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Article 24 min read

2023 customer service training guide + templates and resources

Prepare your team to deliver great customer experiences with these customer service training ideas.

By Erin Hueffner, Director, Customer Success

Last updated April 3, 2023

Customers expect fast, convenient, high-quality customer service. And if they don’t get it, they won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. After just one bad experience, 61% of customers will dump you for a competitor — some might even tell you (and everyone else) about their poor experience on social media too.

The key to keeping the customers you already have — and attracting new ones — is to deliver great customer experiences. But to do so, you must provide your staff with excellent customer service training. This will not only enhance your team’s performance but also improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Follow along to learn the basics of customer service training so you can build a robust, engaging programme that takes your customer service to the next level.

What is customer service training?

Customer service training is teaching support staff what they need to know to increase customer satisfaction. It involves coaching and informing agents about your product or service, how to communicate with customers and how to use support software.

“Customer service training helps your support agents provide the best experience that keeps customers coming back,” says Brett Bowser, Community Engagement Manager at Zendesk.

Who should be involved in customer service training programmes?

customer service training

Employees in customer-facing roles — like sales, account management and front office — should undergo comprehensive training. But it’s beneficial for everyone to have some training on your customer service philosophy.

Customer service is more than just a department. It’s an entire philosophy that each employee — from new hires to CEO — needs to buy into. Building this philosophy into your company culture and customer service training programmes helps reinforce the principle that customers are the heart of your business.

Who should go through the training programme?

At some point, every person at your company will have an impact on a customer. That means every employee should go through customer service training courses. Depending on their role, some may simply need a basic level of training, while others will require an extensive programme.

Customer service representatives (CSRs) are usually a customer’s first point of contact with your company. Their training must be detailed and thorough so they’re equipped to meet or exceed customer expectations.

Other employees, like the warehouse team, may require less customer service training but still might have opportunities to make an impression on buyers.

Say someone in the warehouse doesn’t pack a box correctly and the product arrives damaged. The warehouse employee still impacted the customer’s experience, even though they never interacted with the customer directly. Company-wide customer support training will reinforce the idea that everyone influences the overall customer experience.

Who should be involved in curriculum creation?

When creating the curriculum for anything related to customer service, talk to the people who know best: your team.

Get feedback from customer-facing CSRs, who interact with customers every day and understand pain points that you can eliminate with training.

You can even enlist an employee with a history of delivering top-notch customer service to help lead the training.

Why effective customer service training matters

customer service training

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 68% of consumers say most businesses need to improve the training of their customer service agents. To make matters worse, only one in five agents are extremely happy with the training they receive.

68% of consumers say most businesses need to improve the training of their customer service agents.

Training in customer service provides agents with the knowledge and skills they need to handle a wide variety of situations, from helping a difficult customer to engaging a repeat buyer. It also empowers customer service reps to work more efficiently and confidently.

The result is motivated agents, happier customers and a better bottom line.

  • Creates great customer experiences

Our CX Trends Report revealed that 54% of shoppers believe customer service is an afterthought for most of the businesses they buy from. They’re dealing with long wait times, needing to repeat information after being transferred between departments and sometimes speaking with a non-empathetic agent.

It’s crucial to train employees to treat each interaction with care and to create a positive experience. Good customer service is more than just finding a fast solution to a single customer issue. It’s about seeing customer interactions as opportunities for valuable engagement and building long-term relationships through rich, personalised conversations.

  • Helps build customer loyalty

Customers who have great experiences with a company are more likely to be repeat buyers: in our CX Trends Report, 81% of consumers say high-quality customer service increases the chances they’ll make another purchase. But if your reps aren’t trained to provide those excellent support experiences, it’s a moot point.

In today’s competitive landscape, customer service is a key differentiator between companies. Adequately training customer service teams will give you an edge over competitors and, as a result, help you gain more loyal customers and improve customer retention.

  • Boosts customer retention

When agents aren’t properly trained, they can’t ‘wow’ customers — and lacklustre experiences occur more often than you’d think. Our report found that nearly 70% of interactions result in customers feeling like businesses need to improve the training of their customer service representatives.

Business leaders know this is an issue and understand that solid customer service training can impress buyers and keep them coming back:

  • 60% of leaders say customer service improves customer retention.
  • 83% agree that agents play a vital role in customer retention.
  • Increases job satisfaction

Studies show that there’s a link between employee satisfaction and continued learning. Training improves employees’ performance and when they perform better, they find more value in their roles. That’s wonderful news for any industry, but it’s critical in customer service because happy employees lead to happier customers.

When you invest in support agents’ careers, they’re more likely to feel satisfied at work and display higher levels of engagement.

“If you skip the training component, you compromise your agent engagement because they’re going to get bored or burnt out,” says Jonathan Brummel, a Customer Experience Strategist at Zendesk.

  • Enables omnichannel support

As customer expectations change, your support agents need the training to keep up with these shifts — especially when it comes to communication.

