Customer service training is essential if you want to retain customers for the long term, reduce employee churn, and create a successful customer-centric company. But how do you begin training your reps to provide remarkable support?
We've compiled this guide to answer that question. After all, 90% of Americans say customer service plays a significant role in choosing a company.
Exceptional customer service is an absolute must if you want your company to succeed and thrive in years to come.
In this post, you'll learn how customer service training benefits your business, when different types of training come in handy, and what materials you'll need to execute a training program.
By the end, you'll walk away with a comprehensive understanding of customer service training.
What is customer service training?
Customer service training is the coaching that employees receive to improve support and satisfaction among customers. A strong customer service training program includes exercises for improving interpersonal communication, product knowledge, conflict resolution, crisis management, and more.
There are lots of types of customer service training. However, this training is typically an iterative process that involves teaching skills, competencies, and tools needed to better serve customers.
Any employee interacting and dealing with customers is a good fit for customer service training, regardless of their seniority or experience level.
Because your customers are your best growth opportunity, every employee should work hard to keep them happy — as marketers, executive assistants, management, or customer service representatives.
Nowadays, customer-facing teams are labeled many different things: customer support, customer success, or customer service. For this article, we'll refer to customer service when discussing service and support training.
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Why is customer service training important?
What experiences stood out to you more as a shopper: marketing tactics or customer service? Most likely, the latter.
Customer service is a company's opportunity to connect with customers, solve problems, and show they care.
And when customer service is executed well, it can resonate with customers for years. People are 93% more likely to return after a positive customer service experience.
That's why training your customer support team is just as important (if not more) as training your marketing or sales teams. Service experiences are what stick with your customers and inspire reviews and word-of-mouth advertising.
Here are a few of the reasons you should invest in a customer service training program.
1. Happy customers become brand advocates.
It's not uncommon for businesses to view their customer service teams as an afterthought. Once a consumer becomes a customer and pays for your product or service, the hard work is done, right? Wrong…
Happy, delighted customers come from excellent service and are your best advocates — even better than your most talented marketers.
Here's why it matters: 94% of people recommend a company with "very good" service, and buyers are 92% more likely to buy after reading reviews.
With this in mind, you can see how your current and past customers are your top bet for bringing in new business.
Customer service can be one of your strongest marketing strategies. Meeting and exceeding customer expectations isn't optional. It should be a top priority.
2. Remarkable customer service is a competitive advantage.
One of the easiest ways to stand out among your competition may surprise you. It's delivering excellent customer service that makes it easy to choose your company over others in your market.
The data speaks for itself: 3 out of 5 customers will leave your business after one bad experience. And after two bad experiences, that figure jumps to3 out of 4 customers.
What's more, if you normally have great service, 75% of people are more likely to forgive you for a bad experience. And conversely, if they think your service is poor, only 15% of people are likely to stick around.
That's why providing top-notch customer service — and training your reps to provide that service — is essential for gaining an edge over your competition.
Ultimately, a great customer service training program can help you create a strong reputation so your company becomes the obvious choice when people are looking for options in your niche.
3. Great customer service increases retention.
Customer service is a key player in the game of customer retention.
Think about it. If a customer has a pressing question about your product, what would make them happy and willing to stick around? A generic email response or a personalized, well-researched answer from a service representative dedicated to their success?
The latter will win more brownie points.
More importantly, three-quarters of consumers expect personalized experiences.
So when your customer service training program ensures that your frontline team members understand why it's important to personalize every engagement, your company wins big.
Better yet, this customer might 1) be satisfied with their interaction with your company and customer service team and 2) go on to recommend your business, products, and services to their friends and colleagues.
That's why customer service training is so important. You're training your employees to deal with some of the most influential people in your life: your customers. (Sorry, family.)
Hiring vs. Training Customer Service Candidates
At this point, you might be asking, Why can't I just hire the right people from the get-go and leave it at that?
Well, you should always hire the best fit for each role, customer service included. But hiring skilled people and thinking the job is done is doing a disservice to both your team and your customers.
Regardless of how talented your new employees are, teaching customer service skills is essential if you want your reps to effectively represent your company.
It's also critical to help them understand your methodology so they know why you take a specific approach and can confidently serve your customers with that reasoning as their North Star.
And even the most experienced team members can use a refresher from time to time. In addition to people's expectations and the world itself changing rapidly, it's good to revisit skills and techniques with fresh eyes.
