More than ever, modern businesses rely on customer service and customer support to connect with their clientele and build long-term relationships.
In an era where negative online reviews can impact a company’s business, good customer service is a way to show you are listening to people’s needs and complaints and offering effective solutions to their problems or issues.
But with businesses marketing themselves through so many channels—ranging from e-commerce sites and social media platforms to brick-and-mortar stores—they may wonder what types of customer service will best suit their needs and what training they will need to provide so their service reps can do their jobs effectively.
This article serves as a guide to understanding the different types of customer service and how you can train your team to provide it effectively.
What are the types of customer service?
While both phone and email could be part of a customer service strategy, customers increasingly expect as many communication options provided by a company as they like to use themselves.
To better serve their customers, physical and online businesses are adopting omnichannel strategies, providing a variety of ways for people to contact them and get the help they need both on and offline.
Common types of customer service include:
Using self-serve options for customer service has a double benefit. Many people prefer finding the information they need on their own. And if queries are handled by self-help methods, customer service representatives have more time to deal with more complex or demanding service issues.
Some self-service customer service methods include:
- Interactive voice response (IVR). IVRs are used when customers call into a support line. The system helps make customer service responses faster and more efficient by gathering required information upfront (name, account number, a description of the problem, etc.) and directing people to the customer service rep best able to help them (or with the shortest queue of waiting calls). Some AI-powered IVRs can even answer common queries, such as the status of a refund or service request.
- How-to videos. You can use how-to videos to lower help desk traffic while guiding customers through common processes, whether it’s how to install a software package or change the payment method on their account. How-to videos can be posted to your website or your official channel on YouTube, where some customers may go first for answers to their questions.
- FAQs. A list of frequently asked customer questions posted to your website lets visitors easily find answers to common problems, saving customer service reps from answering the same queries again and again.
- Chatbots. Chatbots use AI and natural-language processing to understand what a visitor wants and then guides them to information or the outcome they desire. The more work they do, the better they get at understanding and handling requests.
How to train your team on creating the best self-serve experience
By setting up a self-serve option, you help empower the growing number of people who prefer helping themselves to talking to someone live. Therefore, your team should have input into the knowledge bases that make up these self-serve options. Allow them to make changes when information is incorrect or when new information becomes available.
You also want your team to have autonomy when it comes to directing customers to self-serve options. For example, a customer may want to access their account information. They call your customer service team for help. In this situation, your rep’s expertise would be better put to use elsewhere, so they direct the customer to the self-serve option, providing brief directions on how to find the account information.
This allows them to provide more-focused attention on the calls or emails that best use their expertise.
Live chat is popular with customers because it lets them get answers in real time. A live chat widget on your website or mobile app links to a live support team member who has the information customers need.
For example, a potential customer might be viewing vacation packages on a travel website and click the live agent option to ask questions about whether a certain resort is kid-friendly. The agent could then arrange a booking.
How to train your team on providing live chat support
In training your team to provide live chat support, you want to emphasize that their interactions with customers will go a long way in cementing their feelings about the company. So, your customer service agents need to be friendly, efficient, and productive.
To start, customer service reps need to cultivate soft skills, such as the ability to truly listen before offering a solution. They also need to be able to empathize with customers’ situations and know how to politely defuse a situation with an angry customer.
As company ambassadors, live agents need to have comprehensive knowledge about the products or services they’re supporting. They need to have strong communications skills so that they can write clear responses to people. They also must be trained to understand and use the live chat platform, so they can respond to customers quickly and confidently and not lose time fumbling to make things work.
To prepare customer service agents for dealing with customer issues and handling their live chat platform, a good practice is to conduct mock interviews, dealing with particular issues and resolving them through the system.
With the widespread use of social media channels, it’s important for you to monitor the main platforms and provide customer service through them. These channels include:
- Facebook. With a Facebook business page, your customer service team can track customer concerns and respond to posts through comments, or deal with customer issues in private via the Messenger app. There are even live chat tools available that connect with Messenger.
- Instagram. Instagram has become an increasingly important social media channel for businesses. Some best customer service practices include adding a contact button to your Instagram page and turning on push notifications, so no query is missed on a busy account.
- Twitter. According to Twitter, some best practices for using the platform for customer service include clarifying the issues you support on Twitter, and monitoring brand mentions for customer service opportunities.
Not only do customer service reps need to keep track of the feedback customers give them through social media, but they also need to monitor major review sites, such as Yelp and Google, and specialty sites like Tripadvisor. They should acknowledge positive reviews, but it’s equally important they deal with poor reviews, always seeking to improve service with the feedback or provide a reasonable response to unfair reviews. For example, a restaurant dealing with a bad review may have a chance to win the customer back by offering a free meal or discount coupon.
How to train your team on providing social media support
When training your team to provide social media support, teach them to be responsive by quickly responding to queries or complaints. A customer who asks for support but doesn’t get it quickly enough may move on to the competition.
In fact, it’s useful to create guidelines for your social media customer service team, outlining expected response times, the brand voice they should communicate, how to answer FAQs, and protocols for dealing with escalating situations (increasingly angry customers).
