Customer service is tough.
The expectations of the role might seem clear -- it's about helping and guiding customers to solve their problems and answer their questions.
But the nuts and bolts of how you actually do that can be easier said than done.
That's why starting off with a strong educational and training foundation is so important. In order to retain your customers and keep them happy so you can grow your business, you need to prioritize employee training so they're equipped to do that. In fact, we found that growing companies are nearly twice as likely as stagnating companies to prioritize customer service training as "very important."
Below are some customer service training ideas you can use on your team to build a strong educational foundation -- no matter what industry you work in.
8 Customer Service Training Ideas to Bring Out the Best in Your Team
I've broken this list down into customer service training ideas you can use for new hires on your team, and ideas your entire team can do to keep growing their skills year-round.
For New Hires
1. Reflective Listening
Reflective listening consists of repeating what people say to you back to them in their response. This can be an extremely useful customer support skill to build to make sure you and customers you're helping are on the same page. It also helps customers to feel heard if they're dealing with a frustrating or time-sensitive issue with your product or service.
To practice growing your reflective listening skills, break team members into pairs, and ask them to take turns responding to their partner by reflectively listening.
Here's an example:
Sarah: Hi, I was billed twice this month, and I need my money back.
Miguel: Hi Sarah. What I'm hearing is that you were mistakenly billed twice in one month, and that you're looking for a refund. Is that correct?
Taking the time to repeat Sarah's issue back to her helps Miguel to quickly identify and diagnose her issue, as well as assure Sarah that help is on the way for her problem.
2. Mock Calls
Along the same lines as the reflective listening exercise, mock calls are a time-tested strategy for practicing the job before doing the job.
Team members should be paired up and given real scenarios that customer support reps have to tackle every day -- easy ones, and difficult ones, too. Have support reps take turns serving as the customer and the support rep so they can get an idea of how to handle common issues -- and how to adapt during stress-inducing calls.
Team members playing the role of the customer should feel free to be creative -- all customers are different, and support reps should be prepared to adapt to different situations and personalities before they get on the phones with real customers.
3. No 'No's Allowed
This exercise will teach support reps how to still be helpful if they don't give the customer the answer they want to hear.
There's only one rule: No saying 'no.' (This includes all 'no'-oriented words and phrases, like "I don't know" and "We don't do that.")
This exercise will challenge support reps to reframe the conversation with a customer when, in fact, the answer truly is 'no.' But when customers are upset or frustrated, answering their requests with a flat-out 'no' might serve to aggravate them and won't move the conversation forward.
Team members should be put into pairs and take turns role-playing the customer and the support reps. "Customers" should make big, bold requests that support reps can't say 'no' to -- but instead, have to figure out a solution-oriented response.
For example, if the customer asked for a discount the support rep wasn't authorized to offer, instead of saying 'no,' the rep could say, "If you're looking to reduce the cost of your CRM subscription, I could help you consolidate your database to under 1,000 contacts. Would you like help setting that up?"
The support rep is essentially telling the customer that no, they can't offer them a discount. But by offering alternative options, the customer might feel like the support rep is on their side, and won't get frustrated by what they perceive as stubbornness or inflexibility.
4. Product Demonstration
A great final test for new support reps to take before getting on the phones is a product demonstration and deep-dive to make sure they know the product or service inside and out.
Reps should be tasked with giving a 10-15 minute product presentation and demonstration -- walking a prospective "customer" through everything they need to know to successfully start using it themselves.
Managers should listen for their ability to succinctly and clearly explain complicated topics -- and to make sure they know how to use and explain every facet of a product, its website or app, and its features.
5. Personality Tests
This isn't specific to customer support, but it's a good idea for new reps to take some sort of personality test to learn how they work and communicate best with others.
One framework we use here at HubSpot is the DiSC profile, which evaluates people's behavioral and personality differences. Other tests include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and 16Personalities, and these can all give support reps helpful insights into how they best like to work, how they communicate with others, and possible sources of conflict they might encounter.
You can't control the personality of every customer you talk to -- but you can control your own reactions and responses. Learning the 'why' behind your actions is a good first step.
For the Whole Team
6. Lunch and Learn
On a regular basis, team members should take turns giving presentations during a team lunch. The topic doesn't matter -- it can be work-related, or it can be a presentation about their recent vacation photos, or an organization they volunteer with. Whatever the topic, Lunch and Learns will keep support reps in the habit of being able to present and explain new topics in detail to others.
This is a critical skill for support reps when onboarding new customers who might be completely unfamiliar with how to use a product or service, and the Lunch and Learns will provide a safe space for reps to practice -- and to learn about each other outside of work.
Sometimes, working on the front lines of customer support can be really stressful.
No matter how hard you try, sometimes you might get the blame for a problem or outage that's completely out of your control. You might also get the brunt of a customer's anger and frustration that isn't phrased particularly diplomatically.
Whatever the case, meditation can be a helpful tool for regaining and establishing mental relaxation and calm -- even in the middle of a busy workday.
Dedicating time to meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation -- and encouraging employees to use it for that purpose -- will help train them to de-stress and stay positive during those tough moments with customers. Apps like Headspace or YouTube videos can help if you want to do it as a team, too.
8. Call Review
Feedback is the breakfast of champions -- and of support, reps too.
Call reviews are a common practice among successful customer support teams. (We do it here at HubSpot.) Periodically, teams should gather to listen to a recorded call with a customer and talk about what went well, and what can be improved. Real calls can give you insight into real expectations, and input from team members can provide a unique perspective to help reps constantly improve.
Outside of team meetings, there are plenty of online resources customer support and service reps can use to hone their education and skills to always keep improving. HubSpot Academy offers free online customer service training resources and video content your team can watch and learn from at any time.