Most customer support teams aren’t offering channels beyond phone and email:

Only one in three companies provide omnichannel support, according to our CX Trends Report. At the same time, consumers expect to reach support teams on the channels they use to connect with friends and family. In our digital-first world, that includes live chat, texting and social media.

The highest-performing customer service teams are almost seven times more likely to have implemented conversational customer service capabilities, including adding messaging channels or making it possible to switch between channels for a single ticket. If you want to compete with those high performers, you must offer omnichannel support and train your team on how to use it.

The 5 different types of customer service training

customer service training

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to training. Choose the model that best suits your team’s budget, timeline and needs.

1. New hire customer service training

Onboarding training focuses on getting new customer service reps up to speed as quickly as possible. It normally covers company culture, software and product knowledge. Ideally, the programme should be between four and six weeks in length.

Ask questions during the training process to see how new hires are feeling. Here are a few questions to help gauge the status of their journey:

  • Are they understanding all the training material?
  • Do they have questions you can answer?
  • How can you improve the process to make learning easier?

Regularly checking in ensures recent employees are on track, and getting feedback helps you better understand how to enhance the training for the next cohort.

2. In-house employee training

Support managers or highly skilled reps usually lead the in-house customer service training for employees using company training materials.

With this type of training, you can design and build a customised curriculum that addresses your team’s weak spots. Because each business is unique, creating a programme that aligns with your processes and culture is much more effective than trying to mimic what others are doing.

“When it comes to a company wanting to invest in their customer service team, a lot of those resources should come from in-house,” Bowser advises. “Businesses have different nuances when working with customers, so it makes sense to have a team dedicated to building that kind of empathetic training for their customer support team.”

To identify the challenges your training should tackle, ask your team about the difficulties they face or look through your customer service software for trends. Say you notice that response times are slow — you can ask a support agent with good first reply times to share their process with others.

3. Consultant workshops

Consultant workshops enlist the knowledge of an external customer service expert. They’re typically held over several days of intensive training sessions.

The upside: Your agents learn from an expert in the field. Oftentimes, these sessions are also highly engaging, so your team is likely to come out of them feeling inspired.

The downside: The lessons are short-lived. It’s easy to generate excitement in a few days, but agents might not adopt the ideas they learned in the long-term. The workshops aren’t cheap, either. They generally cost between $1,000 and $1,500 per participant.

To get more value out of consultant workshops, consider recording them and storing the videos in an internal knowledge base for employees. They’ll be able to reference the sessions whenever they need information from the workshop or some extra motivation.

4. Customer service refresher training

Even for experienced reps, ongoing training should be an expected part of their job. Some customer service skills can get rusty with time, so it’s a good idea to have a routine performance check. If reps are lacking, they would need to take a refresher course.

Recruit experienced staff to help with training to reduce your budget and help seasoned employees reinforce all they’ve learned. Just make sure they have the bandwidth to teach team members on top of their primary job responsibilities.

5. Special circumstance customer service training

Special circumstance training is typically a one-off based on a unique event or issue. Think of new product releases, new internal software adoption or a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. These sessions must be held as soon as possible after the event.

Use a training format that can be created quickly — like a video recording — so you can swiftly inform your support reps. You’ll also accelerate learning if agents can independently complete the training and have a clear deadline for finishing it.

Which customer service training skills should you cover?

Training programmes should cover both hard and soft skills in addition to the company’s specific philosophies and communication styles. Excellent customer service is much more than answering customers’ questions. It requires skills to ‘read’ a customer’s emotional cues, manage an influx of support tickets, adequately resolve issues and keep cool when things get heated.

A great training programme equips agents with the following skills so they can provide superior customer service:

Soft skills:

  • Active listening
  • Positivity
  • Empathy
  • Confidence
  • Creativity
  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication

Hard skills:

  • Product and internal process knowledge
  • Customer advocacy
  • Customer service philosophy


Soft skills for customer service reps

Soft skills are character traits that help you interact with other people effectively. Here are some soft skills that your teams can focus on to build relationships with customers.


Hard skills for customer service reps

Hard skills are abilities that you can measure. Here are a few examples of hard skills that help customer service teams thrive.


How to create a customer service training programme (and continually improve it)

Develop a training programme that begins with basic skills and covers company processes and product knowledge. As agents learn more, the courses should steadily become more advanced.

But creating a training programme is only the first step. From there, you and your team should regularly evaluate whether the training aligns with agent needs and evolving customer expectations. If it doesn’t, make the necessary adjustments.

Map the end-to-end training process

Before you start brainstorming topics, it’s a good idea to plan the customer service training process from end to end. The training materials should:

  • Welcome the new hires
  • Introduce them to the company and culture
  • Walk them through their roles at a steady pace

Break down the training into daily, weekly and monthly tasks, and list goals and milestones you expect new hires to reach.

By mapping out the process, you’ll be able to align your customer service training with your company’s values and organisational goals.

Decide how to host your course

While fleshing out your customer service training programme, determine how you want to host the course. Here are a few options.

