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Mandatory employee training can be a tricky business. Research around adult education suggests that people learn best when they are highly motivated, something that can be hard to instil in employees. Achieving this means not only drafting an engaging training programme, but also making it evident what the positive outcomes will be. 

Answering the question of what should be included in customer service training will depend on the nature of your business, and exactly what you want to get out of it. Nevertheless, there are some aspects that all customer service training should include, and methods that have the weight of research and history behind them. 

The benefits of customer service training

Customer service training is important because customer service is important. Each customer service interaction represents an opportunity either to win someone over or to bring someone back on board. Pull this off, and you may not only keep that customer, but also turn them into an ambassador for your brand, and the quality customer service you provide. 

Customer service training is an opportunity not just to improve your employees’ communication skills, but to reassess your customer service process. Resolving complaints as quickly as possible is key to a satisfying outcome, meaning that the way you answer and escalate customer complaints is as important as the way you talk to customers. 

Training is important not just as a one-off, but an ongoing and iterative process. A good training programme will regularly assess performance and look to address skill gaps, taking any shortcomings of your customer service into account, and focusing on training employees in these areas. In this way, performance can be fine tuned, and the training itself can be improved, bringing benefits for new hires being trained from scratch. 

How to develop a customer service training plan

To develop a customer service training plan, you first need to identify what is wrong with your customer service. This doesn’t necessarily need to take place from a point of catastrophe; your customer service can always be improved, even if you’re happy with its current outcomes. Customer service training is a means to identify areas for improvement, and ensure that your customer service continues to improve and evolve.

To do this, you’ll need to assess all of the information you have. This may take the form of email exchanges; recorded calls; direct feedback; statistics such as the length and abandon rate of calls; or conversations with staff around the difficulties they face, and areas where they feel their knowledge or resources are lacking. Collating and scrutinising all of this information should allow you to identify weaknesses, and outline the areas your training should focus on.

Once you’ve pinpointed your training needs, the next step is to create a training manual or handbook to address them. This will be the backbone of your training for both new and existing employees, and provide a point of reference both in further training and daily work. Finally, you can look to organise formal training activities. This may consist of direct learning (e.g. training days, videos or quizzes), as well as experiential learning (e.g. simulations), which will allow you to test what they have learned in realistic scenarios.

Once you have conducted your training, you should look to measure its results. By using the same information you gathered in order to define the training, you can periodically assess the level of improvement among staff, and identify whether the training has been successful. This should not only reveal any flaws in the training, but also how individuals have responded to it. This then gives you an opportunity to tailor future training sessions, and create a plan that accommodates for different learning styles and speeds.

What to include in customer service training 

The exact nature of your customer service training will depend on the areas you intend to cover, and what you feel is the best way to engage your staff. There are some constants to effective customer service training, however, as well as some methods which tend to be more successful than others in instigating change. Here are a few aspects you may look to include in your customer service training:

Company culture training

To provide a good customer experience, your employees should have an intrinsic understanding of your company culture. This not only encapsulates your values and mission statement, but the unique qualities that brought customers to you in the first place. By rooting themselves in this culture, your staff can keep their interactions on message, and reiterate these values in the support they provide.

Software training

The software you use to conduct customer service is pivotal to a successful interaction. Slow or inadequate software can stall an otherwise positive interaction, leading to frustrating delays and unresolved complaints. A good training plan will first identify (and rectify) inadequacies in your software, and then initiate training to use your software in the most efficient manner possible, maximising its features to resolve issues quickly and accurately.

Soft skills training

You can master software and memorise mission statements, but a customer service rep is lost without soft skills. Effective communication is imperative to successful customer service, whether that’s via email, livechat, in person or over the phone. Effective customer service training should highlight the importance of empathy and listening skills, and how to drive conversations through clear and positive language.

De-escalation training

Complaints and confrontation are inevitable, and they can be draining – but they don’t need to be the end of a customer relationship. Effective customer service training can help staff to deal with difficult customers, and de-escalate complaints and confrontations. To present your business in a good light, staff need to field complaints in a way that keeps the customer on side, and resolves them without ceding too much ground.

Looking to develop your customer service training programme?

At Kent Trainers we offer a range of customer service training courses, including our the popular 'Professional Customer Service Skills' and 'Dealing with Customer Complaints and Confrontation'. We pride ourselves on adapting our courses to the needs of businesses, and will work with you to provide training that improves your customer service outcomes. For more information about how we can help you develop your customer service training, contact us today.

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Mark Fryer

19th January 2022

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