This article is part of a larger series on Customer Service.
Creating a formal customer service program starts by identifying your customer’s needs and your company’s weaknesses. This then allows you to plan a strategy to address both while devising a system for evaluating results. In this article, we discuss customer service program benefits and the steps to develop one that is more in-depth. Moreover, we’ve created a free template for you to use as a guide for establishing a customized training program for your support team.
Free Customer Service Training Program Template
A comprehensive customer service training program typically includes activities or exercises designed to hone an agent’s product or company knowledge, as well as their skills in interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, and crisis management. There are a number of topics that can be covered, which is why we’ve created a free template for you to use as a guide for developing a customized training program for your support team.
Download this customer service program template for free
This template, combined with the steps outlined below, are designed to help small teams get newly hired employees trained as quickly as possible. However, it is worth noting that existing employees also need ongoing training on customer service best practices and how best to use your company’s adopted software tools.
If you don’t already have software for managing service requests, we recommend Freshdesk as it includes tools to help agents address customer concerns over chat and email, and includes ticketing tools. You can also check out our guide on the best customer service software for more options.
1. List Your Customers’ Top Needs
The first thing you need to do to create a customer service program is to think about what your customers need. Using customer service analytics, you can discover key details and top customer needs such as the kind of experience they expect from your brand, their preferred communication channels, and their perception of your company.
This data will help you in later steps as you identify the types of training courses you will need to include as part of your training program. It will also help you devise role-playing exercises later to help coach your service team on how to more effectively engage with your customers in those channels.
2. Assess Your Company’s Weaknesses
Once you have a list of your customers’ needs, figure out where your company falls short on delivering. A training needs analysis helps you pinpoint your current weaknesses, such as the skills or knowledge your team lacks and what motivates your agents to learn. This list of weaknesses will transfer into goals you’ll aim to hit with the help of your customer service program.
For example, assume your company has a small support team and the agents have a shallow skills base in dealing with irate customers. To address these weaknesses, invest in additional training to help them improve their skills base. Aside from that, you can establish a rewards or recognition program for top performers so you can improve staff retention and avoid losing key team members.
3. Plan How You Will Meet Your Customers’ Needs
The third thing you need to plan out is your strategy for meeting your customers’ needs. Utilize our downloadable template as a guide in writing down what your training program aims to accomplish and how it will be implemented. Carefully consider the best balance of learning methods for your agents, the company culture you want your employees to adopt, and the platforms to be used for the training.
For instance, your customer data indicates that your clients are not satisfied with your options for customer service channels. As part of your strategy to meet this need, start training your agents on how to use new channels, such as social media to respond to customer queries.
4. Implement Your Customer Service Training Program
Now it’s time to deliver training to your staff and ensure all your team members learn how to use your customer service software and communication channels. It’s an excellent idea to balance experiential, social, and formal (manual-based) training to ensure that they have the best learning experience. Training should not only be memorized from the module but should also incorporate simulations.
In a simulation, you allow your employees to participate in a dialogue that mimics a real-life conversation between a support agent and a customer. The situations can vary and may include questions that check an employee’s product knowledge or test their patience in dealing with a disgruntled client. They can choose what to say and receive feedback from the facilitator based on how they handle the given situation.
5. Review & Revise Your Program as Needed
Developing a customer service training course does not end when you’re done planning and implementing it. Training is an ongoing process, and you need to regularly measure the effectiveness of your program to determine employee engagement, pain points, and how the trainees feel about the experience. Provide your employees with constructive feedback and offer actionable advice on how to improve performance.
Furthermore, evaluate how the training program has affected your core customer service metrics. This includes the time it takes to resolve or respond to issues, call abandonment rates, customer callbacks, and average incoming chats or calls of each team. These evaluations help you calculate the return on investment (ROI) of your training program and determine how much it benefits your business daily compared to the cost it takes to develop and implement it.
