In a business environment where companies are competing on the basis of customer experience, providing excellent customer service has become a priority.
For businesses, customer service is a function that helps them establish a connection with customers. It is this experience that customers carry with them for a long time, inspiring them to write positive reviews and become advocates of your brand.
Since the kind of experience you provide has a long term impact on customers, it's paramount for businesses to invest in training customer service teams, who are majorly responsible for taking care of customers' requirements.
The best way to ensure that your support team is abreast of everything they need to know, to perform exceptionally in their jobs is by creating a customer service training manual. Yes, it does require your time and effort, but in the end, you will find it worth it, given the fact that:
- It empowers support staff to self-train
- It increases the productivity and efficiency of your customer support team
In this article, we will be explaining to you what a customer service manual is and how you can create one for your staff.
What is a Customer Service Manual
A customer service training manual is an essential tool for instructing and training your support team on the best way to offer top-notch services to your customers. As such, this manual should be comprehensive and include all the information your staff needs to craft unmatched experiences for customers.
Ideally, a customer service training manual should have relevant information suitable for resolving frequent customer concerns. Besides, it should also comprise of internal policy provisions on how service or support teams should handle issues relating to product returns, service issues, etc.
A customer support training manual combined with a customer-focused mindset and positive attitude can create a solid foundation for your business growth and success.
How to Build a Customer Service Training Manual
As you start creating a customer service training manual, there are several steps that you should follow to ensure that the final output enables your support and service staff to perform their jobs optimally.
1. Place the Customer at the Core of the Manual Development Process
Often, when you train your employees, the focus is on them. You consider the experience and skills that they bring to the company, and your goals are crafted around the skills they possess and the new skills they acquire in training.
However, when it comes to training your customer-facing staff, your training must begin with the customer in mind. This is because the success of your business relies on:
- Customers having positive interactions with your service and support teams
- Their problems were resolved effectively and efficiently
- Customers being satisfied at the end of their communication with your service or support teams
One way to place customers at the heart of your customer manual development process is to understand the biggest challenges in customer service and what it takes to resolve them. Customers have different needs, and when they reach out to your staff, they should be treated differently.
This makes empathy a crucial aspect of customer service. Though not a common term in business, empathy matters when it comes to customer service because it is about understanding the desires and feelings of the other person.
To make customer service manual development customer-centric and infuse empathy in the way your staff deal with clients, ensure that your customer service and support teams:
- Approach customers with a warm, personalized welcome
- Understand the needs of customers by probing politely
- Present practical solutions that are of real help
- Listen to customers carefully to address their concerns or issues
- End customer interactions on a positive note so that they come back again
2. Determine the Scope of the Customer Service
Usually, a customer service manual covers different topics that are relevant to the work of your customer-facing staff. So, how do you determine what topics to include in the manual? While you may be developing a training manual for reps, you may want the document to be helpful for other teams such as sales and marketing that work on customer service principles.
The scope of your training manual should align with your interpretation of customer service. Companies that succeed in customer services tend to widen their scope of customer service and include almost all employees in its gamut.
This is because increasingly, customer service is going beyond just troubleshooting or solving customer problems. Its scope is expanded to ensure that customers get a positive experience throughout the sales, implementation, and product use phases. All this is connected to empathy - every person in your business should be focused on supporting customers in realizing their goals.
Essentially, your training manual should provide a wide range of information not just about your policies on customer service, but also about how employees in all roles can contribute towards fostering a customer-service attitude in the organization.
The best way to achieve this is by building a training manual that is engaging and interesting for everyone thinking of customer service.
3. Highlight Your Customer Service Philosophy or Practices
Your customer manual should highlight the general customer service practices in your business. These include customer service philosophical ideas that should be taken into account while dealing with clients.
According to Forbes, a good example of a company that highlights its philosophy in its employee training is Disney. Any new staff joining this company has to go through the Traditions Training to learn about the basics of Disney philosophy - which is solidly grounded on the customer.
Customer service practices can be highlighted using terms that are attractive and strike the readers. Creating an acronym that's easy to remember is one of the best ways to do this.
For instance, you can find simple phrases or sentences that summarize your customer service practices or philosophy and come up with an acronym around the same.
Take the example of ProProfs. It works with the aim to DELIGHT its customers. Here the acronym DELIGHT stands for all the values that the brand follows.
- D - Delight
- E - Empathy
- L - Learning + Innovation
- I - Integrity
- G - Goal Oriented
- H - Hands-On
- T - Team Work
This acronym sums up what ProProfs is and what it stands by.
Usually, each of these points will have its details, but when employees are able to recall the simple phrases, they will be well on the way to providing excellent customer service. Whatever your simple phrases or words are, ensure they are reflective of your customer service practices. You can reference them throughout your training manual to reiterate and reinforce your customer service principles in your employees.
4. Provide an Outline of Customer Service Policies
Your customer service training manual should have a section on the policies that guide your customer service function. Based on your customer service needs, consider explaining the following issues in your document:
Who Can Take What Decisions
Some companies allow customer service staff to make most decisions. However, others opt to have managers make decisions. Whichever option you choose, express it in your customer service manual.
