How to train your customer service staff
Updated: Jan 13
The onboarding process of your new customer support staff can be similar to training new athletes on a sports team. In both fields, it takes time and constant practice to gain the skills necessary to perform at an optimal level and to develop the cohesion to work well as a team. Using the right tools can help make the process easier: performance analysis apps provide useful statistics for athletes, just as your help desk software can for support agents. Lessons gained from sports could also be applied to the workplace, particularly in a customer service setting. We found ten quotes from some of sports’ greats that you can use to turn your trainees into independent, confident, and positive customer care experts. Have a look at the best customer service training tips, from the pros:
Nail the basics: develop a thorough knowledge of your products and services
"First master the fundamentals." - Larry Bird, 3-time NBA champion
It’s a fact: your customers expect your support staff to know your products inside out. So when creating your training plan, make sure your new personnel have ample opportunity to use them and learn about all of their intricacies. This will give them not only the expertise but also the self-assurance and authority to walk your clients through support issues. And if they end up having a keen appreciation of your products, this can even turn them into brand ambassadors.
Train your staff to harness the power of your knowledge base
“Innovation involves anticipation. It is having a broad base of knowledge on your subject and an ability to see where the end game is headed. Use all your knowledge to get there first.” - Bill Walsh, football coach, 3-time Super Bowl winner
A knowledge base is an effective tool not only for your customers, but also for your support staff. It can help these employees find information within seconds so that they can provide your clients with quick and high quality answers. They could also use your knowledge base articles to supplement their responses on social media or by email. Furthermore, they could gain insight into which issues your clients usually search for, allowing them to anticipate their needs. So give your new hires enough time to learn how to use your knowledge base: how to navigate it, find the right information, and use it to assist customers.
Instill empathy and compassion for your customers
“If you’re speaking with a knowledgeable, caring, loving, passionate voice, then you can give the people of America and all over the world hope.” - LeBron James, 3-time NBA champion
Not everyone is an expert at using your product or is able to fix issues easily on their own, but an understanding agent can at least help make the process easier. Encourage your staff to listen actively and be sensitive not only to customers’ words but also to their tone, writing style or use of emojis. Teach them how to ask thoughtful questions and how to respond with compassion. This can be done through activities such as role plays or empathy exercises. A list of friendly customer service phrases can also be helpful, though these don’t have to be said verbatim each time. At the end of the day, your customers will remember how your agents made them feel, so make cultivating genuine and sincere interaction an essential part of your training program.
Make finding solutions a mindset
"I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution." - Shaquille O'Neal, 4-time NBA champion
Your customers reach out to your support team because they need answers. They don't appreciate being passed from department to department, or waiting around to receive a proper response. Your agents, therefore, need to be adept sleuths and problem solvers. Train them how to break down and analyze issues effectively by listening to the customer, asking the right questions, identifying potential solutions, and communicating the best one in a precise and accurate manner. And in the event that your agents can't find an appropriate answer by themselves, make it clear who they need to approach in order to find it so they don't get stuck and unable to provide a response. Just as the main goal in basketball is to get that ball in the hoop, the aim of customer service is to give clients the right solution.
Learn from others
“Playing with Michael Jordan would be a great opportunity for me. I would have someone around I could learn a lot from. I look up to him as a player and as a person, and that would make me a better player and person.” - Scottie Pippen, 6-time NBA champion
Give your new personnel the opportunity to learn from their more experienced colleagues by allowing them to spend a day (or a few days) together. This type of shadowing would give your trainees a good idea of what the day-to-day work is like: What are the most common requests received by your team members? How should they respond? How do they manage their tickets? What do they do with unique requests? Since no two agents are alike, this is a good chance to observe how others deal with their tasks, communicate with customers, and add their personal touch to their work.
Another way to learn from others is to review recordings or transcripts of exemplary (and not-so-exemplary) engagements with customers. This helps set clear expectations for your trainees and gives tangible examples of dos and don’ts.
Practice, practice, and more practice!
“Practice puts brains in your muscles.” - Sam Snead, 7-time Major golf championship winner
A great way to give your agents confidence in addressing your customers’ queries is to carry out simulations. First, do dry runs of scenarios that deal with your core operations. These need to become second nature since your agents will have to respond to issues related to these most of the time. Second, it’s also important to practice what to do in challenging situations - such as how to engage with upset customers - so your agents don’t get fazed when encountering these for real. Do enough drills during training so when the time comes, they’ll be as cool as a cucumber.
Identify goals, get to work, and evaluate
“Set realistic goals, keep re-evaluating, and be consistent.” - Venus Williams, 7-time singles tennis Grand Slam winner
Practice only gets you so far: There’s no better way to learn how to play tennis than to get on the court. But no one expects new players to play three (or five) consecutive sets right away! The same goes for your trainees. In the beginning, you could assign a certain number of tickets or calls to each of them. Give them the chance to work independently, though monitored by their supervisors. Assess their performance together and ask them how they think they can do better. You can also go over statistics provided by your help desk software and use it to determine personal benchmarks. Set new goals, re-evaluate, and keep aiming to improve. This is relevant not only during the onboarding process but also throughout the employee's career in your company.
Help them learn from mistakes
“You can always say, ‘I wish I had landed that triple flip better, or I wish I didn’t fall.’ They’re not regrets, just mistakes.” - Michelle Kwan, 2-time figure skating Olympic medalist
It's a cliché, but it's true that nobody is perfect. Just as figure skaters can miss triple axels at the Olympics, your customer care staff can sometimes give inaccurate answers to your customers, or handle a challenging call in a less-than-stellar manner. New employees can take making errors quite hard, so your goal is to help them rebound from the disappointment, distill the lesson from the mistake, and move forward.
Integrate new hires into the team
"I am a member of the team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” - Mia Hamm, 2-time FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion
Customer care is a team sport: success or failure depends not on any single agent but on the performance of each one acting as a unit. So encourage cooperation and elevate esprit de corps. When you have new employees, it's essential to make them feel welcome and to help them work in harmony with the team. You can do this by organizing social activities or by setting up a buddy system. You can also ask your trainees to have one-on-one meetings with each member of the team as well as with relevant officers. This gives them the chance to make a personal connection with the people they'll be spending most of their time with at work.
Encourage lifelong learning in the workplace
“I think in life you should work on yourself until the day you die.” - Serena Williams, 23-time singles tennis Grand Slam winner
The end of the onboarding process doesn't signify the end of learning. On a daily basis, there is always something to glean from one's interactions with clients. Customer feedback can help improve how you offer support and how you upgrade your products and services. On a broader scale, customer care is a quickly evolving industry so you and your personnel will need to be comfortable with learning new methods of reaching and serving your clients. On an even grander scale, cultivating an ethos of lifelong learning helps people feel more at ease with the unknown, more resilient in the face of challenges, and more open to change. These are attitudes you would want agents on your team to have. And whether they stay with you for a year or ten, you can rest assured that developing a growth mindset is a lesson that will stay with them for life.
Make the onboarding process easier for you and your team by choosing help desk software that simply works.