Great customer service involves more than a successful face-to-face or phone conversation. As customer service become more experiential, and evolves to include chat, email, and social channels, the pressure to provide a positive experience across every touchpoint increases dramatically.
No matter how a customer encounters your brand, soft skills are essential for a successful customer service interaction. Soft skills, including the ability to communicate, deeply listen, and empathize with people is significant. These traits are more likely to make the customer remember their experience fondly.
Despite the importance of soft skills, most call center training programs focus on hard skills and knowledge about products, services, software, and processes. But, training on a blend of hard and soft skills can drastically improve the quality of customer service. These strategies will help teach, reinforce, and refine agent soft skills in order to provide a superior customer experience every time.
Build skill-based learning
It’s important to understand that soft skills aren’t strictly innate characteristics. While some personality types are inclined to be better at things like communication and patience, there are many ways for agents to learn soft skills, including:
Microlearning—By breaking soft-skill concepts into bite-size lessons, reps are more likely to understand and retain information. The lessons, which should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete, focus on one soft skill at a time. This format is ideal for contact center employees who are busy fielding interactions—the lesson can be easily completed during idle time. While most training tries to focus on too many things over too long of a time period, microlearning makes it easy to digest information.
Storytelling—One of the most effective ways to teach soft skills is through a story. Story-based learning creates an immersive experience and allows reps to emotionally connect with the subject matter. Leaders can easily utilize a scenario-based story to convey how reps should use a particular soft skill to create a great customer experience. Our customers have found that it’s helpful to share stories that highlight interactions with upset, inquisitive, and dissatisfied customers—in order to teach employees what not to do.
Shadowing—Consider including call shadowing as part of your new hire onboarding process. This is a great opportunity to help new hires to experience soft skills in action, spotlight your best reps, and facilitate connections between team members. When new reps sit-in on different interactions including phone, chat, and email, they gain an understanding of how and when to utilize soft skills. This also provides an opportunity for new agents to ask veteran agents in-depth questions to better understand specific skills.
Reiterate practice opportunities
In order for a customer to be comfortable during interactions, the agent’s soft skills must be natural and not forced. Continued practice improves and reinforces soft skills so reps feel confident enough to seamlessly deliver superior service in real-life situations. Provide ample opportunities to practice with:
Role Play—When it comes to learning soft skills, there is no substitute for realistic practice. Role-play training focuses on relevant customer challenges and mimics interactions that agents have experienced in the past. These sessions, which can be done in-person, online, or over the phone, are a great way for agents to develop skills they need during stressful interactions without any negative impact. Role plays give learners the opportunity to test out both soft skills and knowledge in a practical situation and learn efficiently.
Quizzes—Multiple-choice and short-answer quizzes will help leaders assess whether agents understand soft skill information. Reps learn how to apply soft skills correctly throughout quizzes and guided-response activities. These practice exercises can center around common situations that reps will face, or test how they apply soft skills correctly throughout quizzes and guided-response activities. Our Customer Service Soft Skills lesson walks reps through three familiar scenarios and asks them how they would respond in each.
Foster a culture of feedback
In order to improve, customer service reps also need to receive constructive and positive performance feedback. Drive continuous improvement with:
Coaching—One technique for development is to review reps’ customer service interactions. This is extremely beneficial to provide immediately after a less-than-ideal experience so reps can improve their skills quickly. Consider providing reps with one-on-one coaching sessions or during team exercises if a larger part of the team is struggling with a certain skill. This gives other team members a constructive opportunity to share their best practices and tips for improvement.
Acclamation—Acknowledging positive behaviors and superior customer service interactions should also be part of your feedback loop. Employees appreciate recognition for displaying appropriate skills, plus the positive affirmation will encourage healthy self-evaluation and awareness of their performance.
Incorporating call center soft skill training undeniably leads to a better all-around customer experience. Customer service teams will see an increase in customer loyalty, produce more engaged employees, and drive business growth.
Empower customer service reps with Lessonly
With Lessonly, high-touch service teams serve customers faster, drive consistent support, and elevate the customer experience. Worldwide brands use Lessonly to deliver contextual lessons focused on learning and practicing soft skills. Build a team of productive and engaged reps and take a tour of Lessonly today.