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When New Hire Training Transforms the Customer Experience (And When it Doesn't)

New hire training can be one of the most instrumental factors in delivering happiness to your customers—but it isn’t by default. There are three key elements to turning your new hires into one of your most positive influences on your customers’ experience with your company:

  1. Hiring the right people
  2. Providing the right new hire training
  3. Being serious and diligent about ongoing professional development

If your company engages customers or prospects via live chat on your website, you might find value in these live chat training tips specifically.

Hiring the Right People

The three key characteristics that you want customers to take away from their experience with your customer service staff are: fast, friendly (or at least courteous) and knowledgeable.

New hire training can change the level of knowledge a candidate has about your offerings, but you might consider how much training can accomplish in terms of changing with the pace at which the candidate works or extent of the candidate’s communications skills (especially his/her patience!).

Your new hire training is unlikely to be successful if you’re not bringing in relevant candidates in the first place! You can learn more about that in ICMI’s virtual training course.

You might also try alternative or incremental approaches to hiring, as Chase Clemons of supportops.co discussed with other leaders in the space in his New Hire Trials podcast in October.

Providing the Right New Hire Training

The new hire training can begin now that you have a quality candidate. This process should include

  1. teaming the new hire with a high-performing staff member for a brief period,
  2. giving your new hire access to and general orientation with your company’s knowledge base(s) (e.g. wiki, manual, training library) where s/he can find the answers s/he may need for common issues,
  3. giving your new hire premade scripts to work from as templates for interactions (but encouraging him/her to personalize them beyond the key details),
  4. reviewing transcripts of interactions that represent examples of FAQs, well-handled conversations and poorly-handled conversations (these transcripts also serve as good examples of how the premade scripts can be used and how they can be personalized, and how that can go wrong),
  5. starting the new hire off slow (both in terms of volume and complexity of interactions), and
  6. continuing to review transcripts of the most common, best practice and “never let this happen again” interactions staff have had with your customers.

In this manner, your new hire training will provide several (and continuing) opportunities to model “good behavior” and accommodate different learning styles. Remember: your goal is to leave your customers feeling that they were served promptly by someone who was friendly and knowledgeable.

For three quick tips in what to avoid doing in your new hire training, check out this brief article from Jeff Toister.

Being Serious and Diligent about Ongoing Professional Development

While professional development may sound totally out of scope for a conversation about new hires and new hire training, the fact is you won’t be able to retain (and in some instances recruit) some of the best candidates without demonstrating learning opportunities and growth potential within your organization—even if that doesn’t necessarily mean a change in job title or responsibilities. Additionally, it’s reasonable to assume you are getting less than the maximum value of your high-quality, fantastically-trained new hires if you aren’t offering them continuing opportunities to learn and grow.

In many companies, this looks like a “team lead” type role, but in some organizations, this could be a technical lead, who specializes in the nuances of one product or service while continuing to build on their general knowledge of your offerings. This is especially valuable for customer support teams that get questions that go deeper than email/phone interactions can efficiently handle.

Again, a change in responsibilities may not be necessary – but ensuring that the role does not become stagnant is absolutely necessary, for both the new hire and for your company.

Final Considerations

Timing – You know when your busiest seasons are, be sure to have new hire training completed before that season hits or you’re likely to find both your training to have been inadequate and your customer satisfaction to have taken a major hit.

Capacity – It takes time and attention to assist these new team resources. Make sure that whomever the new hires will be shadowing, and whoever will be available to answer questions about the transcripts, will have the bandwidth to support the new hire training for those first few weeks (e.g. not going on vacation, not on-site with a customer or at a conference, not committed to tasks that will leave no time for assisting with new hire training, etc.).

Performance – Unless you are overstaffed (haha yeah right), you’re going to have to balance new hire training with team performance. Expect overall response time to suffer slightly while this training is occurring and set that expectation with relevant stakeholders.

By keeping the above goals, processes and considerations in mind, you will be well-positioned to launch and maintain a new hire training program that creates a growing army of champions for your customers and for your company.