In today’s time, it takes much more than a great product or service to really please customers and be at the top of your industry. In fact, a study by Salesforce reports that 80% of customers said that the experience is just as important as the product or service.
Additionally, businesses benefit from exceptional customer support when it comes to generating return customers, increasing referrals, and boosting profits.
Customer acquisition costs more than retention, and more than 80% of customers have stopped purchasing from a brand due to poor customer service experience. Meanwhile, increasing customer retention rates by as little as 5% can already increase your profit by as much as 25% to 95%.
With great customer support, customers will definitely keep coming back to do business with you. When customers keep coming back, they eventually become loyal clients and are more likely to refer your business to others, boosting your reputation, public image, and profits. After all, customers themselves admitted that they are willing to pay more if it meant getting a better customer experience.
Essentially, customer support can easily become a company’s competitive advantage if done right. The thing is, improving customer support is not an easy task. This involves time, effort, and dedication to facilitate an effective customer service agent onboarding and training program.
What makes a customer support agent exceptional?
Before you dive into the actual training proper, it’s important to come to terms on what your company’s standards of exceptional customer support agents are.
These may vary a bit depending on your core values and goals, but these are the general traits of excellent customer support agents.
1. They communicate well.
A customer support agent is basically a front liner for your company. Thus, good communication skills are probably one of the, if not the most, important traits that an agent must have. After all, their main tasks involve talking to your customers, answering their inquiries, and building relationships. It’s all about interpersonal communication, so a customer support agent has to be very comfortable with doing this day in and day out.
2. They initiate solutions.
While customers try to diagnose the solutions to their problems, they are not always right. In some cases, the problem they are experiencing is the result of a different problem all together. Customer support agents must take the initiative to troubleshoot in order to arrive to the root of the problem and the solution.
3. They know your product or service like the back of their hand.
Customers can tell when an agent knows or doesn’t know what he or she is saying. Agents that know the product or service by heart are confident, professional, and they volunteer additional information that will help even if the customer didn’t ask for it. On the other hand, customer support agents who don’t really know the product or service tend to just give off generic and impersonal spiels.
4. They are emotionally intelligent.
Some customers are frustrated, and speaking to customer support agents that can display empathy and genuine care can already have a positive impact. The customer feels heard and treats this as a positive experience with an agent. Agents must also be patient and not pile on to the frustrations of a customer.
5. They follow the prescribed workflows and systems.
Excellent customer support agents are able to work efficiently and effectively because they respect and follow the set guidelines and workflows when it comes to incident reports and escalations.
These are just a few traits that customer support agents are expected to have. Aside from built-in personality traits, an effective onboarding system is crucial to the growth and development of each and every agent you have under your wing.
What’s the importance of new agent onboarding?
Here’s the truth. The onboarding process is severely underrated. A Harvard Business Review study even shows that 22% of companies don’t have a formal onboarding system.
However, due to the nature and importance of the customer support role, a well laid out onboarding process can give your business a leg up. It will streamline customer service protocols and expectations and empower your agents to provide excellent service.
Effective onboarding will definitely help new agents to start performing the best they can right from the get go because they have a concrete guide to follow.
Sure, getting a new agent to be on par with more experienced agents can take time, but the effort will be rewarding. This will result in a confident customer support agent who has a clear direction and goals, aside from well-rounded knowledge on the product and the company
How to ensure effective onboarding
The most important thing to keep in mind is to come up with an onboarding plan that spans the first few months of a new hire. You also need to understand that onboarding customer support agents will take time, but it’s because they are expected to be the go-to experts when it comes to answering questions about the company.
Simply put, they are expected to have the knowledge and mastery similar to other tenured employees. That is why an onboarding plan should be followed, with specific milestones to keep track of their progress.
While onboarding different roles in different companies vary greatly, these are some of the most valuable onboarding strategies specifically for customer support agents.
1. Set expectations.
Zero in on the goals and objectives that must be met after the onboarding process. Right from the new agent’s first day, there should be clarity on the expectations. By doing this, both the new agents and the managers will be on the same page when it comes to progress and outcomes.
