November 4, 2021

How to Train Customer Service Agents

Building an e-commerce business is challenging.

Jon Tucker
CEO HelpFlow
How to Train Customer Service Agents

Building an e-commerce business is challenging. Once you've got a great product, the tough part is not over once you've cracked how to drive traffic and sales through advertising, influencers, or some other growth channel. As you start to ramp up, you have to figure out how to scale the people side of your business in customer service.

Scaling people can be a nightmare. It's not like an advertising algorithm or a supply and demand forecast that you can just turn off and restart anew. The people side of your business is more challenging.  You need to know what to consider to make a good hire, where to find great people, how to train them, and how to manage them effectively. One thing that can add a lot of pressure is the disappointment of creating a poor company culture by making a few bad hiring decisions in a row.

With that said, it is possible to scale the people side of your business just like any other part of your business. You just need to have a clearly defined training process with success metrics that you move people through in order to keep the customer experience strong as the agent team grows. Simple, but not easy.

At HelpFlow, we provide 24/7 live chat and customer service teams to over 100 stores. We train hundreds of agents and have it down to a science that enables us to bring on agents quickly and effectively for a wide range of brands. In this post, we will walk you through the key parts of how we do it so that you can learn from it and apply it in your own training.

Let's get into it.

Define the Metrics of Success

Before you can train someone, you need to be able to define the outcome you want them to produce. That sounds so simple, but do you have two or three key metrics in place for your customer service team, and do you know what good or bad is for those metrics? Even if you know what they are, have you used them with your team in the last two weeks? Knowing what #s to track vs. having them part of your execution and culture are two different things.

When we run a customer service team for one of our clients, our metrics to manage agents are first response time, handle time, and customer satisfaction rating. This measures how quickly customers get a response after contacting you, how efficiently agents handle the workload, and how the customer feels after the ticket is resolved.

By tracking these in your helpdesk and then benchmarking the metrics with your current agents, you can have a clear definition of success for new agents on the team. They may not perform at the tenured agent level right away, but it's very important to track their progress so they get there.

Don't Train. Create Training Content

Most of the training that agents go through should not be one-on-one with you or a manager. If it's mostly one-on-one, this takes a ton of time for everyone involved and doesn't allow you to have an in-depth training experience for the agents. In short, they learn less, but you all spend more time doing it. That's not good.

When preparing for your next hire, rather than planning one-on-one, spend the extra time now to create training content that can be used for this agent and future agents. The process doesn't need to be complicated. You can create an outline of the training that a new agent needs, then create basic training videos walking the new agent through the material. The new agent can then review those videos and do Q&A live with you or your manager.

It's definitely important to have a lot of interaction time between the trainer and the new hire, but the bulk of the actual training material should be video and self-paced modules that the agent can go through. This way, they can complete it at their own pace, dig deeper into certain sections, and take notes to dig into with you during Q&A.

By running your training with content modules rather than one-on-one meetings, you can build a very templated and effective training process with clear action items for everybody involved. This makes training agent #2, #3, and #100 much easier. It also makes the people scaling part of things much easier because you'll be confident in replacing a new agent with another better agent if the training is really efficient for you.

I Do, We Do, You Do

You can't just have someone review a training video and expect them to be able to perform the task perfectly right out of the gate. Some people will learn more quickly than others, but having an iterative training process makes it much easier for you to quickly train someone on a wide range of complex skills. The framework that we have found to work best is "I Do, We Do, You Do." It is what it sounds like. First, I show you how to do something. Then, we do it together. After that, you do it while I'm available for help. Finally, you do it yourself successfully.

The training content mentioned before is the "I Do" part of training. The training watches the training video of how to do the task, and they have the ability to rewind and go deeper into certain sections that may not be clear enough right away.

What we do for the "We Do" part is a mix of "side by side" and "scenario" training sessions. The new agent will sit alongside an existing agent and watch them work with the ability to ask questions periodically. This enables them to see the training material in action and discuss it. Then, we set up scenarios for the trainee to work through with the trainer watching them and answering questions or giving pointers along the way. This provides the trainee with practice doing the work while getting help and the benefit of not being on actual client work yet

By leveraging an iterative training process like this along with content that the trainee can review, we are able to train Agents quickly to a defined level of success so they can provide an awesome customer experience for our clients.

What's Next?

If you're a growing e-commerce brand, it's extremely important that you successfully scale the people side of the business. Otherwise, you risk burning out your initial team or burning the brand equity you've built as poorly trained agents provide a poor customer experience.

Want to learn more about how to run a customer service team effectively? Here's a blog post on the key metrics of customer experience and agent performance, and how to manage with them: Customer Service Management Metrics.

We'd also be happy to do a Customer Service Audit with you. While we do this primarily with clients considering us to help run their customer service operation, you'll find that it will give you insanely deep insights into the performance of your customer service operation and how to improve it. Even if we don't work together for now, it's a good use of time to go through.

If you have any questions about live chat or customer service in general, feel free to reach out!

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