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Improve Your Customer Support Training Programmes


According to the Customers 2020 Report, the importance of customer service will outweigh product and price as making the difference in customer loyalty. 65% of consumers already surveyed stated they had abandoned a brand after a single poor customer service experience. And, if they have a poor experience, how many of them are spreading the “bad news” to their tribes on social media?

UK business brands are losing about £15 billion every year because of poor customer service. U.S. brands are losing $41 billion.

This should be a huge wake-up call to any enterprise that has customers. It’s pretty frightening to think how much customer service impacts a company’s reputation. It just cannot be ignored. There are two important facets of customer service today – the technology that allows marketers and customer service personnel to personalize all aspects of customer relationships, and the critical training of customer service personnel to perfectly respond to customer issues and needs.

Training Is The Key

All of the best CRM software in the world will not substitute for actual interactions between customers and your support staff, when those are necessary. And customers decide when they are necessary. This means that training every support staff member is absolutely essential.

It then becomes a challenge to determine what type of training program(s) will serve to boost customer service and thereby keep loyal customers. Here are some tips that should help you make these determinations.

Identify The Skill Gaps In Behavioral Terms

You cannot begin to look at any training and development programs until you have identified the specific skills that your team should have. Once you are able to identify them, you must also define them in behavioral terms.

Most managers can name the skills they want – empathy, patience, consistency, flexibility, communication, work ethic, knowledge, thick skin, and so forth. But what do these look like in terms of behavior?

For example, we can define empathy as the ability to put oneself in another’s “shoes.” But what does that look like in customer service? It looks a lot like statements such as, “I understand how frustrated you must be. Let me see how we can make this right for you,” or “Can you tell me what we need to do to make this right for you?” If you are not hearing these things, then you have identified a skills gap, and your team needs empathy training.

If you are not certain which skill gaps your team or individuals on your team exhibit, then you have another source for this information. That source is your customer. There are many ways to do this. There are surveys, personalized email campaigns, and then there are social mention/monitoring tools. Your customers will not always come to you. You have to find them and, through their comments and feedback, identify the skill gaps.

Do Not Generalize

You have customer service agents at all levels of experience and skill levels. When you put all of them into the same “basket,” your training program(s) is ineffective. Just as you must personalize your customer support, you must also personalize the training of those who are delivering that support. Here is how you should approach the develop of individualized training:

  • Assume that all new hires have minimal skills until you can actually assess their on-the- job performance. Bring things right back to the beginning with these newbies.
  • You have no doubt heard a recording when you telephone a customer support department that goes something like this: “This call may be monitored so that we can improve services to our customers.” This is a real thing. If you intend to identify individual employee skill gaps, then you do have to monitor the interactions that they have with actual customers, whether those interactions are digital or via telephone conversation.
  • If customer support staff members are doing a great job in certain areas of service provisions, then they should be informed of this. And if they are truly good, their interactions may be the “meat” of some modeling training you may devise in-house.

Look At Every Touchpoint

There is a lifecycle of every customer. At any point in that lifecycle, a relationship can be ruined. A potential customer may have questions and want answers quickly prior to making a purchasing decision; a customer who has made a purchase may now want to change that order in some way; a customer should have immediate order confirmation, along with a confirmation number and methods for tracking that order; customers should be notified when orders have been shipped; they should know exactly how to exchange or return an order; and they should have contact information for personal interaction with customer service. They should also be asked for feedback following the entire experience.

The data of customer satisfaction at each of these touchpoints can be gathered and analyzed. It should drive decisions about the types of training and development you need to consider.

Network With Organizations And Enterprises That Focus On Customized Customer Service

It is a common practice, among many well-intentioned customer service managers and directors, to dive into training and development programs, because such programs have garnered a lot of hype or buzz. Unfortunately, diving in is not in your best interests. Prior to contracting with one or more training and development consultants and/or programs, consider seeking advice and counsel from groups and organizations that have expertise on customer support/service. Consider, for example, the Institute of Customer Service, a membership-based organization that continues to explore the entire area of customer service in an increasingly digital environment and provide expertise, advice, and even an academy of “courses.”

What you don’t want is a “canned” training program that is not customized to your unique needs and to the individual needs of your team. Find programs that have the flexibility and customization to address the skill gaps you have identified. They do not all have to come from the same provider.

Ensure That Customer Support Staff Are Experts In CRM Technology

Customer relations technology is wonderfully sophisticated. For example, there is software that will gather all interactions with each customer and synthesize those, so that no matter who answers that telephone call, chat message, or email, the entire customer relationship history is available.

When new CRM software is acquired and implemented, it goes without saying that staff training must occur. This is an easy one, and yet often that training may be inadequate. In addition to this, new hires may not receive the training that should occur relative to all of the functions of the existing software.

No Universal Solution

Many “canned” customer support training programs cover the entire gamut of customer relations, and the creators are smart for doing so. Every business is unique, and every business has its own specific challenges. If you have identified skills gaps, both on the part of individuals and the entire team, you want to focus on those gaps, not a generalized program. Be certain that any training vendor you consider has methods by which you can acquire or contract for those modules your team specifically needs and that you have the ability to pick and choose among those modules at will.

Consider as well the needs of your team in terms of training schedules. What are the options for individualized digital training, for gamification, for individualized assessment as training is delivered? Only you know what is the best fit for your organization. Be certain that a vendor can meet your needs.

And how do you measure the success of any training initiatives you implement? You gather the data on customer comment, feedback and retention, and use that data to revise, remodel, and improve.

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