Support has one of the highest turnover rates across all industries. About 24% of customer service agent agents quit their jobs every year, leaving companies with the need to hire new people on a monthly basis.
But hiring is only half of the problem support teams face due to employee turnover - and more often than not, it‘s the easiest part. Helping newcomers master their new job (as quickly as possible) is a whole other challenge.
Managers are always fighting with the inconsistency monster hiding in every support team, ready to cause trouble whenever a new hire lacks proper training.
With 58% of customers feeling frustrated by receiving a different treatment each time they contact customer service, one cannot overestimate the importance of proper agent onboarding to get newcomers to the same level as the rest of the team.
To create successful training programs, you need to approach this topic in a well-organized manner. We’ve made it easy for you.
👉 Download this free checklist template and read on to learn how to set up your customer service agent onboarding program.
Before you dive into the details of how to do customer service, take a step back and describe your company’s support vision and goals. This helps agents understand why you do things the way you do and not like, for example, how it was done in their previous company.
Your first onboarding session should cover the following topics:
The answers to these questions might sound obvious to you and everyone who has been working on your team for a while, but they won’t to your new hires.
All newcomers arrive with their unique baggage of customer service experiences that they’ve gained as consumers or from their previous jobs in other support teams. Their ideas of what great customer service is about might not suit your company’s strategies.
Take the time to explain your support goals and vision. It’s a crucial part of the onboarding process that helps to make sense of the rest of the program.
Customer service is a team game. Plant your cooperation seeds as early as possible and you’ll be happy to reap the fruits later.
You’ll be surprised to know how many support reps think that they are the only ones in their companies who know how to help customers. That’s a clear sign of team coherence going sideways.
Help new customer service agents establish good relationships with their colleagues:
Without sharing the team spirit and introducing the support vision described above, your onboarding program will fall short of building co-operation among your team.
Before we get to product training - which is the first (and often the only) part of new agent onboarding flows in many companies, - there’s one more thing you should set up first.
Create peer programs for intensive and efficient onboarding. Combine both of the following methods for best results:
There’s a lot your team can learn from each other. Oldtimers usually know many great workarounds and resources that they can share with the new folks. That’s why teams like Automattic provide systematic peer feedback during (and after) onboarding programs.
By the way, coaching and mentoring is not just helpful for the new agents. Trusting your seasoned team members with this extra responsibility can be a major motivation booster for them.
Flawless product knowledge is definitely one of the essential ingredients of customer service in all companies (it’s also one of the top 3 things to assess in customer service quality assurance). So, product training is an integral part of your onboarding program.
However, many teams find it difficult to create a proper framework for teaching newcomers about their product. Here’s a list of the key components you should focus on:
Describe your target users. Instead of jumping into the features and functionalities, start from discussing who the product is built for. For example, sales CRMs are usually built for sales teams; salespeople and their managers are their main users.
Most companies have defined their buyer personas for product development and marketing purposes. Introduce your ideal customers to your support folks, too. Knowing this background helps agents understand the broader context of why your products matter. Your agents will also benefit from getting to know the people they are going to be talking to.
Explain why your customers use the product. Users don’t buy or subscribe to products for their features. According to the Jobs-to-Be-Done business theory, people ‘hire’ products to perform certain tasks for them.
Note that different users might use the product for different purposes. For example, salespeople need a CRM to manage their contacts and deals, while managers use it for tracking and reporting. If you’d like to learn more about the Jobs-To-Be-Done approach, read about what customer service looks like from through this lens.
Go through different user scenarios. Again, don’t approach your product feature by feature. It’s difficult to get the true notion of what you’re offering to your customers if you focus only on its functionalities.
Look at each of your target user separately and walk your agents through real scenarios as if you were the customers using the product. Play out different uses cases and help your agents understand the reasons the product works as it does.
Outline options for advanced users. Only when your agents understand why people need your products and how they use them, should you dive deeper into any advanced use cases.
Once your team can grasp how the core product functions, head over to integrations, user permissions, custom variables, and other more complex topics.
If you don’t know where to start your product training - start from the customer. That’s the most important perspective from which to look at your business, especially customer service.
Now that your new customer service agents have become familiar with who you are, what you do and how do you help your users with your products, you’re good to go on introducing your internal customer service mechanics.
Make sure to cover:
Team members often play an important role in helping newcomers get accustomed to the tools and proceedings of the company. Hopefully, you didn’t skip the mentoring part above.
Once you’ve introduced your support team’s toolkit with your newcomers, tell them about your useful productivity hacks, too. If you have mentoring and coaching programs in place, you’ll be able to cover most of these topics with the help of fellow support agents:
Your customer service team is probably the best resource from whom to learn about the support hacks that make agents’ job easier. There’s no need to let every new colleague of yours reinvent the wheel and waste precious time on finding out things everybody else already knows.
“When reviewing tickets of seasoned Happiness Engineers, especially those of Team Ohana (they work with complicated, escalated tickets), I almost always have “Today I Learned” moments,” explains Grigorij Urasov, Happiness Engineer at Automattic, the benefits of reviewing experienced agents’ tickets.
Customer service is the voice of your company. So, you should not only be concerned about what your agents say but how they say it, too.
Let your newcomers know how you expect them to communicate with your customers:
Find real customer conversations to include as examples in your communication guide. This will help your newcomers understand the voice of your support.
When you’ve covered all the bits and pieces of your support from the company vision down to correct punctuation, it’s time to let your new agents get into the action.
Here’s how you can allow newcomers start talking to your customers without losing sleep:
Letting new agents hop into real-life support cases is the fastest way to onboard them to your team. However, doing it without any supervision can backfire quickly.
We’re covered most of the parts of successful customer service onboarding. Before wrapping it up, let’s shift our focus to your team and company culture.
Help your newcomers settle in by introducing your traditions:
Working in customer service can be stressful, so most companies go the extra mile to keep their teams motivated and happy by creating a fun and enjoyable company culture. Let your newcomers know about your traditions, so they can be prepared for the fun part, too.
Now that we’ve covered all of the most important parts of customer service agent onboarding, it’s time to complete the last task.
Create an onboarding checklist for your team. Download this free checklist template we’ve made for you and:
Give this checklist to your new agents so they’d have a clear overview of what to expect. Follow this flow and tick tasks off as you go.
The ten aspects covered in this post provide a framework for a systematic customer service onboarding program. The specific details under each of these topics vary from company to company. However, most successful teams include all of these areas when welcoming new agents.
Create a detailed checklist for your team and make customer service agent onboarding fast and efficient. Also, let us know how Klaus’s Training Wheels worked out for you.
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