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.”
“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.