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Customer service training: The complete guide

Prepare your team to deliver great customer experiences with this customer service training guide—and download our template.

Por Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Última atualização em June 11, 2024

What is customer service training?

Customer service training is a strategy businesses use to improve the competency of their support team. It involves teaching agents about products or services, customer communication, support software, and more. Ultimately, customer service training seeks to improve the customer experience.

Customers expect fast, convenient, high-quality customer service—and if they don’t get it, they won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. The key to attracting and retaining customers is to deliver a fantastic customer experience (CX). But to do so, you must ensure every support agent has the proper skills and proficiencies to assist customers.

Businesses use customer service training to boost their support agents’ customer service skills. The right plan can enhance team performance, improve customer satisfaction, and more. Follow along to learn the basics of customer service training so you can build a robust, engaging program that takes your CX to the next level.

More in this guide:

Why is customer service training important?

Customer service training gives agents the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to operate efficiently every day—otherwise known as customer success enablement. Here are some of the most impactful benefits.

Four icons show the benefits of customer service training.

Creates agent development opportunities

Customer service training gives agents the skills required to excel in their roles. With ongoing training, newer employees learn the basics of your operations, and tenured workers can stay up to date on internal processes, technologies, and customer trends. This creates a continuously improving workforce.

Builds customer loyalty and retention

In today’s competitive landscape, good customer service is a big differentiator. Adequately training customer service teams will give you an edge over competitors and, as a result, help build customer loyalty and improve customer retention. When agents provide prompt, knowledgeable, and empathetic support, they can “wow” customers, making them more likely to stick around.

Increases job satisfaction

According to a University of Phoenix study, 70 percent of American workers say they would stay with their employer long term if the company allowed them to apply their new skills. Training improves employees’ skills and performance—and when they perform better, they find more value in their roles.

This is wonderful news for any industry, but it’s critical for customer service because happy employees lead to happier customers. Overall, when you invest in support agents’ careers, they’re more likely to feel satisfied at work and display higher levels of engagement.

Helps improve productivity

Properly trained employees deliver faster support. When businesses commit to ongoing development, they create a team that can prioritize tasks efficiently, resolve issues promptly, leverage resources effectively, and more. Doing so can improve agent productivity and customer service key performance indicators (KPIs) like customer satisfaction (CSAT), first reply time (FRT), and other metrics.

What’s the difference between training and hiring customer service candidates?

Some businesses may prioritize hiring experienced candidates and de-prioritize the training process. They may think they can cut corners or reduce expenses by assembling experienced staff. This is a common oversight.

While hiring the best candidates is important, businesses still need to train them no matter their skill level. Training customer service candidates can make a difference in critical areas like:

  • Communicating your vision: While a skilled rep may know how to provide good customer service, they don’t know how to provide good customer service for your business. Training can educate new hires on your customer support goals.
  • Introducing your target customer: Just as with your specific customer service preferences, new hires are unfamiliar with your customer profile. Training allows you to tell them about who they will be serving.
  • Explaining your tools: If you use customer service software or other in-house applications, training can show new hires how best to use them.

So, while hiring experienced candidates is a great way to build a solid support team, businesses still need training programs to help them reach their full potential.

5 types of customer service training

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to training. Choose the model that suits your team’s budget, timeline, and needs.

A bulleted list details the five types of customer service training.

1. New hire customer service training

New hire training focuses on recruiting, hiring, and onboarding agents. It normally covers company culture, software, and product knowledge. Ideally, the program should be between four and six weeks in length.

During the training process, see how new employees feel by asking:

  • Do they understand all the training material?

  • Do they have questions you can answer?

  • How can you improve the process to make learning easier?

Regularly checking in ensures recent hires are on track, and getting feedback helps you better understand how to enhance the training for the next cohort.

2. In-house employee training

Support managers or highly skilled reps usually lead the in-house customer service training for employees using company training materials. You can design a custom curriculum that addresses your team’s weak spots and optimize your customer service training. Because each business is unique, creating a program that aligns with your processes and culture is much more effective than trying to mimic others.

To identify the challenges your training should tackle, consult your team. For example, if response times are slow, ask a support agent with good FRT to share their process with others.

3. Consultant workshops

Consultant workshops are led by an external customer service expert and are typically held over several days of intensive training sessions.

The upside to consultant workshops is your agents learn from an expert in the field. Oftentimes, these sessions are also highly engaging, so your team will likely come out of them feeling inspired.

The downside is the lessons are short-lived. It’s easy to generate excitement in a few days, but agents might not adopt the ideas they learn in the long term. The workshops are usually costly, too.

To get more value out of consultant workshops, consider recording them and storing the videos in an internal knowledge base. That way, employees can reference the sessions whenever they need information from the workshop or some extra motivation.

4. Customer service refresher training

Ongoing training should be essential to the job, even for experienced reps. Customer service skills can get rusty with time, so it’s a good idea to have a routine performance check. If reps are lacking, they need to take a refresher course.

Recruit tenured staff to help with training to reduce your budget and help seasoned employees reinforce all they’ve learned. Just make sure they have the bandwidth to teach team members on top of their primary job responsibilities.

5. Special circumstance customer service training

Special circumstance training is typically a one-off occurrence based on a unique event or issue, such as a new product release. These sessions must be held as soon as possible after the event.

