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.
According to HubSpot, growing companies are nearly twice as likely as stagnating companies to prioritize customer service training as “very important.” To retain your customers and keep them happy so you can grow, you need to prioritize your employees by implementing effective customer service training ideas so they’re equipped to be as helpful as possible.
But how can you do this in a way that is both engaging and enjoyable for your reps?
Fun and games, of course!
“Games? But my reps should be working –“
We get it: On the surface, customer service training games and activities may seem frivolous. However, they can teach service concepts in a way that actually keeps reps engaged and interested in their training. Additionally, getting your reps to learn through experience can help improve crucial customer service soft skills like teamwork, empathy, patience, and communication.
Let’s take a look at a few customer service training ideas you can use to build a strong foundation of knowledge and sense of collaboration among your reps!
Customer Service Training Games and Activities
Customer Role Play
This is an improvisational activity in which your team is divided between groups A and B, then paired off. Group A plays upset customers and Group B plays the service representatives. Group A is handed a certain complaint, or can think of one themselves (it just has to be fun and ridiculous!). They are also provided a central goal – for example, get a free month of service, a full refund, etc. The players in Group B must resolve the situation with minimal damage.
The pairs will perform their role play for the rest of the team. Encourage them to be creative and to have fun, but remind them that all good improvisation is about building on what your partner says – not trying to “out funny” them. After the role play is over, allow the broader team to give the players feedback – what could they have done differently? What did they do well? What stood out about the performance?
At the end of this game, each player will get important takeaways: Group A will have practiced empathy and communication by putting themselves in their customer’s shoes, and Group B applied patience to achieve a resolution. (Read on in Forbes to discover why Improv is great business training!)
Customer Service Jeopardy
Here at Unboxed, to train our new employees on our security best practices, we developed a Jeopardy-style game that provides fun, focused, and continuous engagement with the subject-matter.
A game like Jeopardy can be modified to fit any subject matter – including customer service! Consider creating questions about your best practices, mission statement, difficult customer situations, or the most useful skills of a service representative.
In gamifying the training, employees can better retain the information you want to teach them and bypass any potential boredom that sometimes accompanies standard training programs. Jeopardy games can be easily created within Microsoft PowerPoint or through an online service like Jeopardy Labs.
Say ‘No’ to No
There’s only one rule to this game: You can’t say ‘no.’ (This includes all ‘no’-oriented words and phrases like “I don’t know.”) According to a Walker study, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator – that’s why it’s vital to practice ways to improve the experience for your customers. That includes finding ways to say no… without actually saying no.
There are times in which ‘no’ is the correct answer, but your reps should be encouraged to reframe the conversation and give it a positive spin. Saying ‘no’ will stop the conversation and potentially upset the customer even more than they already are (and if there’s anything we learned from our improv game, we should find ways to constructively build on what others say – not deny their request).
The goal of this customer service training activity is to help your reps come up with different ways to say “no”. Here’s how to play:
- Start by pairing off team members and have them take turns playing the customer and the service reps. Customers will make requests that reps can’t say ‘no’ to — but instead, have to figure out a response that steers the conversation toward a solution.
- Allow team members to converse for up to five minutes, then have them switch roles.
- Once the timer is up, bring the team back together and discuss their answers. After everyone has shared, eliminate those answers that, even without directly saying ‘no’, may still have a negative impact on the customer. Those with the most effective answers win!
(This game has been adapted from Hubspot.)
Start Implementing Fun, Engaging Customer Service Training Ideas
Gamified, engaging training has become vital to the modern workplace. Use these customer service training ideas in your own programs, or explore our custom-built customer service training programs. We use short bursts of on-demand content, like game-based reinforcement, so your reps spend less time training and more time helping customers.
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!
Sales enablement is a fast-growing space. Look up sales enablement software, and you’ll find hundreds of proposed solutions. Most of them are rep-focused and provide information like lead data, sales presentations, and marketing collateral. These features can definitely help sales reps be more efficient, but if your sales enablement software doesn’t support interactive product demos, you’re missing out.
In this article, we explain how you can deliver a better customer experience, onboard faster, and close more sales when your sales enablement software includes interactive product demos.
