Preparing for the holiday season starts by making a list and checking it twice. A list of what, you ask? Well, to effectively onboard and train support reps, a training plan needs to be in place!
The best customer support training plans begin long before the first seasonal hire is ever made. Planning ahead will give you time to identify gaps in your current training, build or crowdsource information from top performers, and organize a library of content for your team’s new and existing support reps to use. To accomplish this, walk through these 4 steps and determine what kind of training program you’re putting together.
Step 1: Identify the support channels
Every customer support thought leader and practitioner we interviewed agrees that the first step toward building effective training is to identify which channels your support team will offer and cover. Some contact centers focus exclusively on one channel, e.g. answering phones, while some support teams efficiently offer phone, email, and live chat support. Once all of the support channels have been identified, the necessary training needs to be created.
With support channels identified, decide where you’ll place new employees to handle the increased demand of peak season. Think of it this way: there’s no use creating training for support over SMS if a contact center doesn’t have that capability. Understanding the scope of your support team will both eliminate wasting time on unnecessary training and refine the development process for incoming seasonal hires.
Look through metrics from past peak seasons, and the months leading up to them, to determine which channels need extra help. After deciding the channels that need to be covered, plan to allocate your seasonal hires accordingly. And once new, and existing, employees are assigned to their duties, the next question is: what do they need to do once there?
With your channels defined, sit down and decide the responsibilities—and desired impact—of every team member. Identifying and defining these are critical in the early stages of planning, as they help shape the training necessary roadmap for each role. Mapping out every act that reps need to carry out might feel a bit overwhelming at first. Fight the instinct to think of all the things that a team member might do, and prioritize the most important skills. Of course the ideal impact is always to solve the customer’s issue, but there’s also a larger view to take when deciding how your support team functions.
Existing customers may already have an expectation of service, which can translate to a different level of accountability during the holiday season. This doesn’t mean new customers should receive a different level of service than existing customers. But if you are expecting a wave of new customers during the holidays, training time is best spent on topics like showing new hires how your CRM and telephone technology work. Smooth, seamless support calls set a good impression for new customers going forward, and that one-time interaction could turn into a return customer that generates more business down the road.
Nuances like these may be difficult to decipher, but that’s an advantage to starting early in the year! After building out the functions of your support team, it’s time to decide what the roadmap for that training looks like.
Step 3: Plan the training roadmap
When bringing on seasonal hires, the onboarding period between their first day in the office and full productivity is critical. We call this period the “time-to-productivity” or “ramp time” for new support reps. During this phase, relative deadlines work really well, but in peak seasons, time might be tighter.
Time-to-productivity for new hires should be filled with as much learning as is needed to do the job well, without overloading them. Building a training path that guides new employees through a progression of content is another best practice. This incremental rollout of content lightens the initial learning load, and also builds connections between the information being presented in each step. And be sure that your training plan doesn’t end once your new hires are on the floor, interacting with customers. Learning doesn’t stop there.
For example, new or updated products are often accompanied by lists of information that customer support reps need to know, and learning that refreshes soft skills never hurts, either.
Training roadmap in place? Excellent. But what good is a plan, if there’s no way to deliver the content to your team? With your training cadence mapped out for both new and existing employees, make sure to plan for how this information will be shared.
Step 4: Decide the delivery mechanism
As with any communication, the medium through which you communicate support team training will affect the way it’s received and remembered. Deciding how to deliver training content during the seasonal rush is just as important as the content itself.
Weekly training? That level of interaction likely isn’t scalable for all-team, in-person training sessions. Such team-wide training sessions can be effective for support teams, but in the interest of keeping customer service levels at acceptable levels, they are better used in a monthly or quarterly cadence. Instead, consider how your team can best use online learning in addition to other forms of training and coaching. This hybrid approach to support team training balances online flexibility with dedicated in-person time that is key to reinforcing key support concepts.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for support rep learning and development. Online learning is great for quick hits and reinforcing information over long periods of time, and 1-on-1 coaching is great for focused periods of personal development. The best approach is to evaluate the entire length of your reps’ employee lifetime and determine which training methods offer the most benefits for each facet and phase.
Following these four steps should put you in a position to fully enable new and existing reps to provide the best customer support possible. To see how Lessonly can help prepare your support team and provide a great training base, take our five-step, self-guided tour. Sign up today.