How to train for customer service: a quick overview

Customer service training is the education and upskilling of customer service employees to improve the support they're able to provide and thereby increase customer satisfaction. It is an ongoing, continuous process of growth throughout an agent's time working in customer service.

Your customer service training course should include:

- Customer service skill training
- Competency tests
- Consistent monitoring and feedback

customer service team training

Well-trained customer service agents are better at building customer relationships using emotional intelligence and a broad communication skill set. Not only does this result in a happy customer base, but it also leads to a loyal customer base. When customer service is good, people remember. They tell their friends, they feel loyal to your brand, and they're more likely to trust you with their money. 

To provide good customer service that generates high customer loyalty, you’ll need an outstanding customer service training program that teaches the exceptional service standard you expect.
 

Why is training important in customer service?

It's no longer possible to push customer service to the side and expect customers to be happy. People are more connected than ever, and that means they're constantly sharing their experiences - both positive and negative. These days it's important to focus on developing a strong customer service department with well-trained, dedicated agents who have the tools they need to do the job well.

Importance of customer service training

Providing top-notch support is directly related to customer retention and loyalty, as well as increasing overall customer satisfaction. Delighted customers are a great way to guarantee ongoing revenue from them, as well as for bringing in new customers.

This considered, it’s not just your customer service training program that counts — it’s also who you hire. Hiring the right people is the first step, but you’ll also need to consider your onboarding processes, tools training, and ongoing coaching.

How to hire the right people for customer service

To get started with customer service training, first you’ll need to hire a team. Take your time and make careful choices when staffing your customer service team, as the people who make it up will be the foundation that allows for success, and will have a significant impact on the culture of the team itself. While some skills are well-suited to learning after being hired and developing over time, there are certain experiences and traits that will set a person up for success right from the start.

Skills to look for while hiring customer support agents

As you hire for your customer service team, look for the following characteristics in each candidate:

Excellent communication skills

Communication is key. If you had to pick only one trait to consider when hiring, this is the one. That's why the interview process should include a lot of opportunities to communicate with the candidate and is one of the simpler traits to spot. If an applicant struggles to convey their thoughts to you, it’s probably a safe bet they’ll have trouble doing the same with customers. While customer service training can help with communication details and the nuances of language that help a support interaction go well, the most basic communication between two people is difficult to train into someone.

To assess communication skills in relation to your product or service, why not ask the candidate to explain a piece of it to you, as if you’re a potential customer starting from zero? If they can break down the subject into understandable, helpful tips for you in the moment, chances are they can do that for your customers too.

Experience in customer support

Experience in customer support of a similar product or service isn’t totally necessary, but some history of providing customer service in general is great to have. While you can train a person on the details of your particular product, it’ll be easier to do if they’re starting out with an understanding of how to deal with customers and general best practices when providing support.

As you assess a candidate’s customer support experience, ask them for an example of a time they dealt with a difficult customer or a time they advocated for a customer and how it went. If they share a story that sounds reasonable—whether a positive interaction or not—it’ll show they’ve faced difficulty in support or gone the extra mile for a customer, as well as their ability to reflect on their work.

Understanding your company’s product or service

Pay attention to whether or not a candidate appears to have customized their application materials for you in particular, or if it's so generic it feels like it could've been sent to anyone. Ideally, they should create documents specifically for you by including relevant details and connecting them to why they're a good fit for your organization.

As you consider a candidate through their submitted documents, assess whether they seem to really know what you do and how they feel about it. Does the way they speak about your product make sense? Are there any particular mentions about recent feature rollouts or content your team has created around your product? If they're passionate about your work or helping people using your product, that'll go a long way in guaranteeing a dedicated, enthusiastic customer support representative.

Strong people skills

Any member of your customer service team should also possess strong people skills. To be a successful member of the team, they’ll need to be skilled at collaborating with team members, as well as developing and maintaining positive, professional relationships with people across your organization.

As you discuss your team’s culture and internal communication style, pay attention to the questions the candidate asks. Are they curious about how people work together and the tools you use? Do they have ideas for how they’d do it or examples of similar experiences in the past? Simply put, it may be worth it to ask them directly for their thoughts on how your team works together and if they can see themselves fitting into that set up too.

How to create customer service training materials

Your customer service training materials should serve as a clear guide for new hires, walking them through each stage of customer support. So, it’s important to make sure that you build these training materials by understanding the perspectives of all those involved in the customer service process on a daily basis.

customer service training material

Here’s how to build out your customer service training pack:

Map end-to-end processes

Since your customer service training materials will walk your new hires through their job role, it’s important that you map end-to-end processes. Customer service training materials should cover all daily and routine tasks, as well as the protocols for exceptional circumstances or escalation.

By mapping end-to-end processes, you’ll be able to note where company policies relate directly to the customer service role. This way, you can prepare comprehensive materials that not only cover what the customer service representative should be doing, but why these steps are important in upholding the company’s values.

customer service training workflows
Ask your current customer service team

Your current customer service team can provide the best frontline insights into the type of customer service skills training that will benefit new hires. 

