In business, the most crucial growth issues often come down to what you didn’t know. One of the biggest downfalls of any company still growing is how they handle their back-end customer support. Even success stories like Uber faced difficulties with setting up customer service representative training solutions though. So, if it seems a bit challenging, that's all right.
But, as we're sure you already know, to provide amazing customer experiences, your customer service representatives (CSRs) need access to the right tools and information.
All right, but what is this back-end support for your CSRs? Great question! Just like your CSRs offer support to customers, so must you offer your support to them. The better they are prepared for a lot of situations, the better they'll represent your brand in front of your customers.
Customer service is very much a road with 3 lanes. One of them is the actual customer service representatives doing the work. Another lane is the customer offering feedback. The last lane (or really, the first one) is how well you've trained the CSR for their job. That "training lane" inevitably merges with the other 2, and affects how well the CSR will handle the proverbial steering wheel once they're "driving" solo.
At SupportNinja, we've been experts at helping successful companies solve for scale since 2015. Getting a CSR team together is no small task when you're on your own. We can help you achieve that goal with minimal effort. Our dedicated outsourcing model ensures that CSR agents become a natural extension of your team, and we can also handle the entire training process ourselves! If that sound interesting, check out the details.
What exactly does agent training mean?
Growing your business means reaching out to a large, diverse audience. The more people you reach, the more likely you are to also need to deal with customer service issues. It's just a natural part of it - you can't please everyone out of the bat.
So, to make sure that your CSRs are ready to "face the customers", you have to invest in offering them the needed support. Customer service representatives need both the adequate training, and an existing support infrastructure. Only then will they be ready to provide services such as:
- Phone answering & customer service
- Accepting and documenting customer feedback
- Handling complaints & issues
- Resolving minor and/or major tech issues
It isn't unusual for your second or third in command to be the one who ends up grabbing the phone all day when you're still growing the business. Actually, the truth is that everyone in your team is probably silently praying they aren't going to be next on the line.
What this ultimately means is that people can't focus on a single set of tasks (or they can't focus on what they actually know what to do; which is not offering customer support). A few team members can end up doing the jobs of multiple people, without knowing how to do all of them correctly. Customer service is a whole thing by itself, without throwing any other responsibilities into the mix.
To create customer service representative training solutions, before their absence creates business issues, you need to be prepared to train new help quickly, accurately, and without pulling someone from your team for hours on end to act as a mentor.
Let's take a closer look at 3 easy training solutions for support agents, to make sure you can hit the ground running.
Developing customer service representative training solutions
Branding agencies (especially those focused on public relations) will often establish acceptable language guidelines for their staff. These lay out what to say, and what not to say; about their service, product, or brand.
These key messages become precisely what the general public remembers about your company, what they post on social media, or what they tell their friends - making them crucial to your success. So, you should definitely take a page from their playbook.
Start with some generic comments that are easy for everyone to remember:
- We are focused on providing the best possible solutions for ____
- Our company provides <service> for <clients>.
- Making___easier for___everywhere.
Creating a training manual also ensures that everyone in the company is aligned with the way acceptable communication with clients/customers looks like. Your training manual should include:
How to answer the phone
Independence Blue Cross uses "I help people like you everyday" as a standard greeting. How can you create a great first impression when your representative answers the phone? It's very important that the the customer feels a connection or even an attachment to the customer service representative as soon as possible. If the CSR immediately shows that they're "in the corner" of the customer, it also sets the mood to a lighter, positive tone.
Even really disgruntled customers can be placated by a CSR with a calm and helpful demeanor.
The process for what to do next
Lay out specs for:
- Customer wants a refund.
- Customer wants a supervisor.
- Customer needs IT support.
If the customer service representative shows they're very confident in their abilities and knows what the process is depending on the customer's request (to the letter), the entire conversation will go smoother. Even when the CSR is conversing with a customer that's very upset, showing that they know what the next steps are, and not losing their head, will go a long way.
What's more, you're showing your customer that your business is very well put together. CSRs instantly become brand representatives for your customers. How deftly they perform their role of helping the customer will influence the customer's whole perception of your company. If support makes sense from a process standpoint, and the customer achieves their desired goal with ease, then your services/products must be good too, right?
Frequently asked questions
As the founder of a company, you have heard every question imaginable. Thing is, you should write down as many relevant points as you can think of to help your customer service representative training. Use searchable terms within all questions, so that they can be added to an internal knowledge base, and become easily searchable. The most well-informed customer service representatives aren't necessarily the ones with amazing memory.
Instead, they're the ones who possess the skills of efficiently finding what they need to find (to answer the customer's question). CSR training needs to be an ongoing thing to create agents that are true experts in your brand, but having all the answers laid out before their eyes in a database is a very useful "cheat".
Soft skills and a great personal attitude are a must in customer service, but there's no person in the world with a perfect memory. Especially if your product or service can get a bit complicated, it's way more efficient to help your CSRs help themselves with FAQs, than demand they have all answers at the ready.
Taking the time to create a common knowledge base that acts as a supplementary training manual will save you in the long run from having to train everyone individually to the letter. It also makes hiring a faster, easier process, as you can provide a few days to a few weeks of study time, and then let the new employee go right to work.
FAQs should also be compiled on your website though. Not all interactions require the input of a CSR. For example, let's say you sell shoes, but customers often ask if you sell custom shoe laces too. The answer here is a basic "Yes" or "No". It's not worth it to have your support pipeline filled by people with very simple questions - a website FAQ (or chatbot) serves those just as well, and way faster too.
Your customer service representatives are there for when an actual human connection and empathy are required. And to that point...
