There is nothing more terrifying than giving a speech in front of a live audience… except maybe improvising live customer support. Which is why Aircall and MaestroQA recently gathered a crew of customer support leaders to learn how they train their teams to handle the pressure.
Check it out!
Between custom-made artwork, glamour shots at the photo booth (see the photos here!), and one lucky winner of two Hamilton tickets (!!), we walked away with several practical tips for staying stage-ready.
Make room for mistakes
How do you train agents you can trust to handle tough situations? Start small. Colleen Ruggiero, Director of Client Support at Yext, relies on a two-week intensive program. Their rigorous new hire onboarding involves a full immersion into the company culture– learning from peers, conversations with colleagues, and of course training resources to help them learn the ropes.
“It’s important that we’re giving people an opportunity to mess up in a safe space until they’re confident enough to go out on their own,” Colleen noted.
After a few days, it’s time to start introducing the new agents to simulated situations. Test tickets and fake phone calls are the next steps before having real customer interactions.
Elena Micich, Director of Operations at Attune, also finds value in immersive training and low-stakes experiments.
“Failure is tuition,” Elena told the audience. “We all fail, but we take that and use it as an opportunity to learn, document what works, and then use that information in the future.”
Emphasize the soft skills
Soft skills will make or break your success in customer support. Which is why Yext makes sure to constantly train (and re-train) all agents on social subtleties.
“We place a very heavy emphasis on soft skills and de-escalation training,” Colleen explained. “Even if you don’t have the answer, soft skills will help you navigate complex client interactions.”
This reminded Caroline Nolan, CX Manager at Brooklinen, of a situation recently faced by her team. One of her agents had customers who kept calling back or were unhappy. However, this agent also had the fastest response and resolution times at the company. Something didn’t fit.
“Even if you don’t have the answer, soft skills will help you navigate complex client interactions.”
After looking into this, Caroline found out that while the agent thought the problem was solved, the customers did not always feel the same way. That was a teaching moment.
“We immediately implemented a new policy after that. Now, unless someone thanks you and states that you’ve helped them solve their problem, you can’t move on to a new ticket,” Caroline said.
Taking the time to learn what your customers need, from what they’re saying– as well as by reading between the lines– is key to having a solid foundation when it comes to handling live situations.
Involve the whole team
The strongest customer support teams understand that consistent success is rarely the result of outstanding solo performances. Contributions big and small come from every corner of their companies.
At Attune, the CX team works hard to make sure that everyone is involved in delighting clients. The company recently assembled ‘customer care teams’ that let colleagues from other departments shadow the team and answer questions.
“When the product or tech team is about to launch a new feature, they think of our customer care team.”
“We integrated it into new hire onboarding because we found that it not only builds empathy, but creates a sense of customer advocacy as well,” said Elena. “Now when the product or tech team is about to launch a new feature, they think of our customer care team.”
Yext also sees the importance of this collaborative spirit, making sure their sales and marketing teams understand the limitations of the product and avoid giving customers unreasonable expectations.
“If a marketing ad is about to go out, for example, and we think that it could be misleading or cause problems down the line, we’re not afraid to be vocal,” Caroline echoed. “We empowered our team to speak up and point out red flags before they become an issue.”
Keep up morale
Team morale is vital to a healthy and successful workplace. But a bad customer interaction or upsetting feedback can start to sap the team’s energy. So how do Attune, Brooklinen, and Yext build resilience?
“We make sure to stay involved,” Elena tells us. “If there’s a company-wide event, customer care is invited, even if it’s just a small stand-up.”
Colleen agrees. Busy phone lines and mounting ticket queues are no excuse for letting team chemistry lag at Yext.
“We shut off the phones!” She says. “We don’t let phone queues stop us from going to meetings or participating in events. Our focus is on our team and making them feel connected, and once we have that we’re fine.”
But how do you foster connection when part of your team is located across the country?
“For our remote team, we fly out and do the onboarding training with them one-on-one. We continue conversations on Slack during the workday so nobody feels left out,” Caroline explained.
And when it comes time to reward people, Brooklinen is a fan of real, tangible rewards. For every five-star rating that an agent gets, they can grab a free coffee or lunch.
“We encourage team happy hours or for people to leave work early when they hit their numbers,” Caroline continued. ”Whatever rewards people want that will make them feel valued.”
Want to see more? Check out the full video of the event below!