When we think about customer support and service teams, we think of representatives as the point of contact for that brand – someone who's always there to communicate with you and help you with your challenges. Because of the importance of addressing and resolving customer issues, it's clear why customer support and services teams play a crucial role in any organization.
Customer support representatives have a strong relationship with the customers. They have front row seats to customers' ongoing needs, goals, and successes. They're perfectly positioned to cross-sell, upsell, and resell to maximize customer lifetime value.
To build and maintain a customer support and service team, you need to properly train them. You may need a starting point to build a training program for your team. In that case, you can refer to this post as an extensive starting resource for some of the most valuable free customer service training materials available.
Table of Contents:
- How to Teach Customer Service
- How to Write a Customer Service Training Manual
- Free Customer Service Training Material
- Online Customer Service Training Material
How to Teach Customer Service
- Start with teaching the product.
- Educate representatives about your company's industry.
- Review the basics of customer service.
- Introduce representatives to resources and tools.
- Simulate customer situations.
- Walk through an ideal daily workflow.
- Talk about conflict management.
- Discuss escalation protocol.
- Provide work-life balance tips.
- Monitor short and long term progress.
Depending on the extensiveness of the training and the vastness of your industry, this training can last anywhere between two and six weeks. There's no benchmark for the duration, so you'll need to try and see what gives you the best results.
1. Start with teaching the product.
Most organizations have their own product training resources and documentation. It typically comes in the form of blogs, videos, podcasts, in-person training, and new hire orientation. These are shared with their customer service trainees when they start at the company.
Pro tip: Have customer service representatives learn the products because they are the first point of contact before going to the sales team. The customer service representative can help in outlining and shaping which products could best help the prospects before they talk to someone in sales.
2. Educate representatives about your company's industry.
This training will not only be specific to your brand but also your industry. Trainees can’t master industry knowledge in just a few weeks. They’ll have to stay up-to-date throughout their career. It is best to get into the habit of reading expert industry blogs and other resources on a regular basis.
Another thing that's important to keep a tab on the course of industry training is competitor analysis. Understanding the value propositions of switching to a competitor will help customer service professionals in handling objections better. Extensive documentation helps in preventing customer churn.
3. Review customer service basics.
Training your team's customer service skills is the most common training for any organization. Even if you have an excellent product and industry knowledge, agents must be trained for the right set of skills.
Below are just a few essential skills which are expected from customer support or service representatives:
- Customer relationship building and management
- Clear communication
- Teaching customers
- Active listening
If you're looking for more skills to master, read our full list of customer support skills.
4. Introduce representatives to resources and tools.
For many customer service representatives, this may be their first time working in a customer service or support role. They might not have experience working with call center software or a ticketing system.
Before they start interacting with customers, your new agents should familiarize themselves with the tools they’ll be using in their day-to-day workflow. Having them practice creating tickets, responding to messages, looking up customer data, or any other everyday task will help with their role as support in alleviating situations.
5. Simulate customer situations.
Situational training mocks a real customer interaction that employees experience on the job. For example, the HubSpot Support Team performs mock calls during training sessions. An experienced agent will pretend to be a customer and call in with a common question or roadblock. The trainee then attempts to resolve the issue as if it were a normal call.
When the call is completed, the agent pretending to be a customer will review the call. They'll discuss the trainee's strengths and address some points for improvement. This is important because it exposes trainees to typical customer problems and it provides them with immediate feedback on their tendencies and approach to customer service.
6. Walk through an ideal daily workflow.
One aspect of customer service representatives that's often overlooked during training is daily workflow. Customer service roles are fast-paced and involve handling multiple tasks at once. Some representatives may possess product knowledge and communication skills but struggle to keep pace with customer demand.
Pro tip: During training, stress the importance of optimizing their workflow to perform consistently to the best of their abilities.
7. Talk about conflict management.
In some situations, your representative’s communication skills are more important than their technical skills. For example, your agent might have a solution for a customer, but that customer isn’t sure if the answer fits their needs. Instead of agreeing with the representatives, they push back, which creates friction within the customer experience.
The best customer service representatives shall make this customer feel right even when they’re wrong. They know how to propose solutions in a way that doesn’t belittle the customer but empowers them instead. They make the customers feel like they worked together to solve a problem, creating a more delightful experience. Mastering these conflict management skills is the key to avoiding escalations and preventing potential customer churn.
8. Discuss escalation protocol.
No matter how skilled a trainee is, every customer service representative will experience confrontation. Some trainees may be uncomfortable with the idea of confronting a frustrated or angry customer. However, it's important to know how to de-escalate a tense situation. Not only will this training help reduce churn, but it will also give your representatives more confidence to approach difficult or stressful conversations.