Your customer service team also needs to know when they should take a public social media conversation to a private channel—say, on Facebook, inviting the customer to resume the conversation on Messenger — if, for example, they need to ask questions about the person’s personal preferences or identity.
Reps should also be taught to use hashtags productively. Hashtags are especially useful for organizing content so that customers can easily navigate social media channels, such as Twitter. Reps should also look for company- or industry-relevant hashtags to follow, as a guide to keeping abreast of important conversations.
Email and phone
Live phone support through call centers and help desks continues to be popular with people who want their questions answered by a real person. If your business has a global presence, it’s a good idea to enable people to contact you via local or toll-free international numbers.
Email also remains an important customer channel. It allows people to ask questions if they don’t want a live interaction or if they need the time to put together a more detailed query.
How to train your team on providing email and phone support
When training your customer service team to provide the best email and phone support, start with personalization. Customers want to be treated as people, not ticket numbers in a phone or email queue. So, they should be addressed by name, whether in an email salutation or phone greeting. Your team should be friendly and approachable but professional. Customers should feel like they’re dealing with a real person who cares about their issue and is trying to resolve it.
Your team should understand what constitutes a prompt response time. For example, customers may expect email responses in a day or less. This also relates to follow-ups. Customer services reps must keep their word about any follow-up and its time frame. If they promise to follow up on a service request or purchase within a few hours, they must do it. If they promise a refund for a purchase, they should do it immediately.
Finally, your customer service team needs to be able to explain things succinctly and clearly, in a way that is respectful to the customer’s time. While people want personalized service, they don’t want interactions with long-winded explanations.
Communities and forums
It may take a lot of work to build and monitor an online community or forum of product users, but the effort can be repaid in spades as users interact and share useful information and helpful advice and offer ideas for improvement.
Customer service reps can monitor the dialogues, get involved in discussions with their customers, and track their requests. This kind of engagement can help build brand loyalty.
The support that customers give one another through peer-to-peer interactions can also often reduce the support the company needs to provide through other service channels.
To build your customer service team, you can turn to Upwork. We provide access to top customer service representatives so you can easily add ongoing or one-time help to ensure your customer service and customer satisfaction are the best in your business.
How to train your team on providing community and forum support
When training your team to provide community and forum support, you’re asking them to perform a delicate balancing act. They must cultivate a unique dynamic in which community participants are encouraged to use peer-to-peer support and connect directly to customer service reps for their needs.
Your reps should be taught that their role is as much to gather information as to give it. The conversations they follow will give them and the company insight into customer issues and attitudes. Customer service reps should be trained to be proactive, finding opportunities to talk about products or services that can address particular customer needs.
Another role for the customer service reps might be to build a library of resources that can help community members, such as videos, FAQs, a knowledge base and relevant documents. These materials can help make the most of the 24-hour availability of the community, enabling users to find the help they need outside regular business hours.
How do I train my customer service team?
While customer service training is sometimes treated as an afterthought, this is a mistake. Customer service reps play an integral role in helping customers and business retention—in ways that make what they do at least as important as marketing and sales.
Training is a process that provides customer service reps with the skills, tools, and knowledge they need to provide the best service to customers. Just about any worker who has some kind of interaction with customers should be given proper training.
Below are several best practices when training your customer service team.
Help reps develop their interpersonal skills
Customer service reps need to relate to people, which means it’s essential they have strong interpersonal skills. While some soft skills are innate, they can be further developed through training. For example, you can try to cultivate empathy (i.e., the ability to stand in the customer’s shoes) by having customer service representatives spend time with people who are different from them.
Conflict management is another important customer service skill to impart since your service agents won’t always be able to avoid conflict with customers. This may include role-playing exercises. For example, you could have one rep play the part of an upset customer while another practices dealing with them in a helpful and calming manner.
Other interpersonal skills that customer service reps might need include:
- The ability to actively listen
- Clear communication, whether written or verbal
- A positive attitude
- Conflict resolution
- A sense of humor
- The ability to take responsibility (so they can genuinely apologize if the company has made a mistake and do their best to correct the situation)
Teach clear communication
If a customer service rep can explain a product or service clearly (verbally or in writing) or take a customer through a technical solution easily, then their work will be easier and customers will be happier.
Role-playing is a good way to teach communication skills. For example, you can have one service rep explain a complicated product to another with a set time limit. The rep can be further coached according to how well they do in this exercise.
Conduct product training
If your company offers a particular product, customer service agents will need to be trained in its use. This could be done through demonstration sessions or by assigning mentors to new hires. You can also build knowledge bases for reps to use as a reference.
Use customer service software
Your customer service reps will need to be trained in any specialized software that they’ll use to organize, respond to, and report on customer queries.
The customer reps should learn how to use this software thoroughly, including shortcuts and the package’s most useful features. If they develop a high level of comfort using it, they can combine this knowledge with their product knowledge and knowledge of their particular support channel to deliver the best service possible to customers.
Provide excellent customer service today
The future of your business may depend on your ability to provide an outstanding customer experience in whatever channel people want to reach you. Train a customer service rep specifically for the demands of each channel they will be handling, and also ensure you’ve instilled your company values in them and reinforced best practices for their profession.
Get This Article as a PDF
For easy printing, reading, and sharing.