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Top Customer Service Training Ideas - HRDQ

Top Customer Service Training Ideas

Every single employee in your organization represents your brand and is responsible for how customers perceive it on a daily basis. This means that every interaction, whether it’s over the phone, by email, or through social media, plays a crucial role in shaping the overall image of your company. It’s essential to make sure your customer-facing employees are equipped with the tools and knowledge to create an exceptional customer experience consistently.

Providing comprehensive customer service training programs to enhance the skills of your customer service team is key to achieving this goal. Training empowers team members with the skills and confidence they need to handle a variety of customer situations, both positive and negative, to meet your customers’ needs. With training, customer service reps will be able to resolve issues quickly, communicate clearly, and provide accurate product and policy information, contributing to a better customer experience, greater customer satisfaction, increased customer retention, and stronger customer loyalty.

Here are some of the top customer service training ideas to help your employees learn and internalize customer service best practices.

Recommended Training
Creating an Outstanding Customer Experience
  • Create outstanding service
  • Show customers that they're valued
  • Gain strategies to handle situations
Learn more

Exercise to Improve Listening Skills

Effectively communicating with customers is one of the most important parts of delivering successful service. Excellent service requires active, attentive listening, which is a key communication skill many of us often fail to exercise. As a training manager, you need to help employees tune into what customers are saying and challenge their assumptions. This simple and effective customer service activity to improve active listening skills may surprise you!

Exercise Instructions

Have everybody on your team pair up and give each team two questions. Each person must ask their partner one of the two questions they were given, and their partner must answer the question. Make sure that the questions are simple and have a straightforward answer – but they should require the listener to genuinely hear every word of the question. Here are two examples to illustrate the activity:

  • You are driving a bus. It leaves at 8:30 with 33 people. It stops to drop off ten passengers and pick up five. It travels further south, where it drops off another five passengers and picks up another six people. It arrives in New York two hours later. What was the driver’s name?
  • Answer? You!
  • What’s heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks?
  • Answer? They’re the same weight – both one pound!

See? You probably got these wrong, too! It’s natural for us to assume we already know the question that’s asked and only half-listen as a result. This is a great way to emphasize how if we don’t listen carefully, we will likely answer incorrectly, which can cause trouble in customer service situations. When customer service agents fail to listen attentively, they risk missing key details and provide either incorrect or inaccurate information as a result. This diminishes the quality of the service but also hurts the customer’s trust and confidence in the organization. Encourage participants to approach every customer interaction with this kind of focused attention, listening critically to the customer’s every word, and responding thoughtfully.

Exercise to Improve Empathy

Understanding and respecting someone else’s perspective is crucial for addressing conflicts with a customer and creating a warm impression. But this can be especially difficult if the employee has never personally experienced the customer’s issue before. Role-playing activities can be a great way to help your employees learn how to exercise empathy by creating experiences that place them in the shoes of the customer.

Exercise Instructions

Split your customer service team into groups of three, where one member is the customer, another is the employee, and the third is an observer. Each group is issued three different real-life customer problems that are specific to your industry or business setting. Have each team act out their respective scenario, and then have them switch roles and problems.

When role-playing as the customer, the participants can understand the frustration that arises when there’s an issue with a product or service, and they can understand the frustration from the customer’s perspective when and if customer support is lacking. When role-playing as the customer service rep, the participants get to practice their customer service skills by thinking on the spot about how to resolve the situation. And as an observer, the participant gets to take a broader, unbiased look at the situation and offer solutions to create an excellent customer service experience. Role-playing in each of these roles gives everybody involved a chance to understand the issue from various perspectives and see what they can do to improve their customer service skills.

If you have a larger team, you can break into several groups or have part of your team observe the interaction as an audience. They can then offer feedback to the participants as part of a group discussion following each round of the scenario.

Exercise to Improve Problem-Solving

Solving complicated problems on the fly is a critical component of ensuring customer satisfaction, especially in a situation where something has gone wrong. While it’s true that upset customers often want an apology and acknowledgment of error, what they really want is to know what you’re going to do to fix their problem. Your customer service representatives need to have strong problem-solving skills when dealing with customer complaints to ensure that customers receive what they actually want. Here’s a quick exercise to get your employees comfortable thinking creatively about how to solve customer problems.

Exercise Instructions

Divide your employees into groups, assigning each group a different and challenging case to solve. Each group must brainstorm as many solutions as possible, with no logical restrictions. The intention here is to get groups to think outside of the box. Pose some of the following “what if?” questions to help get the creative juices flowing:

  • If this was your business, what would you do?
  • If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
  • If you had an unlimited budget, what would you do?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you do?

By removing situational constraints, you can get your employees to imagine solutions they may not have thought of before. At the end of the activity, when groups report back what they discussed, you may be able to workshop some of these inventive ideas into practical and applicable scripting.

Exercise to Improve Mindfulness and Reduce Stress

The customer service front lines can be a stressful place. Blame often falls on this role when problems inevitably occur, even if they’re out of employees’ control. It’s also a position that often gets the brunt of customer anger and frustration. Customer service support teams face high-stress and high-pressure situations every day, which can lead to stress, burnout, and a decrease in job satisfaction.

Given the challenges that customer service team members face daily, it’s crucial to equip your employees with the skills and techniques to effectively manage stress. Practicing mindfulness can help your customer service representatives de-stress and preserve their mental health and well-being. Mindfulness practices encourage a state of active, open attention to the present, which can be beneficial in high-stress environments because it can keep individuals grounded rather than getting swept up in the chaos of the situation or environment. If your reps can learn to stay calm and grounded, even when things are heated, their calm demeanor can also help calm down an angry customer – improving the situation all around and turning what may have started out as a bad experience into a good customer service experience.

Here are some helpful exercises to help you empower your employees with skills to de-escalate and calm down in situations of heightened stress.

Exercise Instructions

  • Bring in an expert: To exercise mindfulness, we encourage you to bring in an outside resource to lead a mindfulness meditation workshop. This could be a yoga practitioner or a meditation specialist.
  • Breathing techniques: Teach your employees breathing and relaxation techniques that they can use at their desks throughout the day to de-stress. There are many different breathing techniques available, including deep breathing, where the individual breathes in slowly, expanding their belly with air, and then lets the air out slowly. There’s also equal-time breathing, where the individual breaths in for five counts and out for five counts. There are a variety of breathing techniques to try – you just have to find the right one. 
  • Mantras and positive affirmations: Mantras are simple, positive statements that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day. An example of a mantra is, “I am calm and composed.” Our words have meaning, so when we repeat this or another phrase to ourselves, we start to believe it.
  • Create a designated meditation space: You may also consider including a secluded meditation space in your office or call center to help your reps find time to pause and recharge throughout the day. This space should be comfortable, quiet, and free from distractions.

Your Turn

Listening, empathy, problem-solving, and mindfulness are four critical components of delivering quality customer service, no matter what industry you work in. Designing customer service training sessions around these fundamental skills will help ensure your employees are getting a strong foundation to consistently create great customer service interactions.

Help your team enhance their customer service skills with HRDQ’s Creating an Outstanding Customer Experience course. This course helps teams establish a company culture that encourages customer service employees to create outstanding customer service experiences, discover methods to show customers that they are valued, and master strategies to handle difficult situations.

For more comprehensive customer service training activities, workshops, assessments, and more, explore the customer service collection at HRDQ!

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.