Exceptional customer service is often the key to long-term business sustainability. But it’s one thing to commit to quality service and another to provide it consistently. When faced with customers bringing external problems and frustrations to service calls, having a skilled, motivated, and properly trained customer service team that is consistently meeting customer expectations and solving pain points is a necessity.
Great customer service training can help equip your team to handle difficult calls, efficiently resolve issues, and even convert brand skeptics into loyal customers. Here’s what to include in your customer service training and 10 ideas to help you get started.
What is customer service training?
Customer service training refers to the curriculum and programming used to help your customer service representatives resolve customer issues and provide a quality customer experience. It includes both new employee onboarding and ongoing training and development for existing staff. For example, you might have a standard new hire onboarding training and hold semi-annual training sessions with your entire customer service department.
Why is customer service training important?
Customer service training programs are important in helping your team provide exceptional customer service, which has a direct impact on customer loyalty, customer retention, customer satisfaction, and sales. One 2022 study found that 81% of customers say that they are more likely to make repeat purchases after an excellent customer service experience, and 61% say that a poor customer service experience would cause them to switch to a competitor.
Training for customer service teams can help improve your company’s internal culture and increase employee satisfaction. Here are three key benefits to know:
- Helps your team learn new skills. Customer service representatives require strong people skills, like communication, active listening, and conflict management. Training in these and other areas helps employees build their customer service skills and identify strengths and areas for growth.
- Keeps your team on the same page. To provide quality support, your customer service agents need to be up to date on your company policies, procedures, and product or service offerings. You can use training sessions to make sure your team is aligned on the basics and to alert team members to any changes.
- Boosts morale and strengthens the company’s culture. Customer service training is a time for your entire service team to come together, share challenges and tips, and both request and offer support, which can strengthen your company’s corporate culture. Employee trainingcan also support employee retention. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than three-quarters of employees say that they are more likely to stay with a company if it offers ongoing training.
Elements of customer service training
- Policies and procedures
- Products and services
- Communication skills
- Conflict management
Good customer service training includes a wide range of topics—from how your products work to how to manage an irate customer’s call. Consider covering these customer service training topics in your sessions:
Policies and procedures
Effective customer service training starts with making sure your team is oriented to your customer service standards and support processes. In order to respond to a customer request, your team members need to understand your service expectations and the parameters around actions like offering a refund or a policy exemption. Devote some time to your customer support handbook, your company’s core values, and your customer communication guidelines.
Products and services
Deep knowledge of your products or services can help your customer service agents respond to customer queries. In addition to providing your team with product documentation, devote training time to product and service details. Consider providing information about key features, common customer problems, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and recommendations on troubleshooting approaches.
Good communication skills can help your customer service representatives identify customer concerns and leverage service interactions to build loyalty. Training your team in specific written and spoken communication skills can help them communicate and identify the tone and language best suited to a specific customer interaction.
Customer service frequently involves complex customer problems—and there’s no handbook or training that can cover every situation your customer support agents will encounter. Instead, you can help your customer service reps develop their critical problem-solving skills and make sure they have access to the strategies and resources they’ll need to provide solutions for a variety of situations, from returns and exchanges to product malfunctions.
Customer service reps’ responsibilities include dealing with frustrated or even upset customers. Conflict management training can help them productively de-escalate conversations and communicate with empathy and care, which can protect your company’s brand reputation and even turn frustrated customers into loyal advocates for your brand.
Best customer service training ideas
- Use small-group role-playing
- Engage other departments
- Hold live demonstrations
- Use recorded calls
- Avoid saying “No”
- Incorporate DEI training
- Conduct personality testing
- Make competitor calls
- Shadow senior agents
- Host product knowledge games
The customer service training process can involve a mix of instructor-led training sessions, small group activities, and other customer service initiatives. Here are training ideas to help you get started and keep your reps engaged:
Use small-group role-playing
Effective customer service training engages participants. One way to boost engagement is to have your customer service employees role-play conversations. Split your team members into groups of two and provide each team with two prompts containing common customer queries, such as, “I can’t figure out how to integrate the platform with your website. Can you help me?” or, “How can I get a refund?” Have one employee play the customer and the other portray the customer service role. When the mock call is finished, switch roles.