Ask your customer service team about typical customer needs and problems, along with the customer service skills they use most to deal with difficult customers. Delve into the things each customer service rep found hard to manage when they first started, as well as what they feel needs to be added to the current customer service training program. 

Take note of the training gaps that your customer service team identifies as these will need to be filled for more effective customer service training.


Speak with customer service managers

Customer service managers will deal with escalated customer service cases, as well as remedying mistakes made by the customer service team.

Interview customer service managers to identify common customer needs that get escalated because the team isn't equipped to deal with the problem. 

You’ll need training materials that work on this product knowledge or on these particular customer service skills.


Pull data from your customer service bot

If you’re using a customer service bot, you’ll be privy to in-depth insights on your customers’ needs before you even start talking to them. 

For instance, all interactions with Freddy AI-powered chatbots are recorded and analyzed. This data is extremely useful in determining why customers are typically looking for support from a customer service rep.

You’ll be able to pinpoint the top problems that get escalated to a human customer service representative, along with the questions that your chatbot could not answer. This indicates the issues that will plague a new customer service employee, and help you craft exceptional customer service training materials.

Monitor reviews

Take a look at the customer service reviews about your company. 

Customer complaints will identify areas of poor customer service within your team. You’ll want to address this feedback in your training materials to encourage exceptional customer service right from the start.

Customer feedback will also show you what your team does well to meet or exceed customer expectations. Use this as a guide to outline the service standard that a new team member should be delivering.

feedback for customer service training

How to onboard and train your customer service team

Once you’ve hired a new customer service agent, it’s time to start their training. Instead of creating a bunch of training materials and dumping them all on a new employee on day one, consider making a ramping up plan to deep dive into intense training—as well as refresher sessions—for the best results.

customer service onboarding

As you develop your training for customer support, consider including the following:

Start small and gradually increase complexity

Don’t give a new hire every piece of training they’ll need to complete to be up-to-speed all at once. Instead, start out with a few small tasks to tackle and build upon them over time. If possible, consider starting a new team member in only one support channel at a time so they can focus on really learning that tool and process. Or if your incoming support tickets are sorted by topic—such as billing, login problems, and technical issues—pick a queue to have a trainee focus on at first, then expand to the others over time.

Train directly in the support channels an agent will use

Don’t let your training be theoretical. While it’s okay to start explaining the basics in training software, text documentation, or a video example, make sure it’s not the only place your new agent learns how to work in a particular support channel. They need to know best practices for a channel, plus how to actually use the tool. Furthermore, each support channel has its own challenges and a new agent will need to be trained on the specifics for the type of support they’ll be doing. For example, if an agent handles live chat, their training should include a section on chat-specific skills, such as how to handle multiple chats and tips for pacing the conversation so that they are able to help the customer and find the information they need all at once.

Assign mentors to new hires

When an agent starts, assign them a mentor to check in and help them grow over the first several months in their new position. While they’ll certainly have their teammates to go to for assistance, setting up a mentor-mentee relationship they can count on and regularly utilize will go a long way in helping them settle in. Consider making the mentor someone on a different team to help your new employee branch out and meet other people, as well as give them a space to talk openly and honestly in a way they may hesitate to do within their own team at first.

Make sure new agents know the tools well

Throughout all of the training a new customer service agent completes, make sure not to neglect practical training on the tools they’ll use. While a person may learn the product inside and out, and train on how best to conduct conversations with customers, knowing how to use the customer support tool is essential too. Understanding best practices, knowing the most useful features and their shortcuts, and developing a high level of comfort in your support tools will result in a more confident agent who performs their best.

Ensure new agents know your product inside and out

No matter how much training an agent does on communicating with customers and using the tools, if they don’t know the product very well, they’ll struggle when it comes time to actually help customers. Give them time to try out the product and check out the knowledge base. Create a way to assess their knowledge, whether with a quiz built into training or by having a teammate quiz them on how they’d help a customer with a handful of common issues.

Establish a “learn on the go” culture

Don’t limit training to a specific tool or portal. Instead, set up a culture that includes hands-on learning too. Your agents should approach providing support as not only an opportunity to assist customers, but also to continuously learn and improve. Work on creating a team culture that feels welcoming and open to questions so that anytime an agent gets stuck while working with a customer they won’t hesitate to reach out to a peer for a second opinion on how best to handle a particular situation.

Track training progress

When creating your customer service training system, be sure to include a way to track progress and complete milestones. A seemingly never-ending batch of training materials can be demotivating and make it hard to know how it’s going. As a new employee works through the training, include pop quizzes and other quick assessments, to track progress, while also giving a sense of accomplishment and completion.