Hire for personality, patience, and empathy
Being on the phone all day with customers is not an easy job; customers are demanding people. Don't think that the quick fix here is to rely solely on chat. You should keep offering phone support, as the type of value it provides is currently unmatched by everything else.
Anyway, to get back on track - you can train CSRs to be more polite, or use the right phrases to diffuse an angry customer, but you cannot train them to sound authentic while doing so. Your CSR will be hit with every angry personality type you've ever imagined. Are they mentally prepared to deal with it?
Bottom line: even the best customer service representative training solutions can only go so far. You need to select the right people for the job first, and build them up even further as time goes on.
How to choose customer service representatives
You should choose CSRs who:
- Use empathy to diffuse anger: in the interview, tell your customer service representative a negative story about what you sell, and see how they respond. If they say "I'm so sorry to hear that", or "You must have been so frustrated!", you will know that they have empathy. Next, see if they naturally gravitate to a solution - "All right, the next steps to do here to solve your issue is to...", etc.
- Speak very clearly: ask a difficult question during the interview, and see if the CSR's response is clear and actionable. If you're doing an at least 2-step interview process, see what you remember of that candidate's answer when they get to the next step of interviewing. Amazing support advice should be easy to remember.
- Are personable, not robotic: the worst CSRs are perhaps the ones who sound as though they are reading from a script. Throwing an AI on the phone will probably produce a similar result. Hire someone who can answer questions like they would normally speak, not like machines. An yes, maybe they are reading from a script, but they need to be able to not make that obvious.
- Are fast & efficient, but polite: knowing how to end a phone call is key to great CSR work: "I have recorded your feedback. I hope you have a great day.". Other good phrases would be "Thanks for your call today", as the CSR keeps moving on to the next caller. CSRs have to maintain great AHT and FRT, but never at the cost of CSAT.
Always keep in the back of your mind that customer service representatives are actually your brand representatives. The way that they treat your customers is the #1 difference between a positive customer experience, and a negative one. And customer experience is THE defining factor in customer retention nowadays. Products and services are available from a lot of vendors - the way you can stand out is by being that one company who really "gets" their customers.
Provide the right software to organize feedback
As a provider of growth solutions, such as customer experience and back-office services (let us know if you need business growth solutions), SupportNinja always hears one common complaint: "we wish we had organized our feedback for faster, easier improvements.".
This comes down to investing in the right customer management software (CMS), so that CSRs can quickly and easily categorize each call you receive. If you cannot afford a software program, be sure to create a system that lets all the major points be recorded and sorted by the CSR daily.
You might use Google Docs, Excel, or simply email; but, make sure all categories are addressed. In this case, your CSR would send you the spreadsheet daily, so that you could review what was happening quickly and easily.
To start, your CMS should include categories of complaints. These might be :
- Usability/IT issues
- Programming issue
- Improvement advice
- Employee complaint
- Incorrect data in the app
- Vendor/affiliate complaint
When a CSR takes a call, they will sort each call within the correct category. You will need to review each report daily or weekly to spot trending issues. Organize them by category and see what issues are reoccurring. The key, of course, is to use this data to prioritize changes in your app. If you get several comments about an affiliate, find a new vendor to source to, etc.
Consider a CMS that can also send follow-up emails. Perhaps you can require CSRs to follow-up on each category marked "incorrect data in the app". The email you send to a customer could simply say: "Thanks for letting us know that our app had incorrect data. We've corrected the issue and are pleased to let you know all is right with the world again. Thanks so much.".
Focus on feedback from the beginning
Even in the beginning, when you're just grabbing the phone as a team, keeping your feedback organized is key to measuring the data that's coming into your office. Simply, the feedback you think or feel is being provided from your memory could become very different when it's accurately recorded and written down in black and white. Often, the issues that you think an app has, are quite different than the experience of the user on the other end.
However, there's another crucial component to feedback. Here at SupportNinja, we love saying that customer service is not damage control. You don't offer support to avoid bad reviews. You offer support to create amazing customer experiences. That in itself prevents negative experiences, so you won't get negative reviews either.
Accurately getting, categorizing and acting on feedback is one of the most important "cogs" for creating these amazing customer experiences.
Looking for help with your business growth?
Scaling your company will always be a learning process. You will make mistakes, and experience growing pains. Creating customer service representative training solutions can be an easier process when you follow the guidelines above.
Should you find that you have additional questions though, or would like to ask for more advice, get in touch with us. At SupportNinja, we're experts at helping businesses grow in a budget-friendly manner.
We understand the challenge of staying lean, because we used to be a startup ourselves. One aspect that feeds into that challenge is that you require CSRs that really get your customers, and keep them being your customers. However, it's a real pain to source, interview, hire, train, and retain amazing talent. If finances are a bit tight, the implicit overhead each new employee brings can also be discouraging.
One alternative to consider is working with an outsourcing provider that offers a dedicated support model (like us!). We also operate in multiple geos, which enables us to offer you 10+ languages to pick from, 24/7 availability, and different support agent price points (which are a fixed, monthly cost).
Our outsourcing solutions cover a wide variety of customer and company needs, providing the right environment for reaching your goals. Front-office, back-office, or a mix of both - just let us know what you're looking for! We can help with:
- Customer Success - including general customer service, billing support, travel assistance, logistics, renewals management.
- Technical Support - for any software, hardware, and mobile app.
- Content Moderation - including user safety, content filtering, and community monitoring.
- Data Processing - including lead generation, data entry, and data analysis.
- Professional Services - including finance & accounting, software development, quality assurance, and workforce management.