Customer Service Training
Is your company’s customer service as good as it needs to be to increase loyalty and surpass competitors?
There’s a reason more and more companies are turning towards customer service consulting, and signing their employees up for customer service classes. Customer service is one of the most important tools in building a successful business. 61% of Americans say that customer service is one of the most important things to them when choosing who to do business with, and will spend up to 9% more if they feel like a company is delivering excellent service.
Customer service also builds brand loyalty, often more so than a quality product. As humans, we crave interactions that make us feel valued. We want to know that we’re dealing with someone who understands our concerns and caters to them. We want to feel like we’re cared for. We want the comfort of knowing that if something goes wrong, someone will be there to fix it, someone who cares about us. Just tweaking a few customer service techniques can add this feeling of value for customers.
Quality service creates a good reputation. People will tell their friends if they’ve had horrible service, but they’ll be just as eager to share if it was excellent. Not only will investing in good customer service keep your customers, it will also create new ones. On the flip side, leave your customers feeling unwanted and uncared for, and your reputation will be tarnished. A couple of bad reviews can sink even the sturdiest of ships.
With 55% of Americans believing that most companies either have decreased their level of customer service or have remained stagnant, making sure that your customer service techniques are on point will give you a leg up on the competition!
Customer Service Standards: What makes good customer service?
It can be tough to please every customer. Some prefer no-nonsense, to the point service while others enjoy small talk. Some like hearing about your other services, while others only want what they called for.
That being said, there are certain skills that apply around the board, and investing in customer service skills training will make your days run smoother and keep your customers coming back.
What is it that people look for in customer service?
Imagine you’re walking into a shop, bank or restaurant. What’s the first thing you want to see your customer service representative do?
Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, you probably want to be greeted with a smile and a warm hello. As we spend more and more time dealing with machines, the smallest bit of human interaction can do wonders. Many German banks have noted that customers who use remote banking services are significantly less loyal than those who operate with the tellers. The disloyalty is generally attributed not to the low quality of the offering, but rather the lack of an emotional connection. Humans are rarely loyal for purely technical reasons, and will be more likely to keep coming back if they felt, at any point, an emotional connection.
This emotional connection grows more important in periods of stress (missed flights, damaged products, etc.). While friendliness and helpfulness in everyday transactions are certainly important, these are the moments the customers will remember, and what can make or break their loyalty to your brand. People are more easily influenced when emotions are running high, and this is your time to show them that you have their best interests at heart. By showing genuine concern and doing as much as possible to solve their problems, you are showing them that your company cares about more than just high profit margins. Use these moments to make genuine human connections, and your company will be remembered.
People also want to be served in an efficient manner. That means having a team that really knows your products and services, and can explain them fully to your customers. Give your employees ample training before unleashing them into the world. Don’t be afraid to assign reading material and to test them rigorously. The more prepared they are, the better! Nobody wants to waste their time with an uninformed customer service representative, and the time and energy you invest in your employees will pay off in customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Now, let’s look at how to turn a knowledgeable employee into a customer service superstar!
Customer Service Training Programs: Are they important?
It’s believed by many that it takes a special type of person to deliver quality customer service. You want a motivated employee, who will go above and beyond the call of duty without resentment. You want someone with good language skills, who can communicate your message clearly. And of course, you want a patient employee, who can transcend any frustrations that come up.
However, these aren’t just personality traits. They’re all skills that can be developed.
More and more companies are turning towards customer service seminars and customer service courses to teach their employees little tips and tricks that will turn good customer service into an excellent experience for both your team and your customers.
Customer service training activities are crucial in the workplace. Not only do they serve as teaching material for your team, they encourage each team member to recognize the importance of providing quality service at all times. They foster a sense of comradery in the workplace,
Take advantage of the free customer service training material provided, and learn to maximize your employees’ skills!
Customer service training tips to take away
With the right customer service training material, almost anything can be taught! Customer service training courses have many benefits for your team, your customers and your company.
But how to implement these techniques?
Here are some customer service training ideas that are easy to implement, and will benefit your team in the short and long run!
First, let’s look at motivation.
If you feel like your employees aren’t motivated, like they are only pretending to care for the sake of keeping their jobs, look at your own interactions with them. What could you be doing better? How can you make them care?
1- Hold frequent meetings.
The first step to having motivated employees is making them care about the company’s core values and goals, both short-term and long-term. You should have an open platform where all employees can state their thoughts and concerns about how things have been going, and where everyone can bring up ways to make your company stronger. By offering an environment in which employees of all levels are welcome to share their thoughts and contribute to your goals, you will give your team personal interest in your company’s success.
