It's a common problem for customer service leaders, but one that is very fixable, if you change the perception of why service agents need to engage in continuous learning. It may take a bit of convincing and perhaps a few attitude adjustments, but with a solid strategy and consistent tactics you can lead your team to see training in a new light. You can in fact create a culture of learning within your own department, even if it's not a tenet of your broader company culture.
Start by regularly conveying to your team that it’s not meant to be torture, but rather, is good for them! Remind them that training is a proven boost to their job satisfaction, daily performance, and career path. It's not meant to bog them down, but rather to propel them forward. Make sure they clearly understand the benefits, instead of presenting training as a burden — just another thing to add to their task list. Heck, you can even make it fun by gamifying it or offering perks/spiffs for achieving training goals.
Remember, Customer Service is a Really Hard Job
It's also important to maintain a genuine sense of empathy for how difficult their jobs as service agents are. You may have done this type of work prior to taking your current role in management. Hopefully you did because it makes you better equipped to put yourself in their shoes.
Remember, they're fielding questions (and often problems) all day long. Of course, customers with questions may not be that trying, but customers with problems are often not happy, which can be a very real mental and/or emotional drain on your reps. In these interactions, they're in the hot seat. They're responsible for diffusing a stressful situation, calming the customer if she's upset, and then, actually solving the problem. That's a pretty tall order — which they tackle day in and day out, often cheerfully.
So, when you then assign new training on top of their already difficult job, they may sigh and roll their eyes, "Ugh, another thing I have to do today?" Take those reactions with a grain of salt for a while, until you've instituted the culture of learning and gotten your team on board. Eventually, those eye-rolls should be few and far between, if you've provided valuable, engaging learning content that makes it easier (not harder!) for them to do their jobs and/or advance in their careers.
Listen to What They Want to Learn
As you begin to overcome the challenges of getting customer service agents to embrace training, you can take things to the next level by involving them in the training program itself. Whether formally (via surveys, etc.) or informally (at meetings, etc.), ask agents where they feel their skill gaps are. Ask them when they feel least comfortable or least able to address customer issues. Is there a product training course that needs to be created to increase their comfort level? Is there a soft skills course that would enable them to better communicate or resolve challenges more smoothly?
Begin to compile a list of the "missing courses" as defined by the agents themselves. You'll likely have some moments of illumination as they tell you what they want to learn, versus you always "pushing" courses or learning paths at them. And, don't be overwhelmed at the idea of creating all of this new learning content yourself. Take advantage of off-the-shelf content, which is readily available and ready to be dropped right into your LMS. Especially when it comes to customer service skills, there's a ton of quality content out there that can be universally applied, regardless of your industry or company's specific products and services.
Solve Your Customer Service Training Woes
If you're interested in learning more on this subject, please take advantage of our latest white paper, How to Alleviate Your Customer Service Team’s Top Five Complaints about Training. It outlines how to overcome resistances, get your team to engage in learning, and eventually get them to embrace it.
Download the paper to learn how to:
- Put an end to the “I don’t have time” excuse
- Show Service professionals the value of training
- Eliminate fears that training signals underperformance
- Prove that soft skills can be learned and improved
- Create a culture of learning from Day One