Providing great customer service brings rich rewards to any business. At a time when brand loyalty and trust has become more difficult to maintain, the customer service department is absolutely key to long-term commercial success. The way you train your staff has a huge impact in this regard: if they are ill-prepared to deal with the current climate of customer service, your business’ reputation will suffer. A successful training program will encompass a range of skills and attitudes, not just the basics of company policies and procedures. Because of the interpersonal nature of the work, you will need to instil the core values of your business into your staff, and ensure they fully understand what’s required to satisfy the expectations of your customers.
Here are a few vital areas of consideration when training your customer service staff.
Strategy and core values
Before engaging in any kind of staff training, you have to first define the identity, strategy, and core values of your brand in terms of customer service. This will largely depend on the nature of your products or services and the profile of your typical customers. For instance, if you are a fashion brand with a young target demographic, a casual and friendly approach is entirely appropriate. On the other hand, a business software’s customers are likely to respond better to a more clinically professional approach. You should also factor in your identity as a brand in general, and how that affects the image you wish to present to the public.
Defining your approach in this way and clearly communicating it to your staff is absolutely essential. It ensures that everyone understands who your customers are and what they want, which forms the foundation of how to actually provide the highest level of service possible.
Familiarisation with company policy, products and technical procedures are all important areas to cover when training staff, but soft skills are just as crucial to effective customer service. Imagine you have two employees, A and B. Employee A has a comprehensive knowledge of how your company’s customer service procedures work but lacks empathy with customers and tends to use negative language. On the other hand, employee B is still getting to grips with the intricacies of the process, but understands how to empathise and connect with customers. In this case, employee B is better able to foster a positive relationship between your company and your customers, which is invaluable for generating brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
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That isn’t to say that procedural knowledge isn’t important; clearly, staff need to know how to resolve issues that arise. Rather, your training should reflect the fact that good customer service is fundamentally about a genuine human connection. Ensuring your staff display soft skills like empathy, positivity, and patience when dealing with customers will humanise your brand and help smooth over difficult situations. Running group workshops where you evaluate previous communications with customers is a great way to go about this. In this way, management and employees can collaboratively work through what sort of communication style is effective in a tangible way and learn from both good and bad examples of soft skills.
Skills and performance evaluation
A point that is often overlooked in staff training is that it isn’t a static process. Like any part of life, customer service is a constant process of learning and improvement. It therefore makes perfect sense to consistently monitor the skills and performance of your team in order to identify the areas where you can help them grow and improve. By collecting this sort of data, you can more precisely identify the areas of strength and weakness – both on a department and individual level – and apply support and training precisely where it’s needed. Of course, keeping track of this across a large team is a huge undertaking, but it becomes much more manageable with the help of specialist HR software. Talentsoft is a good example of this: the software enables you to gather performance and skill data for your whole team, and administer training plans on one platform.
A successful training process is one that balances theoretical instruction and hands-on experience, in order to consolidate understanding of good customer service and how to actually execute it. However, it’s not necessarily enough to simply provide some initial induction presentations and then expect your staff to hit the ground running. In order to ensure they fully embody your customer service strategy and understand how to put what they’ve learned into practice, it helps to give them a little on-the-job guidance. Having your new hires shadow more experienced colleagues, who act as mentors, is a highly effective way to do this. When well-implemented, shadowing can greatly improve both the hard and soft skills of customer service employees. Furthermore, through this mutual sharing of knowledge, it can also help promote a tighter professional bond and camaraderie within the team.