There are many advantages to holding team meetings. For one, your employees feel listened to, and like their opinions hold some weight within the company. Investing their own thoughts and energy will increase your team’s loyalty, which will make the process of selling your services and encouraging customer loyalty a lot easier. Also, brainstorming ideas always works better as a team. Collectively, you will have noticed more issues and have better inspiration on how to fix them than a single person could. Bounce ideas off of each other, let everyone voice their opinion, and you’ll leave both with a better idea of what direction to work towards and a genuine feeling of satisfaction and appreciation in your team.
Of course, you don’t want to bore your team with endless meetings that get little done, nor do you want to take up time that could be better spent working towards your projects. Getting your team to meet once a week or every other week in a relaxed setting (for example, over lunch) should be sufficient for maintaining focus. You want to keep the atmosphere informal and comfortable, while maintaining a solid structure. Always start on a positive note, highlighting successes and excellent performance since your last meeting. Let employees share things they have noticed are going well too! Afterwards, move on to any problems your team may have encountered, and brainstorm potential solutions. Have a very strict no-blame policy in place so nobody feels attacked. Focus on finding solutions, not on finding who may have caused the problem initially. Always leave a little bit of time at the end for questions and concerns that may have been glossed over earlier.
In maintaining a fun and open atmosphere in your meetings, you will encourage your team to speak up more frequently, and to look beyond their personal tasks at the greater picture.
2-Focus on personal development.
Though it is important to focus on the bigger picture, never lose sight of your employees’ personal development. Having a solid team that is forever improving is a far better investment than a stagnant one. Have frequent one-on-one check-ins with your employees (once every three months should be sufficient) where you will discuss what that employee’s strengths are, what areas could use improvement, and build a development plan that you will review upon your next meeting. That sort of personal focus reminds employees that their actions matter, and that they are working for a company that is willing to invest in them.
You can bring in a customer service trainer if this task seems out of your reach. On top of freeing up some of your time while working towards the excellence of your team, a customer service trainer also knows what customer service training activities are available, and which ones will be the most effective for different team members.
The most important thing is the constant evaluation, and a problem-solving approach. By emphasizing this, you’ll create a transparent work environment where your employees will always strive to better themselves.
3- Use positive reinforcement
Your team needs to know you appreciate the hard work they do. Celebrate your team’s success. Organizing company parties or trips will help your employees bond in a fun environment, while showing them that what they do is important to you. Even simply mentioning an employee who has been doing a particularly good job at the team meeting can have great effects. People love recognition, and it works as a better incentive than most. Offer perks or bonuses to employees who have been doing a good job. You can even turn it into something of a healthy competition (for example, offering a weekend getaway to the employee who makes the most sales, or has the best customer feedback).
Of course, the monetary reward is always appreciated, but it goes beyond that. Most people don’t want to work hard for no recognition, so even the smallest of acknowledgements will inspire your employees to continue bettering themselves.
While doing this, remember to always use positive language! Point out what has been going right, not wrong. Encourage improvement instead of pointing out failures. Create an atmosphere in which your team is working towards the same goal as you.
Think of how your team uses language.
Language is powerful. It can entirely change a person’s perception of a situation, and using clear language will eliminate the need for future corrections. Making sure your team uses language in as efficient a manner as possible will make all interactions with customers flow that much smoother!
How can you optimize the way your team communicates with customers?
1- Encourage positive language
Always give good news first. Avoid negatives like don’t, can’t, won’t, etc. For example, instead of saying “We don’t have any suites available,” say “I’m very sorry. All our suites are occupied.” The bad news is the same, but the perception is bound to be different. In the first delivery, the lack of suites sounds like a failure on behalf of the hotel, and the tone is rather uncaring. The second delivery sounds more empathetic, and would push the customer to believe that the lack of suites is simply an unfortunate event, and that you are truly sorry.
Another minor shift in language that will work wonders is to eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary. Let’s look at these two examples.
“I’d love to answer your questions, but I’m really swamped. Could I call you back in an hour?”
“I’d love to answer your questions! Unfortunately I’m really swamped right now. Could I call you back in an hour?”
Simply removing the “but” changes the message. The positive message (“I’d love to answer your questions!”) is lost in the first delivery, as it just sounds like a polite way of prefacing the rejection. However, in the second delivery it stands on its own, meaning that even if the customer didn’t get what he or she wanted immediately, they still left the interaction feeling valued. Encourage your team to use as little negative language as possible.
2- Focus on clear communication
Think of a message your team will frequently be communicating to clients. Is vague language being used? Words such as “like”, “sort of” and “kind of” should be eliminated. Sounding unsure will kill your customer’s confidence in your company. If your employees are not entirely clear on something, teach them to be certain in their uncertainty. Phrases like “We don’t have that information” or “We’ve been working on this, and are hoping for results soon” will inspire a lot more confidence than an employee who appears not to know what they’re talking about.
