The Importance of Role-Play in Customer Service Training

Many external Customer Services Courses are theoretical, with only a little practical application to the real world of the attendee. In-house training given by experienced staff or an in-house trainer has huge benefits. It is relevant, on the job Customer Service Training which will, hopefully, combine the technical knowledge of the job with call handling skills with Customers. However, there is a difficulty with this in the way the Company personnel may view their Customers.

The Difficulty with Internal Trainers
A big downside of Customer Service Training provided by internal trainers is often that the agent learns to see the Customer interaction from the Company’s side ONLY. The problem with this is that the Customer Service Representative then finds difficulty seeing each situation through the Customer’s eyes.

The result of this is –

1. They may find difficulty empathising with the caller, and controlling a difficult Customer effectively.
2. With the passing of time, this CSR now becomes more experienced, but the lack of appreciation of the Customer’s situation is more likely to become worse, rather than better.
3. The result is a group of CSRs with little appreciation of their Customers. Because of this, they are only building the skills to handle pleasant Customers and easy queries, not the more challenging situations or irate Customers.
4. The group will then stereotype the more challenging callers as ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ etc.
5. This is then passed on when training new recruits.

Breaking the Cycle
Breaking this cycle begins with planning Customer Service Training sessions that includes –
1. Focussing on their Role with their Customers expressed in terms of the Customer’s satisfaction
2. Fostering a positive attitude to the Customer, seeing the world through their eyes
3. Understanding the importance of each Customer experience to the Company and to all the staff. Happy Customers come back, they spend, the Company has money and we all have jobs!
4. Appreciation that each Customer is different, each is important and each is worth all the effort to ensure they are satisfied. There is no Customer, or Customer type, that is not worth the bother!

These training sessions can be held by in-house trainers, Team Leaders or other experienced staff. However, it is important that the trainer really is Customer focussed, and is promoting the right positive values and attitudes.

A good idea for existing Teams is to plan short Customer Focus sessions at the regular Team Meetings. Team members can be allocated to various projects to promote awareness of Customers. However, this will only take the Team so far. The real key is to involve both new and experienced personnel in Customer Service Training sessions that involve a good deal of role-play.

The Benefits of Role-play in Customer Service Training
Role-play sessions are extremely powerful in building Customer awareness, and in building new skills and techniques to handle different Customer types and different situations.

They have four major benefits –

1. The person playing the agent will learn to build up their focus, their skills and the timing of the call
2. The person playing the Customer will experience what real Customer’s feel. They will know when an approach or phrase works – or when it will trigger a negative reaction on the Customer
3. At the de-brief of the role-play, the Customer can give the Agent what worked, what didn’t work, and what they needed to hear that was missing from the interaction.
4. They can plan another approach, and try it again and again till they get it right.
With role-plays, they not only appreciate even the most difficult Customer, but they learn that this person is just human, and they can be turned around with effective use of good skills.

Ensure all Customer Service Staff use Role-Play
If you are planning bringing in an external Customer Service trainer, make sure they have a high level of role-play on their course and that they have a sound methodology for running the role-plays.

In-house personnel can carry out role-play sessions very well, and these are hugely beneficial. Each Team Leader can take a tricky situation, and have role-plays to find a better way of handling this. One tricky call solved each week will really improve any Team.

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