So, you got hired as a customer support agent.
Congratulations! You’re now a part of a special ops force whose sole mission is to keep customers happy.
But once you’re in, what next? How do you get up to speed on the products you’re going to be supporting? You’ll have to learn it inside and out, every detail, every hack, every itty-bitty bug that might possibly occur… well, that ain’t easy.
Your team will want to help but there’s only so much they can teach you. When it comes to customer support, you learn your trade by doing. Here are a few ways:
Devour the knowledge base
A knowledge base (or an “FAQ section” or “Help Center”) is a repository of product hacks, tips and tricks, and answers to frequently asked questions. Go through the kbase and try out everything you find in the product. This way, you can learn without pestering your fellow agents and you will get a clear idea of what your product can and cannot do.
Some support teams also have an internal knowledge base consisting of some workarounds, hacks and solutions, which will not be publicly available. Going through those articles will help you out of some tight spots eventually.
Make support tickets required reading
If your team doesn’t have an internal pool of shared knowledge, then your next best bet is the queue of support tickets. You’d be surprised at the things you can pick up from just reading support tickets – tone, voice, problem hotspots, little details, company policies, product hacks and so on; things that would normally take people months to learn.
Unfortunately, most supervisors are wary of giving a newbie, access to the support dashboard right from day one, which might put a damper on your plans. However, most support software let you create fine-grained roles so you can get around this by asking for just read/view access.
Get yourself a support buddy
Another great way to get up to speed in no time is to find yourself a support buddy. Befriending someone who has been there done that can help you learn the ropes like nothing else. Only by observing a pro at work will you be able to understand how you should be managing time, how to approach a problem, how to deal with frustrated customers and so on; valuable tips and tricks that are not usually written down or communicated.
Learn from past phone calls
The art of phone support is more about listening and less about problem solving. A lot of new support agents mess up with phone calls because they’re so eager to let the customers know that they’re competent enough to solve the problem, that they don’t let the customers get a few sentences in. So, hone your phone support skills by listening to past phone calls.
By listening to experienced agents solve problems, you’ll be able to discern your team’s voice and tone easily. The right amount of listening and helpful tone can make frustrated customers happy, even if there are no immediate solutions to the problems they report. Because in the end, all they want to know is that someone cares about their problem and them.
Try doing mock calls
If you think writing great emails that will appeal to customers is hard, charming them over the phone with just the power of your voice is like a Holy Grail quest. Even seasoned support pros struggle with phone support because it’s a real-time channel and the rep gets only a moment or so to conjure up a solution and use the right voice and tone to convey it.
We’d suggest that you sharpen your skills by doing mock calls with senior personnel. Get them to play the role of a customer and throw day-to-day situations at you; a feature request, a discount request, a bug that hasn’t been solved in a long time etc.
Take your cue from canned responses
Any support team that’s been around for a while would probably have templated answers, stored away, for common questions to help its agents save time. So, the next time you feel a little bit nervous about your answer, thumb through the canned responses and figure out if your answer’s along the same lines. You can also use the canned responses themselves, whenever relevant, and personalize it a wee bit to make it your own.
Successfully pass a product quiz
When in doubt, take a quiz on it. If you’re one of many new agents on deck, buddy up with a fellow newbie and take turns quizzing each other. The quiz doesn’t even have to be a rapid fire-round focusing on product details; you can even throw test scenarios at each other and gauge how empathetic and helpful you are each time.
Another alternative is to persuade a senior support pro into setting a pop quiz; acing it will not only give you much needed confidence but it’ll also help your supervisor gauge where you’ll fit in best.
All this can seem a bit daunting at the beginning, but by the time you finish training, you should be all set and ready for taking customer calls and answering emails.
And don’t worry about making mistakes. Even the most experienced support reps occasionally stumble and make some mistakes. Customer support is the kind of job where you learn something new almost every day. As long as you love helping people out…you’re very much on track to becoming a great support rep!
P.S: While you’re at it, follow our Secret Sauce series to learn from some of the best customer support agents around the world.