Your customer service team is the face of your company. Every day, every single agent impacts how your customers perceive your brand. One unpleasant interaction – or one issue that doesn’t get resolved – and the bottom can start to fall out of your bottom line. But you can prevent that from happening with a strong customer service skills training program.
Numbers Never Lie
Studies show that consumers who have a bad service experience are more likely to post, Tweet, text, and tell their friends about it than those who have a positive experience.
A look at the numbers might keep you up at night:
Great customer service means more than a pleasant greeting when your reps begin a call or spot a customer (although that’s certainly part of it). It focuses on carefully listening to your customers’ wants and needs, then attending to them as if they were you own.
The good news is that, once you know where to start, investing in even a basic customer service skills training program pays off by building a fiercely loyal customer base.
So, what customer service skills should employees be trained in?
OK – You know you need a customer service skills training program, but where do you start? In order to build a complete program, make sure to focus on both “soft” and “hard” skills. Let’s start with the soft skills.
This is the guiding principle for everything that follows. That’s why we’re putting it first.
As an experienced Learning and Development leader, you know your company’s vision and values backwards and forwards. But do your customer service reps?
Every good customer service skills training program begins with a thorough look at the company’s mission. Make sure your agents can recite your organization’s guiding principles in their sleep and that they use them as a compass for all of their interactions with customers. CSRs need to live these values so that they can apply them to every conversation with every customer.
Remember, this goes beyond business and compliance policies. Train reps on your company’s culture and how your firm wants to present itself to the public so that the messaging matches your brand’s image.
Making sure that every customer service agent knows your company’s vision and values will give you a consistent voice in dealing with customers and their service issues. Find the right balance of professionalism and personality, but know your audience. If your company is young and playful, feel free to use a bit of humor (when appropriate) with customers. On the other hand, if your company is more traditional, keep it formal.
In addition to teaching customer service representatives your voice, make sure to train them on the basics of communication and effective conflict resolution. Things are going to get stressful at times, so make sure they know how to handle it by incorporating these types of scenarios into your training programs.
Don’t forget – communication isn’t just speaking. It’s also practicing active listening both in-person and over the phone. Make sure you train your CSRs on that too.
Problem Solving and Adaptability
Solutions to customer service issues are rarely straightforward and seldom the same in every case. Make sure you train your employees on the intent of your policies and not just the wording of them. That way, they can come up with creative solutions to customer service issues on the fly. Then, reps can adapt and apply those principles as they deal with the different sorts of problems that arise.
Your customer service reps need to be able to put themselves into the customer’s shoes. This might seem like the simplest idea of all (after all, who among us has never been a dissatisfied customer?) but it’s also one of the most crucial.
It can be difficult to deal with an upset customer or fulfill a seemingly ridiculous request. But as long as your agents are trained to show that they understand the customers’ situations and are ready to help, they can often find solutions that benefit both the customer and your company.
Part of this is having a thick skin. Make sure your reps know to shake it off and not take it personally when they’re on the receiving end of a customer’s rant.
The Hard Skills
“Hard skills” don’t just mean training for IT and tech support roles. Every customer service job needs some sort of technical skills training.
We’re talking about things like record keeping and other “nuts and bolts” types of skills. Having good practices in these areas help your company build data and information that allows you to create the best experience possible for your customers, custom tailored to their needs. These customer service skills are just as important as having cheerful reps.
Having and properly using a CRM is critical to building and maintaining a customer base. Every customer’s history (and potential future) is in there, giving your reps powerful information that can make or break your profit margins. If you’re not using the software (or using it to its full potential), you’re missing out.
Most companies offer training on their software. Take advantage of this and also consider designating at least one “super user” to train new hires. You can also explore custom-built systems training solutions from training companies like Unboxed.
Big data isn’t coming, it’s here and it’s only getting bigger. Train reps so they can understand the information contained in your CRM and apply it to customer interactions. That way, they can make informed decisions that help both the customer and your bottom line.
There are software programs that help create visualizations and flowcharts using that data. Make sure there’s training on them, if it’s appropriate to your firm.
Not just for Millennials and Generation Y, customers of all ages use social media to connect with businesses. Interacting with those consumers presents its own challenges because it takes all the soft skills above and puts them into a virtual environment.