Take HubSpot's content team, for example. We were hired because we know how to write, but when we started, we weren't simply handed a laptop and told, "Now, go type a bunch of stuff." Instead, we received training on HubSpot's style guide, how to represent the company and brand online, and how to ensure every piece of content meets all of the quality standards.
The same goes for your customer support and service folks. Of course, you're going to hire highly-skilled people.
However, that doesn't negate the importance of onboarding new hires and training them to be part of a team with a bigger goal — serving and delighting your customers.
Use free templates to help you engage and delight your customers.
Hiring for Customer Service
While training for customer service is the main topic here, let's take a slight detour and discuss hiring for customer service, too.
The right hires help you build a strong foundation for your customer service team. And your hiring process is how you can ultimately ensure that your team is receptive to your training.
While some skills and strengths can be taught or fine-tuned through the different types of customer service training, there are some attributes your team members must have upon hiring.
No software, training exercises, or tools can compensate for gaps in these areas.
Skills To Look for When Hiring for Customer Service
Here are some skills to look for — even if just a hint — while interviewing and screening customer service candidates.
1. Emotional Intelligence
Your customer service team deals with a variety of customer problems, some that you can forecast, and some that no one can predict.
The true heart of customer service beats with the ability to patiently listen, decipher someone else's problem, and empathize with them.
Unfortunately, this skill doesn't come naturally to everyone, nor is it something everyone can master in training.
Emotional intelligence is all about how you relate to other people. And, since this is central to excellent customer service, you want to ensure your hires have this skill before bringing them onto your team.
One way you can gauge emotional intelligence is by asking: "Can you tell me about a time you tried to do something and failed?"
2. Good Communication
If your candidates can't answer an interview question, how would they communicate with your customers (who most likely have much higher expectations than you)?
Customer service training can teach new and improved communication techniques. However, new hires should be able to showcase the ability to simplify complex topics and teach others new skills.
To gauge good communication skills, ask questions like: "How would you explain a complicated technical problem to a colleague with less technical understanding?"
Resourcefulness is the difference between responding to a problem with "I don't know" and "I will find out." Problem-solving skills, initiative, and creativity are just a few competencies that align with resourcefulness.
While these skills can be cultivated through customer service training, your candidates should display some resourcefulness — or at least a willingness to try to figure things out on their own.
To gauge resourcefulness, ask questions like: "Describe a time when you faced a significant obstacle to succeeding with an important work project or activity. What did you do to solve it?"
While passion isn't quite a skill, it's fundamental to going above and beyond in the customer service field.
Delighting your customers and turning them into superfans of your company means that your support team should have a sense of excitement and passion for the success of both the company and the customer.
Your candidates might not have a strong passion for your company just yet. Truthfully, it may never be their top passion in life.
However, they should be passionate about working with people — specifically, your customers — and helping others solve their problems.
To gauge passion, ask: "When have you been most satisfied in your work at your previous company?"
If hiring the right candidates is like planting seeds in the right soil, training your customer service team is like cultivating and growing your garden to its maximum potential.
To continue the analogy, satisfied customers are the bountiful harvest at the end of the season.
With that in mind, let's dive into training for customer support and service.
Types of Customer Service Training
Customer service training ensures that your team can adapt to all kinds of different situations.
After all, when your team understands the key principles that guide your customer service philosophy, they're better able to apply that knowledge to every customer encounter.
While the concept of customer service training is to train your team to serve and delight, specific training methods and practices vary based on your company, your employees, and a variety of other factors.
Let's break down a few instances where you might conduct customer service training and what you can expect as a hiring manager or owner.
1. New Hire Customer Service Training
As with any new role, the first month or two of training can dictate an employee's long-term success with your company. Customer service training for new hires isn't any different and should be an essential part of onboarding.
This specific type of training will help new employees acclimate to a new job, company, and culture and ensure they're ready to communicate with your valuable customers.
The steps of new hire customer service training involve:
Acquainting the Team
Your customer service team should be, well, a team. They need to work together to serve customers and handle problems. This means you must establish and maintain agility by introducing and involving new hires from the get-go.
Some examples of doing this include:
- Scheduling a team lunch on your new hire's first day.
- Ask experienced team members to provide an office tour.
- Make the first day or two all about team building.
The bottom line is that when your team has time to connect, they can form a bond that makes it easier to work together. And it helps new employees acclimate and feel more comfortable in their roles.
New hires should know what's expected of them during training and in their first month of work.