2. Instill your company culture and core values.
It’s normal for new agents to feel a bit disconnected to the company. The onboarding process should include an overview of the company culture and core values to help new agents slowly ease in.
3. Conduct product and tools training.
Give your new customer support agents access to your knowledge database that contains all your self-learning resources. These can be your training materials, recorded videos, modules, or handbooks. These are materials that your new agents can study at their own time for them to master every little detail about your product or service.
Aside from mastering what the company is selling, it’s also important to get your new hires up to speed on the various software and tools they will be using. For the tools training, you may want to explore actual demos or simulations.
Of course, come up with an objective way of evaluating their knowledge of the product/service and tools so you can assess their progress so far.
4. Assign respective mentors to new hires.
Connecting your new agents to more experienced ones will make a huge difference. A one-on-one approach makes it easier for new hires to reach out and ask questions, which in turn results in faster progress. Additionally, having a mentor or a work buddy helps make the new hires feel integrated in the team.
5. Allow “learning by doing.”
Don’t limit the onboarding to purely theoretical learning and simulations. You can start assigning them easier actionables until you feel confident enough to give them more complicated ones.
6. Do frequent check-ins and reviews.
The first few weeks are critical, so it’s important for team leads to do regular check-ins. You can start with every two days and gradually move to a weekly sync up. Regular check-ins will keep them on course and provide them immediate feedback on what they’re doing right and what they need to improve on.
What is customer service training and why is it important?
Customer service training basically consists of providing continuous growth and development opportunities for customer support agents to excel in their field. It is important because you have to make sure that your agents are always aligned and on the same page when it comes to representing your company.
Learning doesn’t stop after the onboarding process. Since customer support is becoming more of a key ingredient of success, businesses must step up when it comes to continuously improving it. These days, it’s crucial to develop a strong customer support department because customer experience is directly related to customer retention and satisfaction.
Ideas for conducting an effective continuous training process for your customer support agents
Check out some of these strategies and ideas you can explore as you plan out the training paths for your customer support agents.
1. Gamification and scenario building workshops
Who says training can’t be fun? The great thing about customer support agent training is that it’s very interactive and leaves room for creativity. You can explore a few fun games that you can play during team meetings or workshops. The best part about these games is that they actually train your agents’ various skills like finding solutions, avoiding the word ‘no,’ and leveling up their communication skills. Check out the games here.
2. Upskill training
Upskilling is when people learn new things or skills. There will always be opportunities for upskilling when your company decides to invest in new software or help desk tool.
3. Updating customer interaction best practices
To be exemplary customer support agents, representatives should be able to focus on using their personal skills to build stronger relationships with customers. This includes learning to manage emotions and frustrations, while always appearing to be positive and pleasant.
Since customer preferences and behaviors are always changing, it’s always a good idea to update your agents on what they can do more of when it comes to interpersonal communication.
4. New product training
Products change over time, and businesses launch new offers every once in a while. When that happens, all customer support agents are on a clean slate. Instead of letting them figure it out by themselves, a specific training for this new product or update will set them up for success.
Best Practices for Onboarding and Training Customer Service Agents
Just to round things up, here’s a quick checklist of best practices that will help make customer support onboarding and training a great experience for everyone involved.
- Track progress.
Set your new hires up for success by clearly outlining milestones and achievements they should aim for. This will also help you monitor how they’re handling the training process.
- Create a rewards and recognition program.
Add opportunities for recognizing good work. This will help motivate people to continue to do better.
- Find out what works and what doesn’t
Gather feedback about the current onboarding and training processes you have in place. Your training plans don’t have to remain stagnant. You can continuously update them to make sure they are optimized to help new and existing agents to excel.
The quality of your customer service can either cause the success or the downfall of your business. Numbers don’t lie, and the data shows that poor customer service can cause customers to turn away.
Improving your customer service involves making sure that each and every customer support agent excels. This means taking the time to train them, empower them, and help them hone their skills. With proper onboarding and training, the results can be very rewarding.
Remember, your overall customer support system depends on your agents. But it is up to you to make sure they succeed, so your company succeeds as well.