9. Provide work-life balance tips.
In many ways, customer service is a mindset, not a function. Your representatives need to constantly think about what they can do to enhance the customer’s experience with your brand. If they’re doing it right, that takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication. Eventually, that above and beyond work ethic wears them down and causes burnout.
To avoid this crash, it’s essential to pay attention to agent fatigue and educate them on what they can do to prevent it. To help representatives, encourage them to go for walks after tough calls, provide flexibility for using breaks, or give them days off. This measure will help them stay refreshed, allowing them to exceed the standard of service your customers expect of them.
10. Monitor short- and long-term progress.
Customer service training shouldn’t end after basic training is complete. You should continuously monitor your agents to ensure they’ve mastered the skills they need to be successful in their careers.
In fact, at HubSpot, customer support representatives are closely monitored for a few months after initial training. This onboarding period gives management an opportunity to assess an employee’s strengths and weaknesses and develop additional training programs that suit their needs. That way, representatives are constantly learning new skills that progress their customer service careers.
Now that you're familiar with different training components, let's break down how to create a training manual for your customer service team.
How to Write a Customer Service Training Manual
As your business grows and develops, you'll need more service representatives to meet the customer demand. However, hiring more employees means you'll have to train them to the same quality standards as your existing team. A manual creates consistency in your training program and ensures every representative is trained with the same set of skills and product knowledge.
If your team doesn't have that document, below are the steps that you can take to create a customer service training manual for your business.
Free Customer Support Training Template
Fill out the form to get the free manual template.
1. Consider the customer's journey.
Customer service training should start with the customer. After all, this role is all about delighting people and creating a personalized customer experience.
Start with considering the customer's journey. Think about where customers will be when they reach out to your service team. Focus on their needs and goals and how you'll relay this information to your trainees. If you look at areas where customers face the most roadblocks, you'll be able to create training that addresses customer needs.
2. Identify your team's main objectives.
Once you've thought about the customer experience, the next step is to identify your team's main objectives. These are three to five fundamental goals that your customer service representatives will focus on at all times. For example, one objective could be to answer all support calls swiftly and efficiently.
Now that you’ve made your goal clear, you must understand the knowledge or skill needed to achieve it. In this case, to answer calls faster, you need to teach representatives how to be organized and ready on the phone. This means you need to focus on workflow training and create exercises that improve a representative’s ability to multitask. By breaking down the training into goals, you'll provide effective courses relevant to your team's workflow.
3. Develop or adopt training courses.
At this point, you should have a good feel for the type of training your team will need. Moving forward, you have two options to choose from when selecting training courses. You can either create custom training for your team, or you can adopt a course from an external source. The benefit of designing your own is that it can be personalized for your business. However, the tradeoff is that it can take time to create and will constantly need some tweaking to remain accurate.
Adopting a training course is more time-efficient and can easily integrate with an existing customer service team. While the course cannot deliberately customize your business needs as if it’s tailored-fit, it can be a cost-effective solution for teams looking for fundamental training. At the end of this post, we'll discuss some online training options you can adopt for your company.
4. Create practice exercises.
Learning from training courses is a great first step, but to truly master customer service, your trainees need to put into practice the concepts they have learned from the course. You can use practice exercises to mimic common problems and put their newfound skills to the test. Like our HubSpot example above, these exercises will expose agents to real-life situations and prepare them for customer interactions.
5. Break down the importance of daily metrics.
Before new representatives complete training, they should understand daily metrics and why they're being measured. For starters, this lets them know what's expected and what they should be working on towards each day. More importantly, explaining why you've chosen these metrics helps trainees understand their value to the organization. If they can see how their performance contributes to the company's success, they'll be more motivated to reach their daily goals.
These steps should help you create a comprehensive training manual for your customer service team. However, as we mentioned above, it may be easier to adapt existing courses rather than create your own. In the next section, we cut out the middleman and gathered some courses and exercises your team can use to build out its training manual.
Customer Service & Support Training Exercises
1. Mock Calls
Mock calls are an excellent way to practice doing the job before actually starting the job. They involve a new and an experienced representative, pretending to be a representative and a customer. They run through common scenarios and situations representatives might encounter when they're on the job.
Pro tip: While doing mock calls, get a more experienced representative to provide feedback at the end of each call. This way, it will let the new representative know what they did well and what they can improve.
2. Personality Testing
Personality testing can be an effective way to identify new employees' communication, leadership, and conflict management styles to get ahead and manage conflict with customers before it happens. This is best for representatives because it is a way to see them not only in terms of how well they can manage conflict but as to how efficient and thorough their calls can be with the right personality.
Pro tip: Let your rep know that the test won’t be used as a performance measurement, but rather a tool to better understand their strengths, so they feel confident giving honest answers.
3. No “NOs” Allowed
This is another mutual training exercise where team members role-play the customer and the customer service representative. They have to practice addressing issues without being allowed to say “no”. For instance, if there is a request from the customer that the software cannot authorize, the new employee will have to practice addressing complaints in a way that does shut down the conversation with a “no.”