First things first: if you think sales enablement is just for geofencing and tracking sales calls, expand your definition of sales enablement. Think of sales enablement as a smart mix of technology and training. When you include interactive demos throughout your sales enablement tool, reps have everything they need in one place. They can quickly learn about your products and services, and then sell them the right way—faster.
What are interactive product demos?
In this context, interactive product demos are highly visual pieces of sales presentation content that explain the features and benefits of a product or service. They help the viewer understand how something you sell works—and how it stacks up against the competition—in a compelling way.
I’ve seen two demo formats work really well: short videos and interactive, highly visual learning modules. Videos support storytelling and demonstrate benefits. Interactive learning modules simulate how product features work and explain how they benefit the customer.
Short videos support storytelling and demonstrate benefits.
Interactive learning modules simulate product features and explain the benefits.
What can interactive product demos help my sales reps do?
Deliver a better customer experience
In my experience, the most effective interactive product demos can explain a product or service in 10 seconds or less. 65% of your customers are visual learners, so when you show how something works (rather than tell), you seriously upgrade your customer experience.
Your customers are also busy, and they don’t have time for clunky PowerPoints and outdated brochures. They want to learn new information quickly so they can make a buying decision.
Forrester shares that interactive product demos change the medium of video from a “lean-back to a lean-forward interactive experience,” empowering and informing customers as they move further down the sales funnel.
Here’s what Hubspot says:
“When customers feel like they’re in control, they will often take risks, such as trying new services or taking a chance on a new product.”
If you want to share your value propositions with your customers in an exciting, visual way, see if your sales enablement software can support interactive product demos. You’ll help your customers understand how you can solve their challenges and why they should buy from you.
Onboard reps faster
You want your new sales reps to be more productive, faster. In fact, we’ve found they’re actively looking for short, to-the-point ways to explain your products and services. Reps want to deliver accurate information and hold their customer’s attention.
Interactive product demos allow sales reps to gain expertise with very little time commitment. In the same way product demos help your customers learn, they help your reps learn, too. There’s an assurance in knowing their sales enablement software has helpful product information, right there when they need it. I’ve seen reps who have access to interactive product demos achieve quota as soon as Month 2 or Month 3.
When sales enablement tools include interactive product demos, reps have more confidence during their customer conversations. They also have access to consistent, helpful content for each customer, regardless of their location and level of experience.
Close more sales
Time is a sales rep’s most precious resource. Selling Power says the average rep spends just 10 percent of their time selling. When your sales enablement software doubles as a sleek interactive product demo, reps gain time to devote to their core objective: selling. No more late nights formatting PowerPoint slides.
On top of that, interactive product demos make it easier for customers to make a buying decision. Customers are more engaged and can understand key benefits more quickly. You heard it from Forrester and HubSpot—this leads to a better close rate.
See it in action
Want to see examples of sales enablement software that doubles as an interactive product demo?
Check out Advisor or contact us to talk more.
Your organization has a sales training program, and it’s working, right? Your sales reps are learning to position your products and services and close enough deals to at least keep the lights on for another month.
And maybe, you schedule training two or three times per year, probably in conjunction with a regional sales meeting when everyone is together to compare notes.
While your sales training program might not be brand new, you’re patching holes with updated content to keep it as fresh as you can.
So it’s good, right? Or at least adequate?
Well, maybe. If your organization has a good sales training program and you’re stuck in chronic mediocrity, imagine the results of a great sales training program that empowers your sales team to knock it out of the park with every customer interaction.
How can you tell whether your sales training program is good or great? Let’s take a quiz.
1. What is your sales methodology?
At the heart of every good sales training program is a good sales methodology. And there are plenty to choose from: Challenger, SPIN, SNAP, Customer Centric, Sandler Selling, and Conceptual … the list goes on.
It’s good to have a sales methodology because it helps your organization identify certain key needs. It probably provides insight into how your organization qualifies buyers, positions products, and helps reps overcome objections.
But, while it’s good to adopt a sales methodology, they all have one thing in common: lots of other organizations ―including your direct competitors―are using the exact same methodology.
To differentiate your organization in a crowded marketplace, you have to customize, personalize, and make your sales methodology your own so you can woo customers with a uniquely compelling customer experience – resulting in more deals closed.
