Customer Service Training: The Seven Fundamentals of Follow-Up

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At Impact, we’re strong believ­ers in cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing meth­ods that incor­po­rate on-the-job follow-up into the process so that you and your super­vi­sors can con­tin­u­ously offer the right kinds of ongo­ing sup­port to your staff. We’ve writ­ten sev­eral posts on coach­ing in cus­tomer ser­vice cen­ters and we have a ded­i­cated train­ing pro­gram specif­i­cally for call cen­ter coach­ing. for call cen­ter coach­ing.

In this post, we’d like to share tips with you on improv­ing one of the most impor­tant aspects of hav­ing your cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing be a suc­cess: follow-up dis­cus­sions about performance.

Giv­ing feed­back can be one of the trick­i­est parts of fol­low­ing up on cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing. If you don’t give advice and praise, you run the risk of not guid­ing the very behav­ior you’re after. And if you don’t offer it with the right atti­tude, you unin­ten­tion­ally offend your cus­tomer ser­vice reps.

Our clients have had great suc­cess in fol­low­ing up on cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing with the fol­low­ing seven fun­da­men­tals. We’re con­fi­dent you will too.

#1: Be specific

If you want your reps to improve spe­cific cus­tomer ser­vice skills, then giv­ing gen­eral advice isn’t going to be effec­tive. Take the fol­low­ing example:

You han­dled that call well.”

Ver­sus

I really liked how you used open-ended ques­tions to learn more about the issue.”

In the above instance, you can bet that the next time that rep takes the call, she’s going to remem­ber that ask­ing open-ended ques­tions is an impor­tant skill to use. If she only heard she han­dled the call well, she’d be scram­bling a bit for what exactly she did that was so effective.

#2: Focus on per­for­mance, not personality

When you offer point­ers, you don’t want to crit­i­cize the rep as a person—you want to focus on cor­rect­ing (or reward­ing) the behav­ior. Be care­ful how you word your com­ments to ensure that they’re focus­ing on the action you’re try­ing to cor­rect, not on the person.

#3: Focus on behav­ior that can be changed

There’s no sense dis­cussing innate traits that your reps can’t change. If a rep­re­sen­ta­tive has a strong accent, your com­ment about the accent will only make the rep inse­cure. Focus instead on other aspects of per­for­mance that will improve the call, per­haps speak­ing more slowly.

#4: Break it down into small bites

If you present your staff with a list of 10 things you’d like them to change, chance are, very few will stick. You’ll end up over­whelm­ing, instead of guid­ing. Instead, pick out a few points for each per­son to work on, and after those are mas­tered, move on to a few more.

#5: Give feed­back as soon as possible

Coach­ing after cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing is sim­i­lar to most forms of coach­ing in that the sooner you offer advice, the more effec­tive it is and the more your staff will do what they learned in train­ing. (Remem­ber Pavlov’s rules, any­one?) Whether you’re review­ing calls, e-mails, or chat ses­sions, try to do it as soon as you notice some­thing to praise or offer point­ers on.

#6: Pay atten­tion to body language

How you say some­thing mat­ters as much as what you say—and some­times more! In review­ing per­for­mance, it’s impor­tant to be mind­ful of the man­ner in which you approach your reps.

Offer feed­back pri­vately: It can be hard to coach on a busy call floor, but try to be as dis­creet as pos­si­ble. Smile when you approach the cus­tomer ser­vice rep in his cubi­cle or work sta­tion, and try to get down on his level by squat­ting or kneel­ing so you’re not look­ing down on him.

Keep eye con­tact: Always aim for eye con­tact. It’s more sin­cere and pro­fes­sional and shows that you’re giv­ing your undi­vided attention.

Mon­i­tor your tone of voice: Mind that your tone is upbeat, sup­port­ive, and calm. If you need to cor­rect behav­ior, be firm, but not aggressive.

Smile! When following-up on cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing, a smile can do won­ders. If you are cor­rect­ing behav­ior, smile after you’ve deliv­ered the mes­sage to com­mu­ni­cate your sup­port, and be sure to thank the rep­re­sen­ta­tive for his will­ing­ness to improve.

#7: Don’t ambush!

If you hear a prob­lem on the phones after the rep has been through cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing, avoid rush­ing over and imme­di­ately jump­ing into your feed­back. It is impor­tant to give point­ers quickly (fun­da­men­tal #5), but be mind­ful of how you lead into the com­ment. For exam­ple, approach the rep with a smile and say, “Hi.” Tell her you noticed a few things on some of the calls you were mon­i­tor­ing, and would like to quickly dis­cuss it. Offer pos­i­tive com­ments first, and then let your rep know what she can improve.

If you’d like more prac­ti­cal, proven tips on improv­ing the coach­ing abil­i­ties of your staff, check out our e-book, Best Prac­tices for Improv­ing Super­vi­sory Skills.

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