Setting clear expectations upfront minimizes confusion and allows new employees to understand their responsibilities. It doesn't serve anyone to be loosey-goosey on expectations.
Some examples of this include creating:
- A new-hire training guide including activities to expect during training and what responsibilities they'll have during their first few months.
- At-a-glance checklists and scripts for core activities they might encounter or perform daily.
- A weekly schedule of meetings.
- A manual that outlines how to perform key aspects of their job step-by-step and a list of internal resources for more information — whether colleagues, reading materials, or even file locations.
Equipping your new customer service hires to do their jobs sets them up for success. Think of this as giving them a set of training wheels they can return to at any time.
Rome wasn't built in a day. If you don't have all of this yet, you don't have to create it immediately. Instead, you may start with one or two of these things and build as you go.
Setting Up Tools
Could we even do our jobs without various tools, software, and digital subscriptions?
Probably not, and neither can your new employees. Before training, set up your employees with the apps, tools, and memberships they need to communicate and collaborate with the team.
Looking for an example of how to do this?
Consider creating a checklist of all the apps and logins they need, so you can be sure to set them up for success. As you check off each item, add the username for each to the list so they have a quick reference guide for tools.
Introducing the Company and Product (or Service)
To best serve your customers, your customer service team needs to know your company and product or service offering better than anyone.
Some examples of doing this include:
- Providing your hires with a one-page overview of the company, including the brand story, core values, guiding philosophies, and a list of key leadership and colleagues.
- Creating a "say this, not that" brand voice guide to make sure new hires build a consistent customer experience.
- Setting aside time for dedicated product training so that your new hires can learn your product(s) so well they could teach others.
- If bringing on multiple new hires, having them take turns "teaching" each other.
2. Regular Customer Service Training
Whether your customer service team has been around for six months or six years, they should still undergo regular training. Consider revisiting this every quarter, half-year, or year, depending on what works best for your company.
What this training looks like depends on your company. However, here are a few regular customer service training examples.
Skills or Competence Check-In
Just as you'd conduct a routine performance review, a quarterly or half-year training is good practice for your customer service team.
Skill-based training is ever-evolving based on trends in the outside world, customer expectations, and new developments in your offerings.
What's more, certain skills can erode if not maintained over time. Conducting routine training keeps everyone on the team aligned, fresh, and doing their best work.
Best Practices Workshops
Some teams find that a monthly customer service workshop is a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening while ensuring your team stays fresh.
Going into these meetings with an agenda is a great way to ensure they are productive and stay on track. Sending a request for topics a few days before is also a good idea.
Your agenda might include:
- Identifying trends in problems as well as customer feedback.
- Discussing how to handle these problems successfully.
- Role-playing solutions to these problems.
- Asking for additional input.
Ultimately, this gives you regular check-ins with your team and ensures they know how to handle relevant common themes.
While working in customer service can be rewarding, it can also be tough. Those difficult days can take a toll on employees and their team relationships.
Routine team-building activities and training can help maintain strong relationships.
This gives your employees a chance to have fun, while simultaneously resolving challenging distractions so your employees can focus on their jobs.
Some examples of team-building exercises can include:
- A compliment circle, where every customer service employee compliments another on something, whether how they handle specific situations or a general approach.
- A brainstorming session where everyone brings a few ideas for improving things. These can range from adding a new Slack channel to streamlining customer service.
- A scavenger hunt. Whether online, in person, or hybrid, these are great ways to build relationships with small groups.
- Lunch-and-learns about new topics, whether personal or professional development.
- Cooking classes, whether virtual or in person.
3. Emergency or Time-Sensitive Customer Service Training
Sometimes, customer service training can't be planned. Perhaps there's a product recall, a major rebranding, or a national advertising campaign.
This type of customer service training can also result from news breaking in your industry that may have your audience taking notice, even if it doesn't directly involve your company.
Because 90% of customers rate an "immediate" response as important, you must prepare your front-line employees (your customer service team) to take calls, answer questions, and resolve conflicts.
Emergency customer service training is all about equipping your team with everything they need to know to do their job and help your audience.
Here are examples of how you can deliver urgent customer service training.
In Times of Crisis
During a recall, crisis, or company emergency, your customer service team should be updated on all events and trained on how to respond.
Because your audience will be concerned, full transparency is strongly encouraged. Your team needs to be aware of the problem and your solution, or how you are approaching the solution.
Share how you'll send out updates. These trainings should be a top priority on everyone's calendar. You can better ensure complete organizational alignment when you can train your team.