Pro tip: Record these conversations and perform the feedback session after you complete the role play. By doing this, you allow your rep to engage in a more realistic scenario, where they can identify how they naturally respond.
4. Employee Shadowing
Some organizations focus more on team collaboration and emphasize shadowing and training team members. As Eric Vandenberg from G2 Crowd explains, "What I find most valuable about training is listening to how my peers handle objections and navigate conversations." New representatives should shadow more experienced ones. That way, they’ll pick up advanced insights that the course may not cover during training sessions.
Pro tip: Allow your rep to shadow seasoned employees cross-functionally so they can gather customer-facing best practices across the organization.
5. Product Testing
Whenever a new product is launched, customers will have questions about what it is and how to use it. They're going to expect your service team to have mastered all of its features and answer any questions that they might have.
In reality, sometimes new products are just as new for the service team as they are for the customer. That's why it's important to expose your team to new features and services by having the representatives test beta products in their free time. Customer service representatives work closely with customers, so they should provide valuable feedback to product development about what the customer will like or dislike.
Pro tip: Have your representatives test the products and list at least three things they like, three things they wish to improve, and three things that confuse them regarding the entire process. This will help the representatives not only in understanding the product but also come up with solutions to potential problems.
While collecting and collating these resources to form an effective manual seems a good idea, there are plenty of free online courses that can do this. These programs feature lessons and exercises that teach trainees about one or a few components of good customer service. Using one or a combination of the online options listed below can save you time from manually designing your training program.
10 Free Customer Service Training Materials to Share with Your Team
There are tons of free training materials that can teach skills to your customer service team. There are blogs, videos, exercises, online courses, and much more that you can leverage for your business. If you're unsure where to start, use the list below as baseline content for your training manual.
Customer Service & Support Blog Posts
1. Top 10 Things Not to Say to Angry Customers by Helprace
2. 10 'Must-Have' Skills for Being Awesome at Customer Service by Provide Support
3. How to Onboard and Train New Customer Service Reps by Zendesk
4. How to Nurture Customers During the Long Growth Stage by Totango
5. Working in the Service Industry Taught me Everything I Need to Know by Medium
6. Want to Be Successful? Solve Your Customers' Problems by Shep Hyken
7. Build Your Customer Relationships Around Consistency and Trust by Intercom
8. The Ultimate Guide to Training for Customer Service & Support by HubSpot
9. 8 Rules for Good Customer Service by The Balance Small Business
10. Make Your Communication Technology Work for Customers by MIT Sloan Management Review
30 Online Customer Service Trainings
These customer service training videos and courses can teach new hires how to provide exceptional customer service.
Customer Service & Support Training Videos
1. Inbound Service Fundamentals by HubSpot Academy
2. Excellent Customer Service Skills by Telephone Doctor
3. What Is Customer Service? The 7 Essentials To Excellent Customer Service by David Brownlee
4. I Was Seduced by Exceptional Customer Service by TEDx
5. "Delight" Case Study With Nitesh Banta, Founder & CEO at B12 by HubSpot Academy
6. The 7 Essentials To Excellent Customer Service by David Brownlee
7. The Customer Revolution in Customer Service by David Bequette
8. 7 Essential Customer Support Skills Every Rep Needs by HubSpot Academy
9. Brené Brown on Empathy by The RSA
10. Responding to Customer Feedback by HubSpot Academy
You can watch more customer service training videos found in this blog post.
Customer Service & Support Online Courses
11. ELEVATE: The Growth Accelerator by HubSpot Academy
12. Free Customer Service Training by LiveChat
13. Customer Service Training by ALISON
14. Technical Support Fundamentals by Google
15. Writing for HubSpot Academy by HubSpot Academy
16. Customer Service (Short Course) by Oxford Home Study
17. Customer Service Training: Judging People by Skills Converged
18. 7 Essentials for Excellent Customer Service by GoSkills
119. The Customer Focus by Shepard Virtual Training
20. Creating a Customer Journey Map by HubSpot Academy
Customer Service Training Webinars
21. Grow Better With Customer Feedback by HubSpot
22. AI and the Contact Center by Destination CRM
23. Proven Techniques to Increase Customer Satisfaction by Call Centre Helper
24. Adapt 2020 Education Series by HubSpot
25. Trends in Customer Service and Customer Service Training You Need to Know About by Florida Library Webinars
26. Productivity Tips and Tricks to Help You Find More Time and Manage Your Days by Public Library Association
27. Turning Difficult Moments Into Positive Customer Experiences by Zendesk
28. How to Deliver Exception Customer Service by Pryor
29. Basic Spanish for Customer Service Professionals by Customer Service Training Resource
30. Customer Service Stress Management Tips by Lorman Education Services
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.