When you regularly evaluate your training program, you’ll begin to see specific areas for improvement. Don’t be afraid to revise the program based on changing trends, customer needs, and employee performance. This way, you ensure your company is able to provide excellent customer service to your customers at all times.
Things to Consider When Building a Customer Service Program
There are various factors to consider when designing your own customer service program. These include the type of learning methods you implement, the training platform used to deliver the training, and the soft skills you want your employees to develop.
When designing your customer service training program, include a healthy balance of different learning methods. The 70:20:10 framework is a great model to follow in order to ensure optimal learning for your employees. This consists of 70% experiential learning, 20% social learning, and 10% formal training.
- Experiential learning: Uses different customer service training activities to make it easier for the trainee to retain and apply the information they have learned. These activities include real-life scenarios and conversation simulations.
- Social learning: Includes group simulations and peer learning sessions where employees learn from each other.
- Formal training: A combination of instructor-led training through webinars, mobile learning, interactive videos, worksheets, and mini-quizzes.
Consider the right platform from which you will deliver the engaging content of your program. Choose a platform or learning management system (LMS) that allows you to create diverse training content and integrates with teleconference tools like Zoom to make the learning process easier. A system like 360Learning is a centralized hub for scheduling classes, distributing training content, and tracking employee progress.
Soft skills are character traits that pertain to a person’s relationships with other people. These skills complement hard skills (knowledge and occupational skills). For your customer service training program to succeed, help your employees develop these crucial soft skills:
- Active listening: Being engaged in conversations, asking the right questions, and summarizing the information back to the customer.
- Empathy: The ability to understand a customer’s frustrations and make them feel valued by reacting in a compassionate manner.
- Crisis management: The ability to resolve complicated and high-stress situations with patience and confidence.
- Emotional intelligence: Being able to evaluate and manage emotions in order to make the customer feel heard and manage stressful encounters.
- Passion: The knack to enjoy work and find ways to make customers happy.
Importance of a Customer Service Program
Customer service training teaches your team how to make the most of an opportunity to connect with your customers. It also helps your agents clearly show that they care about customers’ needs by providing them with answers or resolving their issues with your products or services.
When your team undergoes customer service training, they learn how to provide top-notch service. This helps them facilitate interactions that remain in customers’ minds for a long time. Such encounters can influence the reviews, customer referrals, and word-of-mouth advertising that your clients create.
Here are some of the top reasons why you should invest in and implement a high-quality customer service training program:
1. Quality of Customer Service Affects Purchase Decisions
Based on a recent report by Zendesk (CX Trends 2022), the majority (70%) of customers have made purchase decisions based on the quality of a company’s customer service. Based on this information, when your support agents undergo training that helps them deliver top-notch service, your business has a higher likelihood of closing more sales.
2. Positive Customer Experiences Improve Your Competitive Edge
Excellent customer service helps your business stand out among your competitors because it makes it easier for your customers to choose you over other brands. In the same way, poor customer service is a major factor that makes businesses lose customers. Keep in mind that 61% of customers say they would switch to a company’s competitor after a single negative customer service experience.
Customer service training programs usually include simulations of real-life conversations with customers. This is one of the best ways to equip your employees with skills in dealing with various customer issues. Once your client recognizes that your company’s staff are able to handle difficult or complicated questions, it becomes easier for them to choose your brand over your competitors.
3. Happy Customers Make Repeat Purchases
Customer service is a key factor in increasing customer retention. Satisfied customers are willing to stick around when you give them prompt, helpful answers to their questions and when they feel you’re dedicated to their success. In fact, 81% of customers are influenced to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.
Excellent customer service can only come from employees who are equipped with the right skills and knowledge. With the help of a robust training program, your team can provide customers with what they need. This contributes to their overall satisfaction and happiness with the quality of your service.
It takes careful planning, implementation, and evaluation to develop a successful customer service training program. You also need to consider the most effective learning methods, use a robust training platform, and help your team develop crucial soft skills that enable your employees to provide optimal service to customers. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer service training, and each program must be customized to fit your specific business needs.