To give you a real-world example, when news breaks of an online data breach, even if it's not your company, your customers may worry about the security of their data and may reach out in a panic.
If your team can speak to the problem, how you're being proactive, and where customers can go for updates or more information, you can ensure more positive experiences with your company.
Product or Company Updates
This type of customer service training is less of an emergency but is just as time-sensitive.
Whether you release a product update, run a major marketing campaign, or alter your website, your customer service team should complete training on these updates and be equipped to handle any customer questions or concerns.
For example, our customer service teams receive new training materials in the months leading up to HubSpot's annualINBOUNDevent.
These resources give employees the most up-to-date information on any new products that'll be announced at INBOUND — which can be upwards of four or five major product releases!
Your customer service teams should be looped in on company updates or changes so customers aren't blindsided when they have questions.
4. Customer Service Phone Training
Today, 48% of customers want to communicate with companies via phone call for customer service. Based on this, training reps knowing how to provide a delightful experience via phone call is critical to your success.
Here's what you should focus on in terms of phone training:
- Maintaining a positive tone and attitude throughout the call.
- Remaining calm and professional, even on difficult calls.
- Speaking slowly and clearly.
- Asking customers clear and direct questions that help reps come to an effective solution efficiently.
- Presenting solutions in a way that will make sense for each individual customer.
- Using verbiage that's representative of your brand.
- Being an active listener.
- Always showing empathy and authenticity.
- Staying in control of the conversation and leading the customer towards an effective resolution.
- Making sure customers don't have any other questions or concerns before hanging up.
- Thanking the customer at the end of the call.
An example of customer service phone training includes setting up a series of role-play scenarios where one person is a customer with a problem, and the other is a customer service rep deciphering the problem, empathizing, and offering resolution.
In addition to role-play, scripts are helpful when it comes to solving specific problems.
Alternatively, because word-for-word scripts can sound impersonal, you might also consider offering bullet points your team members can use in their responses.
5. Live Chat Customer Service Training
Live chat is one of the up-and-coming customer service channels because it delivers the immediacy customers require. More than half of millennials prefer live chat, as it allows you to offer a personal touch with speed and convenience.
As the largest generation in U.S. history, millennials represent a huge percentage of your buyers, so live chat customer service training is necessary in today's world.
Fortunately, live chat training can resemble phone call training with scripts and bullet points your team members can use.
Being a customer service representative is challenging.
There are some basic ways to teach customer service to your repsto ensure they have the skills they need. Remember, their goal and yours should be the same — effectively serving and delighting customers.
You can separate these skills into different categories — which we'll review momentarily — so you can easily focus on teaching and building them with your reps.
Let's take a look.
Customer Service Basics
- Interpersonal Skills: Customer service reps should be positive and empathetic when communicating with customers.
- Clear Communication: Customer service reps should be able to succinctly explain complex concepts to customers.
- Assertiveness and Directness: Customer service reps should be confident when interacting with customers.
- Product Feature and Application Knowledge: Customer service reps should know the product inside and out.
- Crisis Management Skills: Customer service reps should know how to effectively handle negative situations.
- Team-Building and Camaraderie Skills: Customer service teams should have a strong sense of community to increase employee retention.
- Customer Advocacy and Success Skills: Customer service reps should be able to champion their customers.
- Conflict Resolution Skills: Customer service reps should know how to de-escalate negative situations with customers.
Ensuring your reps learn the following customer service basics and soft skills will make all the difference in your company's growth.
Your employees face customers every day. Customers will judge your business based on interactions with your people and your reps' behavior.
Only with thorough training in critical areas can your customer service representatives confidently deal with customer issues and turn angry customers into satisfied ones.
Let's dive into each of the customer service basics and soft skills your reps need to succeed in their roles.
1. Interpersonal Skills
For effective customer service, reps should look inward and focus on interpersonal skills critical to fostering positive and trustworthy customer relationships.
Positivity isn't just about smiling. It's also about keeping your language upbeat and promising so customers remain positive.
The last thing you want to do is introduce a new negative idea that leaves your customers more concerned than when they first called.
Whether your team serves customers via social media, email, chat, or the phone, train them to replace negative words with positive ones.
For example, instead of saying, "I'm afraid that…", teach your customer service team to start sentences with, "I'd love to help…". This keeps the response in a positive light while remaining honest with customers.