When all teams are done, wrap up with a large-group discussion in which team members share challenges, outcomes, and questions.
Engage other departments
Engaging employees from marketing, sales, product development, and other departments can provide your team with a fresh perspective about the customer service process. Review service calls together to gain additional insight into responses to customer service interactions, and consider cross training to learn about customer experiences across departments. Taking these steps can help you troubleshoot common issues and develop best practices that can be shared with other departments for a more seamless customer experience, whether online or retail.
Knowing how your customers interact with, and experience, your products can also help you improve product offerings or refine sales and marketing efforts.
Hold live demonstrations
Leverage the skills of your most experienced customer support reps by having less seasoned team members listen in on live calls or watch live chats. Having a group observe in real time how senior agents handle the best and more difficult (or irate) customer interaction offers valuable lessons in active listening and responses.
When the call or chat ends, encourage feedback. For example, ask your team members to identify what the service representative did well or note any moments when the team member might have provided a different response instead. Seizing these opportunities can build rep confidence and improve levels of customer satisfaction.
Use recorded calls
When calling customer service departments, it’s not unusual to be informed that a call is being recorded for quality and training purposes. Recorded calls can be a beneficial training resource because it gives the opportunity to analyze a repository of phone calls from a variety of customer situations. Select both routine calls and special cases to give your team a sense of what standard customer complaints look like and challenge reps to think through more difficult situations.
Consider compiling a quality assurance checklist so each team member can assess whether the interactions during the recorded calls are following the company best practices and meeting the customer’s needs.
Avoid saying “No”
Customer service representatives can’t grant every request—but a skilled agent avoids saying “No,” or other variations of negative responses, like, “We can’t help you with that.” Guide your team members to respond to customers in a way that deemphasizes the negative and focuses on the positive—what you are able to do for them.
To prepare, consider creating a customer service script that includes a series of requests that the agent is unable to grant and response options. The objective is to keep the conversation moving forward in a constructive way and provide helpful information while affirming the customer’s point of view without giving negative feedback. If you are able to satisfactorily address a customer’s pain points and solve their problem, you can be better positioned to differentiate yourself against the competition when it comes to excellent customer service.
Incorporate DEI training
Customer service representatives interact with customers from a wide range of demographic backgrounds. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training can help your team members embrace language and communication practices that are welcoming, affirming, and accessible to people from a variety of backgrounds and create an inclusive retail experience.
Conduct personality testing
Personality tests are questionnaires designed to analyze individual traits. Typically, they group individual test-takers into categories and provide insights into how individuals in each category respond to specific stimuli. Examples include Myers-Briggs (MBTI) andthe Enneagram personality tests. They can help your customer service representatives understand their fears, motivations, and behavioral patterns. Increasing self-awareness can support emotional intelligence, which can improve both customer relations and dynamics within your company.
Make competitor calls
Closely follow the competition by engaging customers or members of your team to call a competitor’s service line and ask the customer service agent a few questions about product features and request more information. Have the caller take notes on the service representative’s tone and ability to answer customer inquiries, and about the follow-up information provided. Then, have them provide a rating for each rep along with supporting commentary. Incorporating this form of “mystery shopping” into your market research and competitive analysis can help you gain a better understanding of the customer’s perspective and learn from the competition’s approach.
Shadow senior agents
Pair new or inexperienced team members with well-trained agents and have the newer team members “shadow” that person for a day—from service calls to departmental meetings. Leave time after each training call and throughout the day for the mentor and mentee discussions. This type of ongoing mentorship can help newcomers learn from their more experienced peers; and senior customer service agents can improve their own skills through intentional reflection and feedback.
Host product knowledge games
Customer service training games are a fun and light-hearted way to motivate employees and boost engagement. Consider hosting a quiz show to test your team’s product knowledge. Design Jeopardy!- or quiz bowl-style questions then divide employees into teams and have them compete to show off their knowledge. You can even provide prizes like gift cards or company merch for the winning team.
Customer service training ideas FAQ
How often should you do customer service training?
Many companies hold customer service trainings annually, semi-annually, or quarterly.
How do you strengthen customer service?
What are hard skills for customer service?
Hard skills are teachable skills that can help agents provide great customer service, and include:
- Ease with email, phone, and chat systems
- Language fluency
- Data entry and organizational ability