Train CSRs who use social media on best practices, so they don’t end up looking like n00bs. If you choose to use a social media marketing and management tool, make sure reps know how that works as well.
Keep in mind that the tone of an online conversation can be tough to detect. So, while your interactions with customers can be less formal, you want to make sure reps aren’t misunderstood when they are having a virtual conversation instead of a face-to-face one.
How do I create a basic customer service skills training program?
First of all, consider training every single employee in customer service skills, not just those who directly deal with customers. No matter their role, every member of your team needs to understand your company’s values and vision and how their job eventually impacts the customer. And, of course, everyone benefits from improving their communication, problem-solving, and empathy skills. Start this training on day one.
When you do focus on training your customer service representatives, remember that the best ones aren’t born. They’re made. Building a customer service skills training program begins with hiring. Bring people into your organization based on their attitude as much as their aptitude and make it clear what the expectations are.
From there, here is a quick overview of the steps to take:
- Structure your training: timeframe, format, who to train, etc.
- Share your company vision
- Deliver skills training
- Provide reps a safe place to practice and apply their new skills
- Measure the outcomes and reward outstanding performance
- Set up a timetable for refresher training to keep their skills sharp
No matter how you structure your training, make it as engaging as possible. Use a mix of online and instructor-led sessions to keep the learner’s attention. Incorporate games, role-playing and simulated scenarios into your training. Those are the types of things that people tend to remember.
Here are a few customer service training ideas to get you started.
Bringing it all together
Building an effective customer service skills training program isn’t as simple as it may seem. Every company, culture, and person is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But making a serious investment into your customer service training program will pay off for you in the long run. Not only will you gain and retain business, you will save money by having fully-trained employees. Remember: trained employees are happy employees. And happy employees tend to stick around.
At Unboxed Training and Technology, we deliver custom solutions to your training problems. Our customer service training programs make training easier, faster, and more engaging than ever so your reps can tackle any issue that arises. Give us a shout to find out how we can help.
As we enter 2018, sales enablement remains a misunderstood sector (what is sales enablement, anyway?), which makes it difficult to predict what the next big sales enablement trends will be.
And with more products available each year, the definition of sales enablement is likely to remain fuzzy for the foreseeable future. Just check out Nancy Nardin’s epic graphic of the 2017 sales enablement landscape to grasp the current extent of the space.
With all that technology available, you may be tempted to think getting customers to say, “Yes!” will be easier than ever. But the fact is, increased competition, evolving buyer expectations, and the need to hear “Yes!” from not one, but 6.8 buyers, the sales process continues to grow more complex.
No wonder 77% of organizations now rely on some form of sales enablement to assist reps in meeting—and hopefully exceeding—quota.
But, what’s next? What hot sales enablement trends should you be watching in 2018?
We’ve listened to our clients, analyzed their pain points, and asked which sales enablement trends they’re eyeballing. Overall, we’re seeing sales enablement branch beyond content to address sales efficiency.
Here we go.
#1: One-Stop Technology
For a sales rep, there’s a golden moment when, after experiencing a well-crafted, personalized presentation, your wowed customer is ready to sign. What’s more anticlimactic than explaining that you’ll need to go back to the office, export the file, re-key it in the order entry platform, then email them later―dampening their enthusiasm and possibly jeopardizing the sale?
Sales teams have been feeling the pain for years. It’s inefficient, frustrating, and time-consuming to muddle through multiple log-ins to collect the data and content needed to build a personalized sales presentation.
So we’re listing one-stop technology as the number one sales enablement trend in 2018. This year, we’ll finally start to see more sales enablement tools serve multiple purposes and address multiple stages of the buying journey.
These new, modern sales enablement tools will streamline functions and data, becoming a one-stop shop that benefits reps, customers, and managers. Needs analysis, presentation-building, customer-facing sales tools, CRM, training, customer communication, and analytics come together in one powerful solution. And all of these functions communicate with pricing, product databases, and location―further enhancing the platform.
With a one-stop solution, reps can analyze customer challenges, suggest the ideal solution, create a quote and then―with the tap of a button―place the order to close the deal. All from the convenience of a tablet!
#2: Highly Personalized Buyer’s Journeys
Personalization enhances loyalty, drives conversion rates, and grows revenue. Monetate says that 79% of organizations exceeding revenue goals have a documented personalization strategy.