Positivity Training Exercise
- Jot down five to 10 negative customer service responses and ask your team to rewrite them as positive statements. They can work alone or in small groups or pairs.
- Divide your team into pairs and give each pair two problems to role play, so each person can play the role of customer and rep. Have the customer for each problem pay attention to negative words and phrases and then let the other person know what they heard.
- Bring a transcript of an actual conversation to a meeting, and anonymize the customer and the rep. Then walk through the conversation as a group and identify opportunities to make the entire exchange more positive.
Empathy is critical for serving customers. When your team members genuinely want customers to be happy and successful, they can be your biggest assets.
One of the ways to help people develop empathy is to help them walk in a customer's shoes so they become just as invested in finding a solution to a problem.
In addition to helping your customer service team reach that resolution much quicker, you can make a customer for life.
But empathy doesn't come easily to everyone, especially more technical, logical people. While they care, they're often not as well-equipped to express those feelings.
To develop empathy in your customer service team, encourage them to spend time with people who are different from them.
Whether with someone at a community event, an Uber driver, someone in line at a grocery store, or a stranger at a conference, having conversations outside their comfort zones can help diversify their thinking.
Empathy Training Exercise
Tell your team to think about a time they were a customer and might've had a frustrating transaction or unsatisfactory experience. Have them share their stories and recall how they felt and were treated.
2. Clear Communication
Although this is technically an interpersonal skill, it's vital for effective customer service and support that it deserves a separate section.
Clarity in communication can improve customer service interactions tenfold. It's the difference between sending 10 emails or one when explaining a product.
While easy to decipher during interviews and onboarding, speaking with clarity remains a skill that customer service representatives should hone throughout their careers, especially as new products or updates are introduced.
Reddit's Explain Like I'm Five is a great example of clarity in action. On this thread, people take pretty complex topics, from biology to engineering to technology, and explain concepts as if they were teaching a child.
Now, "dumbing" answers down to this extent isn't necessary for your very adult audience, but it's a good example of explaining something clearly and concisely.
And keep in mind, there's a difference between breaking things down and being condescending, so if you share this example with your team, ensure they know where the line is.
Clear Communication Training Exercise
Have your team present product demonstrations as if you were a brand-new customer. Challenge them to explain the product (or a portion of your product) in five minutes or less.
3. Assertiveness and Directness
Customer service reps need to be both assertive and direct.
Doing so helps reps establish authority as someone who can solve customer problems, while simultaneously maintaining clear communication and boundaries.
The ability to face problems head-on without dancing around uncomfortable topics also gives them the tools to help customers find and share the best solutions for their challenges more efficiently.
Think about it this way — customers want quick and effective solutions to their challenges. They don't want to wait around for some wishy-washy answer that may or may not work.
By being assertive and direct, reps make customers feel confident that the information they're receiving is accurate.
Assertiveness and Directness Training Exercise
Encourage reps to try role-play exercises with each other where one person pretends to be an unhappy and vocal customer with many questions.
The other person should practice regaining control of the conversation and respectfully but directly navigating the discussion to the solution the rep can offer.
4. Product Feature and Application Skills
Companies are always growing and evolving — from product updates to new branding. And this is exactly how it should be because the world is also continually changing.
Customers have new expectations, competitors have new offers, and new technologies mean that companies that don't evolve and adapt won't thrive in the future.
With that in mind, you cannot afford for your customer service team to stagnate in their skills or training. Customer service training in your company should be ongoing across the board, but especially for the people on the front lines.
Considering you're essentially teaching them to teach, they should know your product inside and out.
Product Feature and Application Training Exercises
Here are a few examples of customer service training on your product and company:
Assign a mentor.
Organize a mentorship program for every employee, especially your new hires.
The mentor should be someone in another department to expose the employee to different business segments and allow them to stay up-to-date on company-wide happenings.
Additionally, when this mentor isn't in the direct chain of command, they can remain neutral when giving feedback.
Coordinate job shadowing.
This exercise is highly encouraged for new hires but can also benefit customer service veterans.
Shadowing introduces your team to new approaches, responses, and applications of customer service and your product that they'd otherwise not be exposed to.
Hold demonstration sessions.
This is similar to the training idea mentioned above, but it involves having your team present to their teammates. This will challenge them on their communication and understanding of the product.
Encourage attendees to provide constructive feedback to help one another grow. And consider recording these sessions for the person giving the training so they can hear how they present themselves.
Create a knowledge base.
