Training Talks—Emotional Intelligence in Customer Service: A Chat with Justin Robbins

At Lessonly, we’ve helped hundreds of teams across the globe learn, practice, and Do Better Work. We found that the best teams examine their training efforts through six key phases: Assess, Plan, Build, Learn, Practice, and Perform. That’s why we decided to create Lessonly’s Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training

In the process of putting together The Better Work Guide, Lessonly’s VP of Marketing, Kyle Lacy talked with Justin Robbins of JM Robbins and Associates. This consulting firm is focused on quality assurance, coaching, and training. Justin knows what it takes to be a successful experience agent. See what he has to say about the importance of hiring the best reps and how leaders can provide training on emotional intelligence. 

Kyle: Let’s dive in here. When it comes to agent maturity, should leaders hire more mature people or focus more on emotional intelligence?

Secondly, you get what you pay for, right? Customer service is shifting to really be more of strategic play. It’s not about price or product anymore. It’s about the experience. I think as we move towards things being more automated and have better access for customers to help themselves, the job will get more complicated and nuanced. That just requires a different level of a person. 

Justin: Sure, I’m happy to clarify that. I think there are a couple of factors. One, when you look at the 40-plus-year-old mindset that many contact centers are still stuck in, it’s all about cost-efficiency. You have an entry-level role, that in many cases pays close to minimum wage. Unfortunately, that really limits the type of candidate you’re going to get in that position. The reality is you’re going to get people who are using the role to get in the organization. That’s part of why the industry has a high turnover problem. It’s not necessary because we get bad people. We actually get really great people, but we underutilize and undercompensate them, so they’re going to go somewhere else. 

Kyle, you mentioned the term “emotional intelligence.” I think that’s incredibly important for people who are in this role. One of the big challenges is that we hire people, but we don’t think through what we can train them on. What are the skills that we need them to bring to the table? All too often leaders just focus on training reps to be nice or on processes. Anybody can do that, right? What we really need is someone who has a deeper level of emotional intelligence and the ability to navigate the gray. 

See more tips on hiring, training, and retaining the best of the best. Read Lessonly’s Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training.

Kyle: I think that training and enablement can help with that. But I think what’s key is that you have to hire the right people first. Training and enablement will be a supplement if you miss that. How do training and enablement fit into a future scenario where leaders hire more mature agents and the product itself is more proactive? 

Justin: I think that there are a couple of factors at play here. When it comes to training enablement you have a lot of variations on how organizations build their training teams. For some, it’s a shared services model. For others, it sits within the contact center. Some use a hybrid model. 

To get the training enablement piece right, you really have to have a good mechanism for understanding how the customer experience is evolving and how that impacts training. As leaders cover topics, it’s important to understand retention and how often issues are coming up.

Since our tools are more intuitive for agents, a lot of the material that we typically spend a bunch of time on, like processes and procedures, could be reduced or even eliminated. The tools are better so we can really spend our training time on making sure people know how to use the tool and get the info they need. 

Then, that leaves leaders more training time to really build on the situations where agents need to practice emotional intelligence. I think that’s one of the missing pieces. So often, agents serve a customer in the firefighting or prevention mindset. They forget what it’s like to even be a customer of the brand. Training is one of the best ways to expose them to that experience. 

Do Better Work with Lessonly’s Customer Service Training Guide

Customer service matters more than ever. Don’t miss your chance to get insights, best practices, and tangible steps to Do Better Work. Read The Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training and get started today.

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