are angry? Similarly, the team who provides technical support over the phone will need to be trained on the technical fixes as well as handling upset and irate customers. The impression that these front-line employees leave could net you a customer for life—or push them to the competition.
Classic Customer Service
Even though the nature of customer service is changing, it’s important to keep up with the basics, too. Some things are always important. Here are some of the standard call center topics that we find clients needing again and again as they bring on new reps:
- Telephone techniques. (We have several courses on telephone techniques, covering everything from greetings and phone etiquette to putting people on hold, taking good messages, and even handling angry callers.)
- Service Quality Indicators. (How can reps know that they are delivering good service? What matters to the customer, and are those things being delivered?)
- How to give exceptional service. (Especially useful for retail.)
- How to stay positive and handle feedback.
As you build a more expansive training program for modern customer service, you’ll want to make sure you’re not neglecting the classics.
Modern Customer Service Has Evolved—So Should Your Training
So now we can see, through these concrete examples, how customer service has changed in modern times:
Customer service is not done by specialized reps only. Marketing, IT support, installation, and many other teams of professionals will need to be trained on customer service, too.
Service is not confined to a single physical call center. Customer service happens online and off, and the employees providing service can literally be anywhere. Employees need to be adequately trained to work in this kind of environment.
Interactions with customers happen via phone, live chat, email, social media, and more. Employees will need to know an evolving list of technologies, and how to communicate with them. Again, this requires adequate training beyond typical customer service.
Everything about the interaction is important. Not just scripts and phone etiquette matter, but things like writing skills, tone, and even uniforms too. Every employee needs to be a brand ambassador.
Why am I hammering on these points? For one simple reason: When a company is searching for training content for customer service, they are actually shopping for much, much more. If they are looking for a course or two on call center etiquette, they are selling their service team short.
This is also why I’m proud of the content library we’ve built here at HSI. Yes, it does have many of the more traditional customer service topics you’d find in other learning libraries. But we also have much, much more than what’s typically expected…and that allows our clients to meet the more unexpected training needs as best practices change and roles expand.
- Sample a few of our customer service training videos.
- Read our blog post "Ring, Ring! What Call Center Training Do You Need Today?"
- For more on off-the-shelf (OTS) content and how it benefits organizations, see “7 Ways Off-the-Shelf Training Content Brings Value to Your Organization.”
- If you are already looking to buy off-the-shelf eLearning content, our blog gives you a handy checklist, "How to Buy eLearning Content for Your LMS."