Providing an outstanding customer experience is always a top goal at any company. But some customers are challenging: They're having a tough day; they're impatient; technology has them flustered. Whatever the cause of frustration, customer-facing personnel must remain calm and polite as they resolve the customer's problem. Targeted customer service training can build the skills needed to do so with finesse. Start with training in stress management, negotiation, communication and other soft skills. Applicable resources might already exist in the content library of your learning management system. While it might be labeled as leadership or management content, providing all frontline employees with these skills during customer service training provides an essential foundation for difficult customer encounters.
Beyond basic skills
In addition to soft skills, focused training should teach appropriate responses during encounters with angry customers or callers and coach employees on responding to angry emails, texts and social media posts. Customer service training has several goals:
- Prepare employees for the stress of a negative encounter
- Teach staff how to manage their own emotional responses
- Provide tools and scripts for responding appropriately in the moment
- Empower employees to address any factors that might be contributing to recurring customer issues
- Outline the steps they're allowed to take and when to involve a manager
There are several effective approaches, and it might be worth using a variety of training formats to boost content retention.
Scenarios & role-playing
Whether training is in person or online, for individuals or groups, providing opportunities to practice common scenarios is enormously helpful. If the budget allows, creating immersive training is a low-risk way to enable repeated practice in responding to stressful situations. Walmart uses virtual reality training to prepare employees for stressful events like Black Friday, as well as to ingrain responses to common events, reported The Washington Post. Scenarios and role-play exercises do not have to be immersive to be effective. Branching scenarios with feedback enable learners to explore multiple potential responses and their results. Other inexpensive, engaging options include simple text-based training, chatbot-based apps and interactive video.
Technical skills & product knowledge
Technology is a huge driver of customer frustration. If your organization offers online or automated tools, customer-facing personnel and call center staff need to know the ins and outs of every app and procedure. Simulations empower risk-free practice. Some organizations add game mechanics to simulation software, encouraging trainees to complete a common set of transactions, demonstrate knowledge of processes or even try to cause common errors — all in the name of learning how to help customers use products and apps. Learners should practice showing customers how to solve problems; they must also be able to guide customers through needed steps via phone, email or chat. That's why instruction on clear, effective writing is a great addition to the technical skills and product knowledge covered in customer service training. Repeated practice builds confidence and prepares personnel for their encounters with frustrated or angry customers.
Customer service training for onboarding
New hires need to build up their knowledge during onboarding, possibly with guidance from a mentor. They might focus on common situations initially, allowing for early successes that build confidence. A microlearning approach that offers spaced practice to solidify knowledge, adding new material as learners become proficient, might be a good choice for onboarding. The goal of providing stellar service to all customers via all communication channels is part of any company's culture and philosophy. Thorough customer service training ensures that employees have the skills, knowledge and confidence to respond to even irate customers with grace—and effective answers.