  • Live classroom teaching: This classic method is useful for interactive and team-building exercises. It requires a live instructor in a classroom setting.
  • Online training modules: Online customer service training modules make it easy to onboard larger classes of new hires. Plus, they’re easily adaptable and accessible from mobile devices.
  • Video training: You can create training videos for a variety of topics. After the initial production, they’re highly valuable because you can use them again and again.
  • Job shadowing: Watching an employee work and interact with real customers allows the new hires to get a better grasp of the role.
  • Mentoring: Assign a personal mentor for one-on-one learning and friendly guidance. This is a great option for new hires who may have questions but aren’t comfortable asking them in a larger classroom setting.

It’s important to keep your team engaged through the training process with fun exercises, quizzes, interactive videos, group projects and more.

Also keep in mind that your new hires training will differ from refresher courses for established employees.

Maintain and update resources

To keep training up to date, establish guidelines for regularly reviewing it.

“Because customer service processes are constantly changing, you need to have a process to keep the process updated,” Bowser says.

First, create a dedicated team that will be in charge of storing and reviewing the content. You can appoint a rep to handle training materials if you have a small team.

Next, set a time frame for reviewing resources. For example, your team can audit onboarding articles and videos every six months.

Remember, you may need to adjust your schedule for new product releases or updates. If your company launches a new version of its flagship product, you’ll want to create a knowledge base article or video about it right away.

Tie in company culture

Company culture should be incorporated into virtually every lesson you teach to new hires and established team members. Your employees represent your company and any interaction is a reflection of your brand.

Each training is a valuable opportunity for all team members to learn more about your company’s vision, goals and values. In addition, the team can better understand how their roles help propel the company’s mission.

Your new hires may already be familiar with your brand, but integrating your company culture into their training from the beginning can help them become brand champions more easily.

Listen to internal and external feedback

No training programme is perfect, so be prepared to accept feedback from agents and make improvements.

“Be ready to change those resources or use some external resources instead, to make sure that you’re providing the materials that best serve your customer service team,” says Bowser.

The changes might not be what you expect, so it’s important to keep an open mind.

Measure training programme success

Gauge the effectiveness of your customer support training programme by measuring the performance of each agent and the team as a whole.

Say you recently launched a training programme. Are customers receiving faster resolutions? Are customers getting accurate answers?

You might send a customer survey to see whether service quality is improving. You can also use your customer service software to track key metrics — including first response time and customer satisfaction score — and ensure they’re moving in the right direction. If you don’t see any changes after the training programme ends, that’s a sign to adjust your methods or overhaul the programme.

Customer service metrics can also signal the need for new programmes. For example, low resolution rates might indicate that agents require more training to bolster their product knowledge.

How to hire the right customer service representative

customer service training

Hiring the right people will help you build a solid foundation for your team. Identify candidates who have the ideal combination of customer service traits and skills.

Although candidates can learn many skills on the job, those who already possess them are likely going to be great customer service representatives who can put your team ahead of the curve.

Here are some characteristics to consider when assessing candidates.


The ability to learn quickly and the desire to keep learning each day are critical in customer service. Agents must be able to listen and understand the customer to quickly diagnose a problem and see a path to resolution.

Gauge this by asking their previous employers or references nuanced questions about how they handled certain situations or how fast they learned the intricacies of their prior role.

Communication skills

Interviews are high-stress situations — much like phone calls from angry customers — so you should be able to get a sense of a candidate’s communication skills during the interview process. How they communicate with you is indicative of how they’ll converse with customers.

Gauge this by by their interview answers and overall demeanour. If the candidate communicates naturally and easily, they might be a good pick.

Experience in customer service

A candidate’s resume should tell you much of what you need to know about their experience. Review their work experience and see what aligns with the customer service industry. Awards and accolades can also provide insight, but note that not every business offers them.

Gauge this by by paying close attention to how long they stayed with each company and asking about hard metrics that prove they were valuable to their prior companies (like customer satisfaction score, average resolution times, etc).


Do they love helping people? Being passionate about customer service is a quality that translates well and suggests the candidate will thrive in their role. Customers appreciate it when agents are enthusiastic and willing to resolve their issues. They will remember the positive customer experience and won’t hesitate to buy from your company again.

Gauge this by by listening to how they speak about the role. They might express genuine excitement about helping people or describe a time they went above and beyond for a customer.

Problem-solving skills

Customer service representatives tackle a variety of issues every day. When an agent can think critically and find creative ways to solve a problem, they can be an asset to your team. Taking this type of initiative shows drive and leadership, which can go a long way in customer service.

Gauge this by by asking the candidate to describe a time when they needed to assess a situation and solve a problem quickly.

Customer service training template and resources to help new reps

As you start building your programme, take advantage of resources that allow you to maximise your customer service training.

Our customer service training template can help you bring new hires up to speed quickly.

Download the free template

Happy teams equal happy customers

Setting up your customer service team for success is imperative for customer satisfaction. Well-trained reps are more likely to be confident, knowledgeable and happy in their work — all of which directly benefit your buyers.

To ensure you’re giving your team the tools they need to succeed, consider a top-of-the-line customer service solution. This enables you to provide conversational experiences, personalised customer service, omnichannel support and self-service options.

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