A Comprehensive Guide to Building Customer Service Training Programs

A Comprehensive Guide to Building Customer Service Training Programs

Most companies, whether they sell products or provide services, are in the same business - the relationship business. Customer service goes well beyond a specific job title or department. From the team who answers your phones to the people who stock shelves, to your social media team, to the technicians who go into a customer's home, many employees will benefit from being included in your customer service training programs to some extent. Learn all about it in this extensive guide.

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Simply put, good customer service saves business, and bad customer service loses business. One study suggests that U.S. companies are losing a total of $75-billion per year due to poor customer experiences.

A robust customer service training program inoculates your company from negative reviews. It gives employees the skills they need to impress anyone they speak with, whether in person, on the phone, or online. One widely cited study by Accenture found that for every $1 invested in training, companies received $4.53 in return. That’s a 353% ROI.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything there is to know about sales training programs including:

  • The basics for those new to sales
  • Relationship building, a key to creating customer loyalty
  • Advanced skills to engage experienced employees
  • Distance selling which has recently gained acceptance
  • How soft skills complement sales skills

Customer service training should be available throughout an organization so each employee can be a positive ambassador for the organization.

Employees with customer service responsibilities:

  • Call center agent
  • Field technician
  • Hospitality staff
  • Online chat representative
  • Retail associate
  • Receptionist
  • Salesperson
  • Social media manager
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Who Really Delivers Customer Service?

The obvious choices are the call center representatives answering customer inquiries while following well-crafted scripts, or the team of tech savvy admins who deftly handle chat and social media touchpoints. It’s also the retail clerk that has the skill to upsell with nearly each interaction. It’s important to note that customer service is provided by anyone who may interact with a customer from initial inquiry throughout the business lifecycle. These might include:

  • Recruiter
  • Service technician
  • Housekeeping
  • Custodial staff
  • Tech support
  • Store delivery driver

Robust Retail Customer Service

The retail environment can be fast-paced, especially during promotional events and holidays. While most retail transactions run smoothly, there are certain scenarios that can throw a wrench in an otherwise routine day. Dealing with challenging customers is simply a part of the job, but it’s not hard to work with someone who is difficult if you know what to say, and how to say it.

Providing customer service training to manage these situations can help diffuse these situations and prevent a scene that can disturb other shoppers. The first scenario that may come to mind is an angry customer who is ranting and raving, but there are several other scenarios that training should address in order to turn a negative retail experience into something positive.

Retail customer service training programs can address:

  • The habitual complainer
  • The know-it-all
  • The bully
  • The intimidator

Each of these personality types requires a different approach in resolving the conflict without allowing it to escalate. The habitual complainer wants to be heard, so active and empathic listening skills are key, whereas the bully and intimidator need to understand their aggressive tactics won’t be rewarded.

By offering retail customer service training programs that give concrete examples of how to respond, sales floor staff can feel confident that they’re equipped to diffuse many situations without involving management.

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Creating a Successful Call Center

“Thank you for calling XYZ corp. My name is Carol. How may I help you today?” It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to teach employees how to greet customers professionally and in your brand’s voice. Don’t leave anything to interpretation and you can avoid issues that come from your call center employee from “freestyling it” on the phone.

It’s imperative that call center employees are well trained because making a connection over the phone, especially dealing with a frustrated customer, is essential to your company’s reputation – especially in the age of the online review.

A call center associate is quite literally the voice of the company – and this role can be filled onsite, or through a work-from-home team connected through company software. Customer service training must include the duties to be performed and the tone of the calls (are reps allowed to speak casually while they problem solve, or must they stick to a strict script). They should know when and how to escalate a call to a manager or other department. Finally, training should include documentation protocols so the customer doesn’t have to go over their entire history with the company each time they call.

Well-rounded customer service call center training will help your employees speak in a unified voice.

Whether call center customer service reps follow scripts or speak in a more freeform manner, they must have well-honed active listening skills. There’s a lot that goes into being an active listener. Active listening means you’re truly taking in what the other person is saying, not just waiting for your turn to speak. Active listening skills are especially important for a phone representative because they don’t have the benefit of nonverbal cues.

Dealing with angry callers can be a burdensome part of the job for a call center representative. That’s why customer service training programs must teach skills to handle conflict without getting angry or upset.

