A training manual can sound simple in name. But it can make quite the difference in building a scalable, effective support team. There are many layers to a holistic training manual. So in this article we will cover the top line items. The next few articles will dig deeper into each of the high-level section and include some example material as well.
A training manual creates a scalable process because you can now quickly on-board new agents. It reduces the time required for a new hire to become to a fully functional agent. It also removes bottlenecks by serving as an on-going reference for day-to-day operations. Furthermore, a manual can be a fundamental tool in aligning your team under the same mission and goals. Lastly, it teaches your team how to act as a brand advocate. The combination of these advantages give you the trust that your team is efficiently and effectively acting in the best interest of the company.
Scalability, why does this really matter when I’m just starting out?
Let’s think about the holidays. A scalable process can give you a competitive advantage. In operations, teams project sales and hire preemptively to mitigate overwhelm once sales take off. Ideally, you want your sales and hiring to be both linear and in sync. So, as your sales grow, you can start to hire. This is only possible if your hiring process is expedited, meaning it doesn’t take weeks or month to get someone off the ground. A strong training manual creates a scalable process, which means it could take as little as one week to train a new agent. This means you can wait to hire until sales are increasing. Then you can take that pre-season money you would have spent on hiring and training and instead spend on marketing. Then you can use the money coming from the increased sales to hire once there is a clear signal you must.
Training manuals optimizes the day-to-day and assure consistent quality
Aside from the high-level business planning and team scaling, a manual is critical for the ground level operations too. The manual is a major component in getting your new team aligned under the same mission. It reflects the company voice you want to establish. The manual should clearly indicate the way agents should interact with customers. Cancellations can be a great example. You want your agents to make customers feel supported, but you also do not want to give too much wiggle room. If your agents allow customers to cancel for any reason, this can hurt your bottom line. With a clearly outlined process in your manual, you empower agents to take care of your customers in the best way.
The manual also becomes a go-to reference for agents. This helps ensure a consistent quality across all agents. When there is a clear process outlined for various scenarios, they are handled in the same manner consistently. Think about returns. Without a clear process for handling returns, then each customer case could result in different agent responses. Some product returns might be accepted no questions asked, while others are rejected or request vendor approval. Having one static process creates trust that each case is handled in a way that the company supports. It also allows you to have better control over your cash in and out. Fluctuating error rates such as cancellations or returns are often a result of poor customer support processes.
Lastly, a thorough manual creates data redundancy. There is no singular person holding the primary knowledge. This cuts back on internal back-and-forth, which in turn reduces the time per resolve for cases. It also gives your team more flexibility in terms of turnover. Critical knowledge isn’t lost and team isn’t shut down if a team lead leaves. With a manual, there is a source that all can refer to. Bottlenecks melt away.
Ok, so it’s important. Now what goes in it?
Note: To build a manual, you need to have mapped out the customer experience and top customer questions. The manual will provide instructions on how agents can answer customer’s questions, what language to use, and where to find the right data.
A Customer Support Training Manual Should Include:
- Big picture: what is your company mission, long-term and short-term goals, customer team goals, and a roadmap
- Tools: how to use the tools for
- Email and communication
- Management of ticket and tasks
- Accessing internal data sources to access customer and platform information
- Top Questions & Responses: how to draft responses and what data should be included
- Escalated Cases Process: the internal hierarchy and how do agents handle angry people
- Back office management: labeling system for emails and tickets
- Big Picture: Recapture company and team goals, Key Performance Indicators and what they mean
To be clear, a manual does not need to be one flowing document. It is a collection of resources that any agent can refer to at any time.
Why so much focus on the big picture?
As a leader building this team, you should be aiming to motivate. To do this, it’s helpful to start with the company big picture then connect it the day-to-day customer support operations. The big picture sections can be brief, but they are important to include.
Big picture is where you break down what your company is and why you are in business. Explain to your team who your customers are and how the company wants to treat them. Cover your long-term and short-term goals for the company, then also explain the customer support goals. It should be clear how customer team goals connect to the company goals. Your agents should understand that they each play a part in the company bigger picture, that’s why you hired them.
So start the training manual in a inspirational fashion and then bring it back together at the end of the training manual.
For more information on this leadership approach, watch “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
We’ll dig deeper into the big picture section with some examples in the next article in the series.