Teaching others is the best way to learn, and it's especially true for customer service. Have your team create a knowledge base of your product or service offering in the form of a guide or directory.
This will challenge your team on their knowledge and clarity and ultimately help customers by creating a lasting company resource.
And, if you make someone responsible for updating it each quarter, you'll have a fantastic record to cross-train new departments.
Learn how to set up your knowledge base of articles in HubSpot's Service Hub.
5. Crisis Management Skills
Research shows that 70% of unhappy customers whose problems are resolved are willing to shop with a business again.
Just because a customer comes to you unhappy, angry, or rude doesn't mean they have to walk away with the same sentiment.
Appropriately managing each customer's crisis and actively working to change their attitude is how you serve and retain customers in the long run.
Discover how to manage, plan for, and communicate during crises with these management plan templates.
Crisis Management Training Exercises
Even those with thick skin can get worn down and discouraged after dealing with many angry customers. So, here are a couple of training exercises to teach your customer service team how to deal with — and delight — difficult customers.
Conduct role-play activities.
This training exercise is highly recommended for all customer service representatives and can be especially helpful for pacifying angry customers.
Conducting mock calls that resemble a real customer service issue (and involve a seemingly angry caller) can help acclimate your team to the realities of upset customers.
Have your team work together. By encouraging veterans on your team to use real situations they've dealt with in the past, you can ensure that your new hires get relevant training.
Teach the LAST method.
Despite intensive training on skills like empathy and patience, some difficult customers will simply be impossible to relate to.
That's where methods like reflective listening and LAST come into play.
LAST stands for Listen, Acknowledge, Solve, and Thank.
Teach your team to pause, listen to, and acknowledge upset customers. These steps can make the difference between solving an angry customer's problem and turning an angry customer into a satisfied one.
6. Team-Building and Camaraderie Skills
Camaraderie and community among professional teams in any industry can help with overall performance, but it's especially important in customer service.
I included this section in my list of customer service training ideas because that's essentially what it is — training your team to take care of themselves so they can take care of your customers.
Team-Building and Camaraderie Training Exercises
Here are a few ways to train your team to cultivate community and take care of themselves:
Dealing with customers all day, every day, can be incredibly draining and stressful. Meditation can be a helpful tool to regain mental balance and relaxation amid customer service chaos.
Dedicate time to learning meditation and relaxation methods, so your team feels comfortable taking a break. Apps like Headspace and Calm can help your team, especially if they meditate together.
Inspire healthy competition.
Customer service training isn't just about teaching your team how to do their job; it's also about encouraging them to reach their full potential.
Inspiring healthy competition through a leaderboard or monthly awards will challenge your customer service team to go above and beyond, helping more customers, creating camaraderie, and contributing to their overall success and future career.
Fun fact: HubSpot's own customer support teams use a leaderboard and have found it motivates and inspires performance.
Take team outings (in-person or digitally).
Traditional product and skill training can bring your team together at work, but out-of-office activities can also inspire community and friendship that further encourage camaraderie in the office.
Treat your team to an event or activity unrelated to work, such as a museum trip or a remote team-building game. These activities are fun, casual, and lead to lasting connections that can mitigate otherwise tough days at work.
In other words, they can lead to strong employee satisfaction and reduce turnover.
Since it takes people up to two years to get fully up to speed, making sure your customer service team is satisfied is a good business practice.
7. Customer Advocacy and Success Skills
To create an atmosphere of customer advocacy and success, your training has to go above and beyond teaching soft and technical skills.
You can win big when you can turn happy customers into customers who actively promote your company.
However, it's not just about delivering a quality product or service. These customers don't simply exist once they purchase from you.
Instead, they're created when your customer service team treats them well and fights to solve their problems.
Customer Advocacy and Success Training Exercises
Here are examples of customer service training to build a world-class customer-focused culture:
Teach new language.
I referenced positive language in a previous section, but this is a little different.
The key to customer advocacy is aligning your goals and needs with the customer and essentially "joining their team" as you work towards a solution. This can be done with a simple switch in verbiage.
Consider creating a "say this, not that" document your team can refer to in conversations. Doing so helps them enhance how customers perceive your company and improve their experience.
For example, how does "I'm not sure we can do that for you" sound compared to "let's see what we can do to solve that"?
How about: "Let's get you set up with the right person to help" versus "I can't help with that"?
Changing responses to align with a customers' frustrations and needs tells a customer, "We're on your side, too."
Encourage exceeding expectations.