Employees should feel empowered to make a sincere apology and direct the customer toward finding a satisfactory solution. These incredibly valuable skills help improve customer satisfaction and prevent employee burnout.

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Empowering Interactive Outlets

More and more companies are offering customer service through their website or social media channels allowing customers to reach out through the web to get questions answered. In the case of social media, the customer service interaction may take place in front of a wide audience, so the admins working these channels need to be on top of their game.

Customer service chat can be effective and efficient, but it can also be frustrating for both parties if the representative isn’t prepared. Training in the following skills can bring a company’s online chat to the next level.

  • Soft skills
  • Writing skills
  • Platform skills
  • Product knowledge

Use of positivity and professional language help prevent online gaffes that can happen when dealing with the written word.

Social media can be a great customer service tool because it allows your fans and followers to see how you deal with customers in a very public forum. That means a company needs a well-trained staff to monitor social media. When handling feedback online, it’s important that the admins never come across as defensive or condescending.

Remember, the written word does not offer the benefit of intonation, verbal or facial cues, so it’s important to address the issue professionally, and try to move more complex problem solving offline.

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Building Rockstar Retail Teams

A survey of retail customers revealed that there are five things customers want in their retail experience. They want a knowledgeable associate, satisfaction, personalized service, online and offline integration, and a fun experience. Employee development should start with the basics. Excellent customer service starts with knowledge about products as well as store policies.

Although most shoppers in retail stores have fairly normal interactions, there are a small percentage that can’t seem to behave in public. Some interactions escalate in such ridiculous ways, they become viral videos. No one needs that type of publicity. Customer service training to prepare staff for conflict, including role playing, can de-escalate issues before they get out of control.

Topics to cover include:

  • Conflict Management
  • Preparation and Scenarios
  • Warning Signs of Escalation
  • De-Escalation Techniques
  • Maintaining Control
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Developing Friendly Field Agents

Field service technicians may not think of themselves in a customer service role, but the fact that they may be the only staff member that deals with customers face-to-face means it’s important they learn customer service skills.

Field agents may be installers or service technicians. They often establish service, perform routine maintenance, or respond when there’s a problem at a customer’s home or place of business. In addition to maintaining a professional and empathetic attitude, a company may task a field agent with:

  • Providing estimates
  • Closing a sale
  • Cross selling or upselling
  • Answering customer questions
  • Scheduling follow-up visits

In addition to the technical skills needed to do their jobs, field agents can use training in the skills that build customer relationships like professionalism, responsiveness, and communication.

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Dealing with Difficult Customers

No customer service training program would be complete without giving staff the skills to address conflict. Surprisingly, it’s not hard to work with difficult situations if staff knows what to say, and how to say it.

Most difficult customers can be dealt with as long as staff members are trained to approach the situation professionally and with empathy. This approach optimizes the potential for a positive outcome.

Defining difficult customer types:

  • The habitual complainer who never appears satisfied
  • The know-it-all that may use a condescending tone
  • The intimidator who may resort to threats
  • The venter who needs to get something off their chest
  • The deal seeker who is concerned with budgets and cost

Most salespeople dread having to deal with an angry or disgruntled customer because of the emotions that come into play. Anger is an unintelligent emotion that’s always triggered by something. It’s very common and very human. It’s never pleasant, but it doesn’t have to be painful.

Four types of anger:

  • Aggressive Anger
  • Defensive Anger
  • Outraged Anger
  • Frustrated Anger

Although each type is rooted in a different cause, it’s important that staff members are trained to diffuse the situation in a professional manner. They should avoid taking the complaints personally while following a clearly defined process for addressing the situation. The object is to lower the temperature of the interaction while reaching an acceptable and actionable solution.

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Building relationships with your customers can happen at any contact point. It’s imperative that the appropriate customer service training program is available so any employee who may interact with a customer can respond appropriately to build loyalty.

By partnering with a company like HSI, you have access to an entire library of off-the-shelf customer service training as well as the ability to create custom content that address your unique needs. In addition, your staff can access our complete Business Skills library with other related training that could bolster their customer service skill set:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Creativity
  • This vs. That
  • Active Listening
  • Business Writing
  • How to Be a Great Conversationalist

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