6 Tips to Train Enthusiastic, Empathic Support Representatives
In customer support, it’s one thing to resolve tickets efficiently and quite another thing to empathize with each and every customer, and craft personalized responses to every message received. This can take a toll on the customer support agent. To improve agent enthusiasm and to help them deliver incredible customer experiences becomes a challenge. Even if you are able to motivate your team to deliver fantastic, helpful responses to basic questions every day, how do you ensure that your team is willing (and is able) to go above and beyond in special circumstances? For example, if the postal service loses one of your shipments, who has the authority to get a replacement sent out, and quickly?
With the right approach, you can turn your team into an enthusiastic bunch of agents and train them to provide responses which display empathy for the customer’s concerns.
In this article, I’ve discussed some actionable tactics you can use when training your team, to improve the quality of their customer service interactions.
1. Read Between the Lines
Your team cannot apply if-then rules while resolving a customer’s issue. That is, when a customer says X, the truth is that the agent cannot automatically assume that Y is the ideal solution. It’s important to point out to your team that effective customer service involves going beyond merely reading the ticket and immediately responding.
It’s important to distinguish between what the customer actually needs and what they think the customer needs. This way, you can avoid unnecessary back-and-forth conversation between the agent and the customer which would reduce your team’s efficiency.
For example, a customer may have overlooked some functionality in your product. As a result, they may have spent a great deal of time trying to craft a solution using other features in your product which were not designed for that specific purpose. When the solution doesn’t work as desired, the customer is bound to get frustrated, leading them to question whether your product or service is what they actually need.
In this case, true empathy entails displaying an understanding of the time invested by the customer to find a solution on their own before pointing them in the right direction. This will obviously require a fair bit of reading between the lines in order to draft the best-possible response.
2. Develop a Guideline for Empathic Responses
Empathy is often considered an innate human trait. To some extent, it is, but some people are naturally more empathetic than others.
However, in a customer service environment, you can train your team to be more empathic. To do this, it will help to establish a step-by-step process outlining how to craft responses that resonate with customers, especially when using email or chat where your team has more time to frame their response than they would on call.
Here’s a rough guideline you could adopt to keep the tone and wording of your email responses on-point:
Read the initial question at least twice to develop a comprehensive understanding of the customer’s concern.
Consider the implications of what the client is saying, in order to develop an initial basis for the response. Remember actionable tactic 1?
Establish a consistent tone from the get-go. However, no matter how jovial or professional you want to be, it’s critical to be consistent. A sudden change in tone could confuse the customer.
Develop a clear (but concise) explanation of the best solution to the problem.
Re-read the response at least twice for grammar, spelling, and clarity. Could the message be made more concise? Does the message display enough enthusiasm to resolve the customer’s concerns?
3. Communicate the Benefits of Empathy
Empathy is important for providing good customer support. Without empathy, agents will struggle to understand the customer’s position and the context of their question, especially if their question is complex.
However, empathy is also incredibly helpful for agents.
If your team is able to effectively get to the bottom of what the customer actually wants or needs, it becomes easier to draft quality responses, enabling agents to quickly resolve tickets, and do their job more efficiently. The difficult part here is to train your team to be more patient with customers. You need to teach them to first address the customer’s emotions before moving on with providing the solution.
You could sit your agents down and demonstrate how best to respond to different sorts of questions, particularly customers who are angry or frustrated.
In each example, explain how you developed your understanding of what the customer is experiencing, and how you used this knowledge to handle their frustration.
4. Demonstrate What a Perfect Customer Support Call is Like
When dealing with calls, displaying enthusiasm becomes just as important as developing an empathic understanding of what the customer is dealing with.
This is because both of these factors contribute to your customer’s perception of how helpful the agent was on that particular call. Their tone, as well as the usefulness of the information they are able to provide, will essentially determine the quality of the customer experience delivered. However, you have to be specific while training your team.
What Does the Perfect Call Look (or Sound) Like for Your Organization?
– What sort of tone would you like agents to use? Would you use words like “chipper”, “upbeat”, and “jovial”? Would a “professional”, “to-the-point”, or “serious” tone make more sense? Or is there a balance to be achieved? Provide some examples – call recordings are incredibly important for training purposes.
– How would you like the agent to begin and sign off the call? How should they state their name, role, and the organization they are working for? Should they encourage the customer to fill in a feedback survey after the call?
– What’s your ideal call outcome? Is first-call resolution of particular importance, or would it make more sense for agents to research the problem and call the customer back?
Different agents may have different ways of dealing with phone calls, but it’s worth providing a framework within which they can effectively deal with the customer on the phone. This will help you ensure that there is adequate quality assurance (QA). Meaning, if there are awkward silences, or excessive umms and ahhs, you should be able to barge in and help the agent with the call. Rather than assigning people to review call recordings manually, this sort of QA can be performed automatically with speech analytics for maximum efficiency.
5. Make a Game of It
Some consider gamification to be a bit of a gimmick, but it’s often used as a means of making office environments (especially outbound call centers) more interesting.
However, as we all know, customer service is never boring! No two issues are ever the same – especially in the world of software solutions.
This can actually make gamification all the more worthwhile.
As a training device, you could create simulated customer service interactions. For instance, you could pair agents up, and have one pretend to be a customer attempting to solve a difficult problem. The task for the other agent is to solve the customer’s problem.
Alternatively, you may consider starting up an ongoing game to encourage continual performance improvement.
For instance, put up a whiteboard somewhere prominent in the office. Once a week, let your team write the most impressive thing a customer said or wrote to them over the previous five days. For example “OMG – thank you so much!” or “You’ve been a real help, thanks.”
At the end of the week (or month, depending on volume), award a prize to the agent who managed who received the most flattering compliment in relation to their service. Just make sure you’ve got a fair judge on hand!
6. Display Enthusiasm for Enthusiasm!
The other key to developing agent enthusiasm for their work is to establish some incentives for outstanding performance.
The most obvious way of doing this is to create monetary rewards for exceptional performers on your team. You could use quantitative metrics like the number of tickets resolved, but this can have unintended consequences. For example, agents pressuring customers to mark the issue as resolved as soon as possible.
Another way to go about this is to let them know that you’re looking to reward outstanding performers in your annual/bi-annual performance reviews. Make it clear what you’re looking for, and offer raises where appropriate to keep your top achievers on-board.
On a day-to-day basis, this will encourage agents to do what’s necessary to impress their direct supervisor. If it’s clear that you’re looking for a compassionate but upbeat sort of tone on call, agents are going to be keen to display such enthusiasm, particularly if they have a supervisor QA checking their work.
Your team can have infinite enthusiasm for helping your customers. However, without the ability to empathize with customers or extract information and develop effective solutions, this enthusiasm is quite pointless.
Developing the ability to empathize with what the customer is dealing with takes time — some agents have the natural ability for it. It’s important to teach your team to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, so that your team can understand their perspective. It’s too easy to get stuck in a bubble in customer service, effectively isolated from the people you’re actually helping, despite being in constant contact.
Here’s an idea – throw a pizza party, and invite some customers in! Or, go to them if you service a relatively small number of clients (in B2B for example). Not only does this make a nice change of scenery, it makes it much easier to develop agents’ emotional intelligence in understanding exactly where customers are coming from.
Do you have an interesting idea to train your customer support team? Share them as comments here.