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Winning over customers is one thing, but to be sustainable as a business, you need to be able to keep them. The question is, how best to encourage customer loyalty as a brand?

By providing customers with a positive service, they will start to build a lasting appreciation for your business. This will not only establish a returning audience for your products or services, but help to accelerate your growth, as your reputation builds through word of mouth.

To do this, you’ll need not only to provide incredible products, but also to maximise every interaction with your customers. Doing this successfully means training your staff to improve their customer service, and giving them the platform to provide a great customer experience. Here are just a few tips on how to encourage customer loyalty through training, and keep people coming back for more.

What is customer service training, and how can it encourage customer loyalty?

Customer service training may seem like a simple process on paper. We’ve all had some interactions with customer service personnel, and it may not seem that complicated. Indeed, many businesses tend to undervalue customer service, to the extent that they put little effort into training, or completely outsource aspects of their customer service. Beyond being friendly and talkative, customer service is often seen as a relatively low skill profession.

This attitude belies the real value in customer service, and the fine art of helping to deliver a positive customer experience. If a customer is contacting customer service, it’s probably because they have an issue with your product or service. This means that they’re starting from a point of negativity – a point you need to bring them back from, and turn into a positive experience. In this sense, customer service personnel are on the front lines of your PR push, and the only thing that stands between you losing or retaining customers.

As well as customer retention, you also have reputational damage to consider. Many companies now live and die by their online reviews, whether aggregated on your website, external marketplaces, or independent ratings platforms. Negative customer service experiences have the potential to generate a near permanent mark on your reputation – and tend to be a more common driver of reviews than positive experiences.

Poor communication with customers often stems from poor communication within businesses. The larger an organisation becomes, the easier it is for different silos to become isolated from one another, and for a lack of communication to become ingrained in the business. When different parts of the business stop communicating effectively with one another, the value of communication as an asset is devalued. Not only is customer service seen as less important, but the ability of customer service personnel to answer questions and pass on queries is diminished.

Why customer service training is important

Customer service training is a way to impart the importance of great customer service, and the benefits of getting the most out of each interaction. Through customer service training, customer service personnel can learn to defuse difficult situations, resolve questions and issues in a satisfying way (where possible), and provide a positive customer experience. Through this, customers will get a sense that you care about their wellbeing – making them more likely to continue buying your products or services.

Achieving this requires that staff master a very particular artform. In the same way that you have limited space to get yourself across in an advert or a tweet, customer service consists of time limited interactions. Customer service staff need not only to be personable and conversationally fluent, but to channel those abilities into conversations they would never normally have. People contacting customer service tend to be doing so because they have an issue that they’ve been unable to resolve elsewhere, bringing both tangible and emotional baggage with them.

For this reason, customer service personnel need to maintain a broad and unique set of skills. They have to be able to de-escalate, remain calm and professional under fire (some abuse is unavoidable), be helpful and courteous, knowledgeable enough to resolve common questions, technically adroit enough to scour through customer information, and canny enough to know when issues need to be escalated or passed on elsewhere.

While some of these skills can be innate, they don’t all come naturally. You may improve them through experience, but allowing people to simply learn on the job is obviously dangerous, and may lead to many avoidable interactions which lose you customers, and dent your reputation. Customer service training gives your staff the best possible grounding in all of these areas, preparing them for what’s to come, and getting your reputation off on the right foot.

How to train employees in customer service

Customer service training is an investment for the present and future of your business. But executing it successfully isn’t just a case of sending staff on a single course (although this will help). To make the most of your customer service training, you’ll need to put the structures in place to support it.

This will allow your staff to make the most of their training – ensuring that the benefits are registered, and that any flaws are addressed in a timely manner. Here are a few of the steps you should take to build loyalty through customer service training:

Build the foundations

To make the most of customer service training, you need to put the foundations in place to ensure that it doesn’t go to waste. Oftentimes, this comes from giving customer service personnel more freedom and ability to help customers, but it could be the opposite. What’s important is that they work within a structure that allows them to employ the skills they have used to the maximum, and to make informed decisions that are in the customer’s best interests.

This starts with introducing an element of customer service training internally. While the bulk of your training may consist of training courses, you should also have a process for onboarding new hires, and introducing them to their role and responsibilities. This might take the form of training materials such as a handbook, running through the steps they should take in their daily work, and what to do in extraordinary circumstances.

Emphasise brand values

To best represent your company, your staff should also be steeped in your brand values. Each member of your customer service team is in a sense a brand ambassador, and a living embodiment of your business. By teaching them about your values – and most importantly, how to communicate these values in their work – they can help to reinforce the image people have of your business, and provide continuity with your marketing efforts.

Companies such as John Lewis make a particular effort to invest in their customer service personnel, and deliver a high quality customer experience. As a premium brand, customer service is considered as much a part of their offering as the products and services they sell. A disconnect between the quality of your products and your customer service can easily bleed across, and impact the way your products or services are perceived.

Consult your team

Training should always be a consultative process. Without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team, it’s hard to know exactly which areas to focus on, and how to gauge their progress. More than this, not every weakness is immediately evident. An employee may be performing well without fulfilling certain parts of their role effectively, or may have already identified issues that could be improved upon.

By talking to your team prior to the training process, you can start to identify and resolve these knowledge gaps. Making time to consult your customer service staff and gain feedback will give you a better understanding of how your customer service department functions, and where your efforts will be best focused. With different kinds of customer service training available, this could be the difference between fixing a problem and improving upon an area you are already strong in.

Provide top-down support

Self-determination is a valuable skill, but it shouldn’t be the only thing driving your employees to improve. Change starts at the top, and systemic improvements have to be delivered from above. This means taking a look at your own behaviour and the example you are setting, but also putting the structures in place to provide top-down support, and maintain this through a series of defined processes.

Once you’ve consulted with your team, you should have a better idea of the support they need to improve their performance, and to bolster their skill set. From here, you can begin to invest in areas such as coaching and mentoring, applying the skills of senior personnel to impart valuable advice. This kind of informal training not only builds relationships and identifies talent, but also allows you to better target more formal training courses.

Invest in training courses

Once your employees embody the values of your business, and have a platform to implement and register improvements, the next step is customer service training. This can take several forms, including customer service skills, dealing with complaints and confrontations, and reception skills. Specific training will help to develop specific areas of expertise, and will depend on the nature of your business and your customer service demands.

Customer service training addresses common behaviours, both on the part of customer service personnel and customers. They aim to challenge ingrained behaviours, to build empathy with customers, and to overcome obstacles in a professional and timely manner. Through practical training, your employees will gain a strong foundation for lasting improvements, and feel more confident in what to say and what not to.

Customer service training is an investment, but it’s one that can reap immediate rewards and will encourage customer loyalty in the long-term. By providing your customer service staff with a greater structure to their work, and enhancing their communication skills, you’ll help them to feel more comfortable and confident in dealing with customers. The knock-on will be more happy customers, meaning customers that stay for longer – and espouse your business’ great customer service to their friends and family.

Need help with your customer service training?

Working in partnership with you, we provide insight and assistance to help you achieve your objectives. Whether you are looking to gain a better understanding of your training and development gaps, build training plans across multiple teams, or need bespoke training solutions for a particular challenge, we can help identify your options and the solutions available.

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Mark Fryer

25th November 2021

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