Applications of online training: customer service

customer serviceCustomer service training is in fact the blueprint for a company’s entire support process.  A solid training program ensures that a team operates to consistently deliver good service to customers, with or without a game plan. Whilst a variety of elements go into creating a successful business, customer service is center-stage and every interaction the company has with a customer can affect its bottom line. In today’s competitive marketplace, companies are perpetually searching for business practices that will set them apart and often customer service is what separates companies that thrive from those that fail. Offering customer service training to employees has been shown to drive sales and give businesses a strong competitive advantage. This is why it is imperative that businesses invest in quality programs.

Broadly defined, customer service training refers to teaching employees the knowledge, skills, and competencies required to increase customer satisfaction. Elearning provides employees with those skills and competencies without taking too large of a bite out of the company’s HR budget. As far as learners are concerned, a main advantage of elearning in customer service training is that participants can be scheduled for training in a staggered fashion, and can also work at their own pace.

Training programs yield several benefits for the organization, employees and customers:

  1. Increased employee motivation & engagement: providing training allows employees to better understand the impact their role has in the organization. Investing in employees also demonstrates that the company cares about their continual development and progress – they feel more valued and this improves motivation and engagement. Employee efficiency is thereby increased and they are better equipped to deal effectively with customers.
  2. Improved customer service skills: through customer service training, employees improve their knowledge, skills, and competencies and/or acquire new ones. Specific customer service training programs focus on improving communication (such as questioning to understand the customer’s need or problem, listening, confirming understanding, responding with value, using positive language), problem-solving and organizational skills. Training employees on the same set of competencies gives them a standard process to deal with customers – which in the end gives customers a more consistent and professional experience. Through effective training, customer service representatives increase their ability to resolve issues and decrease the number of return calls. Often, trained employees are able to address the concern at the first point of contact, which greatly increases customer satisfaction (see benefit (3) below). The increased motivation and engagement coupled with the new skills creates improved customer service in the company.
  3. Increased customer satisfaction: the improved manner in which employees interact with customers leads to consumers feeling appreciated and respected. This is critical to any company’s continued success. According to Wikipedia, employees who are properly trained and who demonstrate professional customer service skills can and do improve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. This, in turn, helps the business retain customers and improve profits as it costs less to retain a customer than to acquire a new one.
  4. Increased profit: increased customer satisfaction means pleased customers who are more open to additional sales messages and more likely to refer others as potential customers. Basically, what quality customer service training achieves is higher customer retention, the acquisition of new customers, reduced employee turnover and increased sales. Training has a great impact on employee motivation and morale, leading to increased productivity. It’s a simple equation: improved customer service + increased customer satisfaction + increased customer loyalty = an increase in profit.

Caring about customers

We support a lot of people each day for both eFront (and more recently TalentLMS) and we have been doing so for several years now.

Throughout this process I have discovered that being super-good at support is important for getting and keeping customers and is an essential path to prosperity. Below I have assembled a short list of 10 things to keep in mind when supporting people through tools like Zendesk or Uservoice. If you have a support team, make sure they read and practice them during their daily routine.

Read between the lines

It is one thing what the customer asks for and another thing what he really wants. Learn to read between the lines to match your product with your customer needs – they will adore you for it!

Overachieve

Whenever possible, overachieve. If they ask you for one thing and it is cheap and/or easy for you to amend it with more information, tips and suggestions, then do it.

Be FAST

Respond as quickly as possible. Having a ticket waiting for several days is the worst thing you can do. Whenever you cannot offer a complete solution right away you must communicate consistently about its progress.

Do answer late at night or on weekends when possible. This extra effort can do miracles for your customers’ perception about your company.

Know your audience

A technical person needs a technical answer. A non-technical person expects less technical guidance. Know your audience and adjust your language according to their needs.

Be Frank

Do not lie. Do not promise something that cannot be done. Do not sound like a lawyer. Say no when you have to. Feel free to round the edges when you need to but never distort the truth. Do accept responsibility when something is your (company’s) fault; but make sure it won’t happen again!

Don’t be a nameless machine

Use your name and your social accounts on your signature. People want to communicate with humans and not nameless workers.

Be precise

Offer concrete solutions. Good writing is like good programming. You need an exact number of words to do it properly – no less, no more.

Avoid “fillers”

Fillers are answers with little value for the customer that do not promote problem-solving but instead act as a delaying mechanism. Avoid them at all costs. If it is not clear what the customer wants offer draft solutions for major possible problems that you recognize.

Don’t lose control

Customers ask for support because they have a problem. It is commonplace for problems to frustrate customers which may make them bad tempered or even insulting occasionally. Also, a few support items may take long time to track and fix which may cause the situation to deteriorate. Under such a crisis situation, being calm and understanding can have a very positive effect on your conversation. It is not uncommon for an angry customer to turn into an evangelist for your product.

Control your time

Support is measured through time. It is important to be as organized as possible so as to spend as little time as you can with each customer (without compromising of course) – otherwise you might find yourself overwhelmed by the task. Create a database of frequently asked questions or templates with common answers. They will help you look professional even when you have only spent just a few minutes on each problem.