A great sales training program is built off a sales methodology that’s contextual and customized for your specific products and services. One that enables reps to ideally position the solutions you offer, helps develop the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that empower your reps to shine more brightly than competitors, and matches your culture.
We’re often asked, “Hey Unboxed, what’s your sales methodology?”
Well, we have frameworks to create custom sales methodologies for our clients, but whether we create one or start with your existing one, the answer is simple: our methodology is to take your methodology and contextualize it to transform your training from hu-hum to BAM!
2. What does your sales training program teach your reps?
Reps require knowledge and skills to sell successfully. They need specific, detailed information to explain how your products solve a customer’s issues and add value. Reps must also know how to qualify customers, build relationships, upsell, gain referrals and repeat sales. If your training achieves all of that, then you have a good program.
In addition to teaching knowledge and skills, a great sales training program also focuses on developing consistent behaviors that reps must master to position your products and services at the top of the market, making them irresistible to customers.
So, how do you take a knowledge- and skills-based training program to the next level?
At Unboxed, we start by partnering with our clients to identify the behaviors that drive success, then build training around those behaviors. PowerPoints won’t do here. Reps need to experience what these behaviors look like in action. We use simulations, choose-your-own adventure, and adaptive learning models so reps make a choice and then get to see the impact of their decisions, even if they’re incorrect.
By changing behaviors, you change overall results. Great sales training materials improve selling behaviors for your entire bench, driving increased sales and higher customer satisfaction.
3. What does your sales training program offer sales leaders?
Great sales managers aren’t born―they’re trained. They’re the pillars reps look to for guidance on closing critical deals. And, contrary to popular belief, when a top rep is promoted to sales manager, savvy management skills don’t magically materialize.
A coaching model supports the knowledge, skills, and behaviors your sales management and leadership team require to guide reps to the next level. They’ll learn to build their bench, set goals, develop strategy, understand drivers and drainers, evaluate ROI―and coach their team in developing these skills. Teaching managers how to foster increased sales productivity and efficiency improves the overall vitality of your sales organization.
4. How do you deliver your sales training program?
Modality of learning is key to making knowledge stick. In years past, that meant in-person training and stacks of binders. Today’s reps are more visually oriented, so videos and interactive technologies are a smarter way to engage them to maximize retention.
If you currently mix up the delivery of your training using PowerPoints, self-paced workbooks, and the occasional video, you have a good training delivery system.
But why not make it great?
Reps are busy. Lengthy training sessions lower their overall selling time. And don’t forget about the forgetting curve. But by using modern, on-demand modalities, reps can train anywhere, anytime. Delivering training in short, bite-sized chunks also makes it more digestible and easier to retain. (It’s called microlearning, and it’s great for sales training.)
Modern sales reps respond to modern training methods. They increase engagement and knowledge retention. So, while it’s good to have 25-minute videos and training every six months, it’s great to use more modern sales training techniques including eLearning (simulations, interactive learning guides, and high-fidelity training videos), social learning, and gamification that keep reps engaged.
Are you good, great, or in the middle?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, your organization likely has a good sales training program.
But what if parts of your program are good while other aspects are already great? In that case does your entire sales program need a complete overhaul, or does it just need a facelift to make it more modern and engaging?
Here’s the thing: transforming from good to great has tangible benefits for your sales team and sales leaders, but the overarching reason to revamp your sales training is to provide your customers with an extraordinary experience.
This begs one last question:
5. Does your sales training elevate the customer experience?
In our modern, crowded sales landscape, companies compete on the playing field of customer experience.
And while it’s good to deliver training that benefits your reps, it’s great if that training also elevates the customer experience.
When customers experience the wow-factor of customized, contextual product positioning from sales reps whose consistent behaviors focus on solving their individual challenges, it tips the balance in your organization’s favor.
By transforming your sales training program from good to great, you increase rep engagement, enhance management and leadership skills, and amp-up your customer experience to previously unimagined heights. Who wouldn’t choose great?
Here’s the complete infographic.
Want to Move from Good to Great?
At Unboxed, we specialize in creating custom sales training programs that help organizations transform from good to great, from mediocre to phenomenal, from off the shelf or “boxed” to, well … Unboxed.
Ready to kick it up a notch? Reach out. We’d love to talk sales training with you.