Ideally, your training manual should give clarity on the power of customer service reps - for instance, can they offer special discounts, provide warranties, or give refunds?
Often, these are the issues that build or break customer relationships. Hence it's essential to think them through critically. If you want customer service agents to escalate the problems to their seniors, be sure to include in the manual:
- The exact issues that they should escalate
- The chain of command to be followed during the escalation
- Communication channels that customer service reps should use to contact their seniors
- What customer service reps should say to customers during the issue escalation process
Providing this information in the customer support training manual helps in ensuring that:
- The process is efficient
- Decisions are made by the right people
- Customers are aware of what is going on
Details of Interactions With Customers
In this section, you should provide all the information your customer service team needs to know while interacting with customers.
The training manual should provide your employees with instructions, guidance, and advice on how to interact with customers. For retail businesses, this could mean face to face or even phone interactions. Your manual can also include how to address queries over emails. This will give teams an idea of how to go about it.
Emphasis should be made on non-verbal communication, as well. For instance, the customer support training manual should provide advice on:
- Tone to be used while interacting with clients
- Facial expressions and their impact
- Eye contact and its importance
- Body language and its effect on customers
The customer training manual should also help employees understand:
- How you want them to interact with customers
- Whether you prefer a particular way of greeting customers
- How you would like customer service teams to conclude their interactions with customers
To ensure that your staff understands what is expected of them, you may proceed to provide some examples of how they should deal with frequent issues or complaints. Also, provide information on:
- What wait times are acceptable
- Phrases or words that should be avoided when interacting with customers
- Challenges that have emerged in the past
- What customer agents should do when dealing with unhappy customers. These are often difficult moments. The stress can be overwhelming and can cause support teams to forget what they ought to do. The customer service training manual can be of great help in such cases.
Refund/Product Return Policies
If your business sells products, you need to have a clear policy on refunds that your customer support or service staff can access and execute with ease. Refunds and returns are common customer service issues. As such, you must provide information on how they should be handled effectively.
For large B2B companies and service providers, the execution of refund policies is more nuanced. In this case, you can request customer service reps to escalate refund issues to their seniors and explain the escalation process in the training manual. The manual should also include information on the methods you use to make refunds or returns.
5. Capture Feedback From Staff and Customers
Feedback from customers and employees can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your customer service manual and improve it over time. To capture feedback from customers, you may carry out a survey or, better still, talk to your major clients to find out about their experiences with your online manual. In addition to your customers, consider talking to employees too. As they spend a lot of time interacting with customers, your frontline staff will have valuable insights into the challenges they face while dealing with clients and the perception of customers regarding your offerings. Seek feedback from them and make relevant improvements in your service manual.
Some specific issues that you could explore with these teams include:
- What knowledge gaps have your service team noticed in the customer service manual?
- Have they noticed any policies in the company that appear to work in theory and not in practice?
- What important issues are not addressed in the customer service manual?
Once you gather feedback, use it to improve your customer service manual. But even as you do so, be willing to take things further because some of the feedback you receive from customers could require further action, in addition to improving the service manual.
Take, for instance, you talk to your customers, and an issue such as delay in getting responses on live chat features consistently in your conversations. In such a situation, you will need to relook the process of how your staff handles customer engagements over chat, and make appropriate changes in your service manual. You may also need to go a step further and recruit a few chat operators to improve the situation.
6. Update Your Training Manual
As you develop your training manual, bear in mind that it can't be static. It will have to be regularly updated with new information about any changes in processes, policies, and much more.
Your staff will experience new situations, there will be constant changes in your business procedures, and new services or products will be developed. All these changes will have to be documented in your training manual to ensure that whosoever uses it gets the latest information.
There are several reasons why you need to keep your customer training manual up-to-date:
Errors or mistakes in the manual
Regardless of how careful you are, you are bound to find errors in your training manual long after you are done developing it. You will spot processes that you didn't elaborate well or statements that are obsolete. These errors become apparent as you continue using the manual.
Changes in organizational policies
Organizational policies are dynamic - they keep changing as the business and technological environments change. These policy changes should be reflected in your customer service manual, particularly when they are related to your customers.
Changes in processes or procedures
You may decide to change some processes or procedures to improve efficiency in customer service. For instance, you may realize that allowing customer agents the autonomy to give special discounts is becoming costly for the company. Because of this, you decide to have them escalate the issue to a senior person instead. This process adjustment needs to be reflected in the customer service manual.
Here are simple ideas on how you can keep your training manual updated throughout:
- Get feedback from your employees and customers and use it to update your training menu
- Have a schedule for reviewing and updating the content
- Identify a team or an individual, best suited for updating the document regularly.
A customer service training manual plays a critical role in building the capacity of customer service and support teams to deliver exceptional services to customers. For businesses that are new to the idea of creating a manual might not have clarity on how to go about it.
Following the steps that we have discussed and the customer service manual examples highlighted above will help you develop a manual confidently. Rather than starting on a blank page, you can find a customer service training manual template online and use it to create a customized manual for your employees.
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