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Article 4 min read

Agent education: 3 top priorities

By Katharine Crane

Last updated July 5, 2018

Want a surefire recipe for dismal customer satisfaction? Treat your agents like they’re disposable. As customer expectations of support continue to rise—for example, the demand for a seamless experience across channels—agents are gaining prominence as ambassadors of your organisation, and influencers of customer happiness and loyalty. So is the need to explore ways for your agents to learn and grow, whether that’s within the realm of support or elsewhere within your company. After all, why would you invest in hiring and nurturing talent and not try to keep it?

Recently we sat down with three in-house customer service experts at Zendesk to talk about continuing education in the field. When a company sets out to develop its philosophy on education, what should it emphasise? These are our must-read insights when it comes to agent education:

Growth mindset, growth mindset, growth mindset

It’s expensive to recruit and hire people, and to pay them, to begin with. Get the most value out of them that you can by educating them and giving them opportunities to contribute at a deeper level. Who knows? Anyone on your team might have the next great idea that improves your customer experience, your internal processes, or even your product. But you need to give your people the ability to think and solve problems creatively; you’re not going to get any of this if they’re chained to a script.

That said, policies, processes, and product information have to be written down, which is often a challenge at startups. ‘There’s only five people here, we don’t need to write it down, everybody knows it.’ That lasts for like two minutes, and then people are doing different things.

Training is an investment in time and in money, and like any investment, if it’s done well, it will pay dividends that are much greater than the cost that you put into it. But that cost is real. You have to be willing to make that investment in order to see and benefit from the value. —Dave Dyson, Senior Customer Service Evangelist, San Francisco

“Give people autonomy to find their mastery and purpose.”
—Aya Daisa Babela

Aim for autonomy

Start with the individual’s role in the team and the product. Specifically, the product-training tools, and the types of training that person should have to be comfortable on day one of offering support. No one can really provide support confidently if they don’t even understand the resources available to customers. Solid, comprehensive onboarding that is customised to a person’s role will deeply inform the way in which an agent communicates to customers, and the way they represent a brand.

Next, give people autonomy to find and explore their mastery and purpose in whatever it is they want to do. An agent might not always see support as their end goal. However, they should always see their role as a rich environment where they can grow, whether in support or outside. Companies should support agents with whatever training possible to propel them forward, wherever they need to go. The availability of continuous education is critical. —Aya Daisa Babela, Curriculum Architect, Advocacy Training and Development, Singapore

See mistakes as opportunities

When somebody is doing something wrong, you can plant a powerful seed. Start by saying, “Hey you did this wrong.” But, just like with plants, each stage of an agent’s growth involves a different set of resources, a different set of environments. Identify the problem and work to foster growth from it by drawing on training materials and resources that will help your agents succeed. So many people are willing to tell you what’s wrong without taking those next steps to cultivate positive momentum.

For a company to be successful and foster an environment for growth, it must plant the seeds of training by saying, “We’re going to tell you that this is wrong or this is how you do it—and this is how we’re going to continue to support you.” —Tiann Nelson-Luck, Training Coordinator, Advocacy Training and Development, Madison

Zendesk offers training courses to help your agents explore their talents and better serve your organisation. Learn more.

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