Historically, it’s been difficult (and really expensive) to unite all the specific customer data needed – demographics, engagement with marketing content, answers to needs-based questions, etc. – from multiple legacy systems to create a personalized buying journey.
Off-the-shelf platforms can’t manage such a complex feat. But adaptable sales enablement solutions will begin to make this easier in 2018. As solution providers and IT departments continue to move into the cloud, expose APIs, and build integration points, flexible and customizable tools that can adapt to your infrastructure will be something we see more of in 2018.
Also, personalizing your buyer’s journey is one of the best ways your organization can create a competitive advantage. Our clients tell us that sales reps love delivering custom presentations because they’re unique, impressing customers. One client even shared, “I like that it’s interactive, so customers don’t play on their phones while we’re talking.”
“I like that it’s interactive, so customers don’t play on their phones while we’re talking.”
#3: Manager Enablement Via Data
Sales enablement trend #3 is all about data and how sales leaders can use this data to their advantage.
A collateral benefit of improved data integration is what we call “manager enablement.” More data gives managers a huge advantage in coaching reps to perform better based on real-time results.
Sales manager dashboards are not a novel idea. But increased reporting insights are going to revolutionize how managers measure and manage data including productivity, pipeline analysis, understanding the buyer’s journey, forecasting, and marketing insights that maximize sales performance.
As one example, by aggregating data on the most highly recommended and popular products—in addition to the rarely recommended ones—reps and managers can discern:
- which sales tactics are most effective
- what content has maximum impact
- which solutions reps should be recommending
- which methods convert best
- what point in the sales pipeline customers are most likely to drop out
Using this data, managers will have a roadmap to coach reps and suggest training and strategies to maximize conversions as they adapt to new buyer behaviors and expectations. The results: more accurate forecasting and revenue target attainment.
#4: Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Automation and AI are revolutionizing sales enablement, and we believe it will be one of the hottest sales trends to watch in the coming years. However, let’s make something crystal clear: AI won’t replace sales reps any time soon, and certainly not in 2018.
AI can’t achieve quota on its own. It can, however, make reps more productive and efficient with their time, shifting the human role in the sales journey.
What AI does best is provide data, insights, and information in an accessible way. What humans do best is make meaningful connections to other humans that result in depth and understanding of needs. AI is critical in decreasing the amount of time consumed by administrative tasks, freeing up more time for reps to do what they do best: sell.
Reps devote as little as 22% of their time to selling, yet spend at least 50% of it on administrative tasks. Done right, the goal of automation/AI is to decrease reps’ administrative task load, freeing up time to build solid client relationships mid-funnel.
With more time to focus on selling, reps come in at the dynamic moment when customers are informed but seeking guidance in making their best decision.
#5: Continued Focus on Being Digital
Does your organization have a Digital Transformation or Innovation team? If it doesn’t―it will soon. To keep moving forward, companies large and small will be required to adapt to more modern ways of doing things.
While digital and mobile technology have been sales trends for years, many organizations are just now launching mobile apps. As mobile technology expands, Digital Transformation and Innovation Teams help organizations navigate issues around aging IT structures and the challenges enterprise mobile device management (MDM) brings.
While these teams help companies go digital and cater to their unique requirements, most organizations don’t have the in-house expertise or IT capacity to go it alone. The challenge is twofold: how to equip teams with mobile tech―and then manage it.
The movement from on-premise servers and aging IT infrastructure to cloud-based, on-demand, BYOD, digitally transformed companies is well under way and will continue in 2018. But this year, we’ll start to see organizations rely more heavily on trusted partners with proven experience to guide their transformation and help them think through challenges like MDM, security, data integration, accessibility, etc.
Identifying a partner who’s already been there, done that, and understands that change (including the pain of the change and how to make it easier) is critical.
What Sales Enablement Trends Will You Watch in 2018?
Sales enablement is rapidly changing. But hopefully the sales enablement trends we’ve listed above will help you focus on what you can do this year to improve the efficiency of your sales team.
Which of the sales enablement trends we’ve identified will you watch, or even implement this year? What’s missing from our list?
Share below or give us a call and let us know how we can help you achieve your goals—we’d love to talk sales enablement with you!