How to Train Your Customer Support Agents To Provide Better Service

Customer service begins and ends with the way your employees treat browsers and buyers. Make sure everyone in your company has a toolkit and playbook to make a terrific impression.

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By Kimberly Zhang

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Customers may shop around, but they're not immune to the lure of good customer service. This leaves them wide open for wooing, yet nailing the holistic customer experience can't happen without the help of your employees.

Your employees will likely be the first people-centric touchpoint for customers. Even if a sale happens online, customers may need assistance. Some buyers are fine with chatbots or figuring out answers on their own. Others, though, want some hand-holding. And when they get it, their likelihood of coming back improves.

This includes frustrated customers who threaten to leave. Customers give their loyalty to brands that respond because they appreciate being acknowledged. That alone shows just a fraction of the power (and profitability) of putting customer service first.

Related: 3 Ways to Handle an Upset Customer That Actually Make Them More Loyal to Your Brand

Getting your employees to do the right thing every day requires strategic planning. Below are some considerations to keep in mind when teaching employees how to wow shoppers.

Coach employees at the individual level.

It may seem more cost-effective and quick to train your employees with a broad brush. However, drilling down to coach them as individuals may elicit better results.

Etsy was accustomed to tracking customer experience data, but even though the data looked positive, the company wasn't seeing many changes in customer ratings. After working with MaestroQA to drive quality assurance insights, Etsy improved agent performance at the micro-level. This in turn lowered Etsy's multi-group solve rate by two-thirds and bumped up QA agent performance by 14%.

Improving each support team member's abilities takes more effort than just training everyone en masse. Nevertheless, seeing every employee as unique can help pinpoint customer support gaps you might have overlooked. You can get started by finding an automated system that allows you to collect and evaluate data on each employee.

Take your call center personnel, for instance. The average handle time for your team of 10 people may be two minutes each. Not bad, right? But after digging you realize that one representative takes five minutes per call. The others spend about one-and-a-half minutes apiece. Knowing this, you can help the struggling representative individually. Over time, this kind of personalized training should have a serious impact on the overall efficiency of your call center flow.

Related: 4 Big Benefits of Improved Employee Training

Empower employees to make decisions.

It's very difficult for employees to make a difference with customers if they always have to revert to their managers. And no consumer wants to deal with 10 different representatives to get an answer. The workaround for this problem? Give more authority to your workers.

To be sure, you may need to make a few organizational changes first. McKinsey research shows that without a well-understood brand strategy, employee empowerment doesn't work. The same holds true with ensuring your people know their places and parameters.

One caveat: you'll have to allow employees to fail sometimes. Not all workers will make the same decisions you might. Be patient and turn glitches into coachable moments. In time, empowerment will feel more organic throughout your company. Best of all, your employees will start to think more like owners and less like staffers on the payroll.

What's the easiest way to move toward a more empowered staff? Create a centrally available document that outlines what workers are allowed to do. For example, you may want to authorize employees to give discounts of up to 30% off merchandise of a certain value. Similarly, you might prefer to allow workers to not just reverse charges but offer additional credit to the accounts of disgruntled customers. Having everything written out avoids confusion and lessens your worry about the possibility of overspending.

Help employees understand what type of customer experience you want.

It's fine to say you want your customers to have improved experiences. What do you mean, though? Without defining your ideal customer service model, you can't hope to help your employees achieve it.

For instance, you might decide that all incoming customer problems should be solved within five minutes without variation. In that case, you'll want to make sure your employees know this parameter. At the same time, they'll need the tools to make this happen.

A good way to solidify what you want in terms of the customer experience is to turn employees into customers. Have them go through the process of placing an order, receiving merchandise, calling with questions, or submitting a return. Workers will have a much better understanding of what customers go through. At the same time, they could inform you of hitches they encountered along the way. With the information you and they gather, you can tighten previously unnoticed service snags.

Related: How to Improve Your Bottom Line by Embracing Customer Experience

Make customer service a central part of your onboarding.

Even if your support team members are only working part-time hours, emphasize the importance of customer service in your onboarding.

When employees are introduced to the notion of customer-centricity from day one, they take it seriously. Don't just talk about the customer experience with your call center people, either. Weave elements of customer service into all your onboarding for a better outcome.

Zapier notes that when your onboarding includes customer obsession angles, you get another benefit: less employee churn. And the longer employees stay, the more they can contribute to your customer-centered culture.

How do you know if your onboarding highlights service? First, go over all new-hire training carefully. Look for opportunities to add customer service elements into the curriculum and note where it currently exists. Are there any items missing in those first workshops? When in doubt, remember that it's better for you to include more service-related scenarios and role-plays than have too few. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. And people won't be inclined to practice without a formal nudge.

Kimberly Zhang

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Editor of Under30CEO

Kimberly Zhang, president and editor in chief of Under30CEO, has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders.

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