Use a training format that can be created quickly—like a video recording—to inform your support reps as soon as possible. You can also accelerate learning if agents can independently complete the training and have a clear deadline.

Which customer service training skills should you cover?

Training programs should cover hard and soft skills alongside the company’s specific philosophies and communication styles. Excellent customer service is much more than answering customer questions. It requires skills to “read” a customer’s emotional cues, manage an influx of support tickets, adequately resolve issues, and keep cool when things get heated.

Soft skills

Soft skills are character traits that help you interact with other people effectively. Here are some soft skills that your team can use to build customer relationships:

  • Active listening: This is listening carefully to what a customer is saying, then showing them you understand and respect their point. Active listening is essential for making customers feel recognized and de-escalating stressful situations.
  • Positivity: It’s hard to convey tone over text, especially because quick responses can come across as terse. However, reps should be able to convey a positive and professional customer service voice on every channel.
  • Empathy: When consumers need help, they want to interact with a kind, compassionate human. Showing customer empathy ensures consumers feel heard and assures them you’ll do everything to help.
  • Confidence: Once support agents build their company and product knowledge, they should feel confident in their ability to help customers. Encourage reps to communicate that confidence wherever possible.
  • Creativity: Foster creativity in your agents by encouraging experimentation. The right solution may not always be apparent, so thinking outside the box is critical for support agents.
  • Conflict resolution: At times, customers will be frustrated when contacting your company. You must train your customer service reps on how to deal with angry customers and de-escalate a situation.
  • Communication: Communication skills are essential for support reps. When a customer has questions, they expect the agent to be professional, confident, and easy to understand.

Training your team in various soft skills is crucial for enforcing positive customer interactions.

Hard skills

Hard skills are abilities that you can measure. Here are a few examples of hard skills that help customer service teams thrive:

  • Product and internal process knowledge: Agents must give fast and accurate answers, so expert product knowledge is necessary. This enables quick responses and inspires trust in your customers.
  • Customer advocacy: Customer service representatives should act as advocates. If customers have feedback, agents should get that information to the people who can implement changes.
  • Customer service philosophy: For consistent support, your team needs principles that guide customer interactions. Your training should cover your customer service values and what those values look like in action.
  • Technical proficiency: Technical proficiency and fast answers go hand in hand. Invest in tools like customer service software so agents can find information in seconds, solve customer issues quicker, and easily collaborate with others.

These hard skills will prepare your team for the more technical and measurable side of customer support.

Tips for effective customer service training

As we’ve mentioned, customer service training is essential for improving agent productivity, building customer loyalty, and more. However, creating a program can be easier said than done. Here are our top tips for effective customer service training:

  • Be customer first: Being customer first means putting the customer at the forefront of your decision-making. When you plan your training with the customer in mind, you’ll naturally create a better program.
  • Set clear objectives: Identify the key skills and knowledge areas that your team needs to know and structure your training around those aspects.
  • Engage in active training: Don’t just give training presentations—encourage participation. Incorporate simulation exercises and customer role-playing activities to help reinforce information.
  • Monitor performance: Ensure you monitor your agent performance to assess your training effectiveness and identify improvement opportunities. Doing so can help you evaluate your program and scale your customer support team.

Use a combination of these tips to drive a better training experience for your team and a more positive experience for your customers.

Customer service training materials

Utilizing customer service training materials like templates, courses, games, and videos can further shape your CX strategy and train your employees. Here are some ideas you can use to improve your training.

Customer service training templates

Creating a customer service training template is an easy way to take your process to the next level. You can use it to deliver training content as effectively as possible and ensure everyone, from new hires to tenured employees, is on the same page.

Download the Zendesk customer service training template below. Our template can help you communicate the most important parts of your customer service philosophy and enhance your customer experience.

The ultimate customer service training template

Download our customer service training template to ensure every team member is knowledgeable, capable, and prepared to interact with your customers.

Customer service training courses

Customer service training courses typically offer structured training on various aspects of customer service, communication, and problem-solving.

Some popular courses include:

Courses like these can help streamline your training process.

Customer service training games

Customer service training games add a bit of fun to the training process and can include role-playing exercises, team-based competitions, and quizzes. You can start with some examples like:

  • Jeopardy!: Split your agents into teams and conduct your own game of customer service Jeopardy! Include questions around themes and topics that will challenge your agents.
  • Charades: Again, split your team into groups and have one team act out interactions or scenarios and the other guess what’s going on or how best to resolve it.
  • Bingo: Your team must match your clue to the correct term or process and then find it on their board.

You can add a fun twist to your training when you get creative.

Customer service training videos

Customer service training videos can teach your team new processes and reinforce important concepts. These videos don’t need to be dull instructionals that remind you of high school science class—there’s plenty of engaging content to choose from. Start with customer service-focused TEDx Talks or other similar videos to start your virtual learning experience.

Frequently asked questions

Empower your agents with the right CX partner

Organizations should use customer service training to empower their employees to deliver the best CX possible—you don’t need to do it alone. Download our customer service training template to assist your training plan.

If you need extra guidance, visit the Zendesk Training page to access free courses to help your agents, admins, sales teams, and more.

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