Allow for autonomy 

If you’ve hired someone, hopefully it’s because you trust in their ability to do the work and think they’ll be a good fit for the team. Keep that in mind as you create your customer service training. You’ll soon have to trust them to communicate directly with your customers, so start from a place of trust with training too. Give them the freedom to complete the training, be trusted to reach out when necessary, and establish the style of work you want them to develop from day one. This doesn’t mean to totally ignore them though. Track their progress, watch for signs of a problem, and be ready to offer encouragement and motivation when needed.

Create a rewards and recognition system

Many people are motivated by rewards, and most are happy to have their high-quality work recognized. Create a training program that includes ways to acknowledge a solid performance, as well as reward top performers. If you’re training a batch of people, look for ways to introduce peer recognition of fellow trainees. If you’d like to offer a reward, have the trainees decide who deserves it. Or when you’ve got a single trainee, encourage them to compete against themself by setting goals to improve personal scores over time, or give them a way to compare themselves to previous trainees as a simple way to assess where they’re at and reach for specific benchmarks.

Make motivation and encouragement part of the plan

While rewards and recognition can be a great motivator, make sure a new employee who’s not doing so well isn’t left to struggle and end up feeling discouraged. Instead of criticizing, look for ways to encourage and assist. Chances are they’re struggling with a specific area, not everything, so work to identify which is which and tailor training to those specifics for a better fit. A mentor, as described above, can come in handy in this situation too.

Use an agent assist bot for on-the-job training

An agent assist bot, such as the Freddy-AI-powered Assist Bot is a highly effective customer service training tool for offering on-the-job guidance to a new customer service representative once they’re in the driver’s seat. New customer service reps can find the next best step, response, or resource within the Assist Bot. This enables new agents to answer customer queries without compromising on customer experience while learning more about the product, the processes, and customer behavior. 

Not only does this speed up agent onboarding, agent assist bots also help new reps learn the most appropriate response that will turn each customer complaint or issue into a positive experience. 

Agent assist bots go a long way in helping with remote training and onboarding by:
– Boosting new-employee morale with a self-serve onboarding module
– Shortening the go-live time for new agents
– Reducing internal dependencies, especially in a remote work environment where getting help is not as easy as tapping someone on their shoulders and asking them a question
– Reducing costs, and the human effort involved in onboarding new agents

How to recognize the performance of your customer service trainees

rewards and incentives for support agents

Recognition of high-quality work and dedication goes a long way in making a customer service trainee feel seen and appreciated. While every person won’t be great at every piece of training you assign them, it’s probably a safe bet that everyone will be good at some specific area, even when they struggle with something else.

The point of training is finding those areas a trainee needs more help with and providing that, while also recognizing when they perform well to both motivate and identify how they can assist their fellow trainees in a specific area.

How to improve your customer service training and onboarding

Find out what works and what doesn’t

Your trainees are the perfect source for finding out what’s working and what isn’t in your training program. Ask them! You may even want to include quick, simple assessments on the training materials throughout, and finish up with a space for open-ended feedback. Keep in mind that people learn differently, so some training will work better for some people than others. As you develop it, why not try to include various methods—including text, video, hands-on, discussion, role-playing, and more—to better provide training that works for everyone.

Document the process to better prepare for the future

As you request feedback from trainees and check up on the training materials yourself, document your findings. While every bit of feedback may not result in an update to the training, keeping track of what people say about it will help guide you as you make changes in the future and in how you support future trainees. By keeping track of what works and what doesn’t—plus the how you handle it when someone has trouble with a specific section—will inform how you handle a similar situation in the future.

Set up a job shadowing exchange

One great way for customer service agents to continue learning throughout their career in support is by observing others doing the same job. Have your team pair up and watch each other work for learning new things, as well as providing feedback to their teammate based on what they see. These one-on-one exercises are particularly good at helping teams spot best practices amongst themselves, as well as great team building exercises.

Share feedback with the team that creates training

Once you’ve collected feedback on your training from new hires and documented the details, make sure the right people have access to the data. If your HR or a training-specific team manages your training program, share the information with them to inform future updates. Make sure anyone involved in the process has a clear understanding of the existing training materials, as well as the information you’ve collected along the way.

Create quarterly or yearly trainings

Once an agent is established on a team, training shouldn’t stop there. Why not create new materials to expand on the training done at the time of hire for a whole team to complete at the same time? You could even set it up to be a team exercise to make it a chance for a team to take a pause from support interactions and work together, free of customer concerns, for a day.

Have your team train each other

Your team is most certainly full of people with varying strengths and interests. Why not use that to your advantage? Keep track of how your team members perform in various areas and ask anyone particularly strong in one to train others on it. For example, if you’ve got someone who consistently ranks at the top in providing social media support, set up a lunch-and-learn session or have them record a screen share of them working to share with everyone else.

Assess skills and product knowledge

Chances are, your product will change over time, so your agents will need to update their understanding of it too. Rather than leaving them to wing it and risk frustrating customers, create specific training for product updates and allow your team time to complete it. Also, consider assessing the basic skills of your agents to identify areas that need improvement to help pinpoint future training materials to create.

Resources for customer service skills training