Let's say your team must solve a minimum of 10 tickets per day. You could train your employees to get that done and leave them alone. I mean, they are doing their work, right?
Sure, but this hardly creates an environment of going above and beyond for the customer (not to mention each employee's potential). Instead of settling with "good enough," challenge your team to do the best they can do every day.
This motivation will change how much work is done and influence how they work with and satisfy customers.
Not sure how to do this? An example could be creating a leaderboard or gamifying your team output, which we mentioned earlier.
Collect (and use) feedback.
Feedback is the lifeblood of any team or company that wants to improve. Invest in infrastructure that collects customer feedback through surveys, social media, or direct messages.
It's not enough to get customer feedback. You must also use that feedback to measure the team's success and identify improvement opportunities.
It helps individuals improve their skills and shows your customers that you care about what they have to say.
Of note: If you act on a specific piece of feedback, send a note to the customer thanking them for the input and letting them know how you've acted on it so they feel heard and appreciated.
For example, if a customer mentions that they wish you included a resources section on your website for quick self-service, and you decide to create one, let them know.
8. Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict resolution skills are necessary for any service and support calls reps have with customers. After all, customers reaching out to your service and support reps are doing so because they're trying to find a solution to a challenge or roadblock.
Not to mention, reps are bound to encounter angry, frustrated customers from time to time, too — this requires an even deeper level of conflict resolution on the part of reps.
Conflict Resolution Training Exercises
You can teach reps to resolve different types of conflict in a wide variety of ways. Here are some examples of tips you can encourage your customer service team to use:
- Draw on past experiences to set expectations.
- Communicate clearly.
- Show empathy.
- Use active listening.
- Acknowledge the people's specific needs.
- Don't point fingers or place the blame on anyone.
- Use "I" statements.
- Say you're sorry.
- Stay calm and professional.
- Help people how they want to be helped.
- Don't interrupt.
- Remember the importance of maintaining the relationship.
Free Customer Service Training Materials
A lot goes into customer service training, and it can be a daunting process to manage alone. Thankfully, there are plenty of customer service training materials available online. We've gathered some of our favorites below.
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1. Customer Service Training Manual [Download for Free]
Aligning your team with universal training documentation is an assured way to inform new hires of their roles, goals, and expectations.
You can use this free customer support training manual template to build a customizable business manual.
In this manual template, you'll get:
New Hire Guide
This part of the template allows you to welcome your new customer service reps and give them an overview of the team. It also lets you warmly greet them and get them excited about their new role.
Customer service reps are one of the roles with the highest turnover, so you want to get them started on the right foot.
This short, flexible section allows you to give ballpark dates for when certain parts of the training will start and end.
Later in the manual, you can provide a more detailed 100-day plan with specific milestones, but this section will help you set the stage and establish expectations.
Tech and Software Setup
Your reps will need to leverage many tools to get their job done efficiently, but you don't want them to feel overwhelmed. Feelings of overwhelm can quickly lead to burnout.
Use this section to outline where they can get a monitor and headset, which customer service software and CRM they'll use, and how to access and set up each tool.
People to Meet
Remember that camaraderie we were talking about earlier? You should strive to foster that starting from the training period.
Giving your reps a list of people to schedule "coffee chats" with can help them get acquainted with the team more quickly. This is especially important if your customer service team is remote.
100 Day Goals
A strong 100-day or 30-60-90-day plan can get your rep started on the right foot and give them guidelines for how they should perform by a certain date. No rep wants to be hired and feel like they have to perform perfectly on the first day.
Reassure your reps that they'll be "ramped up" to full performance standards by outlining what will be expected of them as time goes on.
Feedback and Reviews
Providing feedback as you train your customer service rep is essential for ensuring their success. This section lets you set dates for checking in with your new rep to let them know how they're doing.
These meetings don't have to be formal, but you should know how to conduct a performance appraisal before starting one.
Interacting with Customers
In this section of the manual template, you can provide concrete guidelines for handling customer inquiries and complaints.
Here, you can provide a few guidelines for fostering a positive customer service tone during the call. You might also link to your customer service scripts and/or role-play scenarios.
A top-performing customer service rep knows when to escalate a problem to someone who can deal with it more effectively. This part of the manual gives your new reps guidance on when to do just that.
Consider including a chart and scenarios when escalation is necessary to keep the customer (and your rep) happy. Remember, if your service rep feels forced to deal with a situation that is out of their hands, everyone suffers.