Your team may also deal with customers who aren’t as savvy about the technical aspects of your product or service, or for whom English is only their second or third language. Make sure they are being understood by these people. Use the same message as in the previous exercise, and get your team to work on it until they’ve found a way of delivering it that can be understood by everyone. Get them to practice it over and over, breaking it down to its core. Are they using niche words that the customer may be unfamiliar with, or words that are simply too complicated? Do they explain concepts as though they expect the customer to have some background information, or do they start from scratch?
Workshop their language together, recognizing problematic words and terms, until you’ve found a way to break even the most complicated concepts down to a kindergarten level. Remove as many superfluous words as possible, and replace the trickier terms with more basic concepts. You never know who you’ll be dealing with, and it’s safer to risk dumbing something down too much rather than having a customer leaving an interaction feeling confused and unsatisfied.
Exercise your team’s patience.
Of course, you can’t eliminate all unpleasantness. That would be too easy. That’s where exercising patience comes in.
Patience is one of the most important skills you can transmit to your team, and also one of the most difficult. While dealing with pleasant customers is incredibly easy, an angry or frustrated customer can ruin someone’s day.
How can you teach your team to transcend that?
1- Give perspective.
No matter how unpleasant an interaction with a customer is, it’s not a lifelong commitment. It will come to an end, and probably a lot quicker if the customer feels listened to and appreciated.
Get your team to think of the most unpleasant interaction they’ve ever had with a customer. Now ask them how long it lasted. Chances are, it was pretty short. Get them to think about that portion of time compared to the rest of their lives, and how unimportant it is in the grand scheme of things. Encourage them to keep that perspective with every interaction. Reminding them that there’s an end in sight will help them power through the pain.
2- Maintain a state of relaxation in the office.
If you can, give your team time in the day to practice yoga, meditation, or engage in physical activity. This will reduce stress levels massively, and your team has a better chance of entering each interaction without all the built-up anger they’ve been carrying around. Your team will have a better focus and work more efficiently afterwards, which means the time they “lost” while engaging in these activities in gained back in productivity. Furthermore, setting this time aside for your team shows that you care about their personal well-being, and will increase motivation as well as company loyalty.
These activities should always be optional. Find a yoga studio nearby that offers company discounts, or hire someone to come in and lead meditation circles a couple of times a week to those who are interested. You can also invest in an office gym where your team can blow off some steam during their breaks, or simply allow for “mental health breaks” during the work day, when your employees can go for a quick run or brisk walk to clear their heads before returning to their productive state. Not only will your team get more done, they will appear calm and relaxed in front of customers, which will create a better interaction.
3- Teach positive self-talk.
An employee’s inner monologue can make or break their interaction with a customer. Encourage thoughts like “This is a challenge, but I’m ready to face it, and it will soon be over.” rather than “This is so unbearable, I wish I could be anywhere else right now.” Negative thoughts have an annoying habit of spiralling downwards until it throws your employee into a place of rage and frustration- and it’s hard to get anything done once those feelings have trapped you. Once again, workshop language. Ask your employees how they feel after a challenging interaction with a customer. If their thoughts are primarily negative, work at rephrasing them.
Use positive language with your employees at all times. Recognize and celebrate successful days, and always focus on what can be improved rather than what went wrong. Once your team has grown accustomed to positive language, it makes it easier for the employees to implement it themselves, both with themselves and with customers.
4- Encourage understanding and empathy.
Sit your team down, and get them to think of two interactions they’ve had as customers, one positive and negative. Together, break down what made these experiences so. How can they implement the positive traits in their own service, and eliminate the negative? What actions can they take to make the customers feel comfortable?
On top of allowing your team to assess their own interactions, this permits them to look at each situation from a customer’s point of view, which increases empathy and understanding. This, in turn, will remind your team that the people they’re dealing with are only human, and will encourage them to do what they can to fix problems and increase satisfaction.
What else can you do?
Keep encouraging your team.
There’s always room for improvement, and the second you stop improving is the second all your hard work is lost. Have frequent meetings with your team to discuss what is going well, and what could be done better. Remember to always use positive language- you want to encourage your employees to work well, not reprimand them on their shortcomings. Brainstorm ways in which you could improve the overall customer experience. As always, listen to what they have to say. Take on challenges as a team.
Don’t be afraid to bring in new customer service training materials on a regular basis! There are many free customer service training materials online, and your customer service trainer can provide you with different games and activities to keep your team interested. Maintaining good customer service is an ongoing job, but one that is incredibly rewarding. You will increase profits, reduce complaints, and generally increase company moral. Happy customers often make for happy employees as well.
Putting a strong focus on quality customer service is one of the best things you can do for your company, your customers and your employees, and with these tips, you should be headed on the right track.