While you should hold a dedicated product training during your new hire onboarding process, you should still include an easy-to-reference section with FAQs about your product.
This part will address any product questions that may come up as the rep gets acquainted with the product they'll provide support for. It should also provide quick answers to frequent support questions.
Resources for Success
Leave the customer service rep with a list of tools that will help them more effectively ramp up and get acquainted with the ins and outs of their role.
You can include logistical information here — such as a link to your documents about PTO — and also inspirational materials, such as a video from the CEO.
2. Customer Service Training Courses
Online customer service training courses teaching vital skills can be a great addition to your training program.
As self-led seminars, employees take ownership of their training and are exposed to skills and competencies outside the organization.
Below is a short list of some free customer service training courses for your team.
1. Delivering Exceptional Customer Support by HubSpot
This short course from HubSpot will acquaint your reps with key competencies and tactics for delivering support your customers will praise you for.
It's a quick course — less than an hour long — making it an ideal and convenient addition to your training schedule. You could even get your entire customer service team in one room and play it for them at once.
The course is split into three sections:
- Understanding customer support competencies. Your reps will learn the basic skills they need to deliver excellent support and how to improve those skills continuously.
- Support case framework. Your reps will learn how to structure their approach to each case to resolve customer issues more effectively.
- Managing your time as a customer support rep. Time management is the lifeblood of a strong workflow. In this short lesson, reps will learn how to increase their productivity.
2. Customer Service Training by Alison
Alison is a digital education hub that offers free courses and paid certifications on various skills. Its customer service training course is geared towards beginners in the field, so it's a perfect place to start.
This course will give your employees an understanding of essential customer service factors and help them understand how to deliver a customer-friendly approach that's best for your business needs.
They'll also learn the benefits of providing excellent service and cover a few do's and don'ts when dealing with customers.
3. Culture of Services: New Perspective on Customer Relations by edX
Like Alison, edX is another digital learning platform offering free courses.
They partner with universities worldwide, such as Berkeley, Harvard, and the University of Kyoto — the school to which the Culture of Services: New Perspective on Customer Relations course is presented.
This course focuses on customer service's social and cultural aspects and takes 9 to 11 weeks to complete. Throughout the course, your employees will be exposed to various services — such as sushi bars, restaurants, hotels, and apparel.
They'll study customer service's "nuanced and paradoxical nature" and learn how to approach it from a cultural and social perspective.
4.Innovative Customer Service Techniques by LinkedIn Learning
LinkedIn Learning is an award-winning online education platform run by the most popular professional social media platform. It primarily teaches digital and business-related skills.
The Innovative Customer Service Techniques course is created and presented by customer service expert Jeff Toister and consists of a short 45-minute video.
Your employees can access the course through a seven-day free trial or join LinkedIn Learning's paid membership.
5. Bonus: Business Courses by Treehouse
Treehouse is another online course library, but the program requires a paid membership.
HubSpot uses Treehouse for our own customer support and service training. Treehouse offers courses on soft skills and others that may contribute to overall customer service education.
3. Customer Service Training Games
Using games and activities can make customer service training much more fun.
Whether they require materials like a whiteboard or simply involve your team, games are a way to teach valuable skills while encouraging teamwork and collaboration between your employees.
Check out these free, quick-and-easy games to play during customer support and service training:
- Fun and Powerful Training Games for Customer Service Teams by UserLike
- Free Customer Service Training Games by BusinessTrainingWorks
4. Customer Service Training Videos
Sometimes it's valuable to incorporate outside insight or perspective during customer service training.
Best of all, it's not something you have to do on your own. Videos from thought leaders and industry experts are powerful additions to your customer service training programs.
Here's an example of a well-made, valuable customer service training video. Also, check out this post for more videos.
Customer Service Training Video Example
In this 12-minute video, business coach and consultant David Brownleeexplains the essentials of customer service in friendly, easy-to-understand language. With over 4,000 likes, the value of this video speaks for itself.
Brownlee is an expert in the customer service field and advocates for creating relationships of trust and loyalty with customers, promoting customer care versus simple service.
Grow Better With Customer Service & Support Training
Consumers view customer service as the test of how much a company truly values them.
Roughly three out of every four customers view their interactions with customer service as more important than marketing or sales — and it's why customer service is such an important engine for growth.
With your customer service team on the front lines of customer service and retention, they need to be properly trained and equipped to handle any challenge that comes their way.
Execute these customer service and support training ideas, and your customers and employees will be more satisfied overall.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.