4.3 Training CSR staff

4.3 Training CSR staff

As noted previously, a wide variety of training programs and methods for call center training programs exist, including,

  • Classroom activities—workshops, seminars

  • Call observation

  • Product knowledge tests

  • One-on-one monitoring and coaching

  • On-line tutorials

  • Tool kits

Call-handling guidelines should be fully documented and communicated to CSRs on a continuous basis. Documentation should be included in initial CSR training and available at the CSR workstation for quick reference. These standards become part of individual and center performance measurements and are the basis of CSR assessment using call monitoring or other performance measurements. In addition to initial training, CSRs should have ongoing training, which may focus on new technologies, sales or help desk skills, collections, or other topics that can improve the knowledge and skill level of CSRs.

Examples of recommended CSR workshop topics for half-day, one-day, and two-day training sessions are provided next. The CSR workshops described are examples of training syllabuses that provide participants with the foundation knowledge and skills required for individual and team success. Along with an emphasis on handling a variety of customer communications, are included the "why" of customer relations, customer requirements, the changing demands and expectations of customers, good and bad customer service, and how to exceed expectations.

4.4 Recommended topics for CSR workshops

The CSR workshop examples provided here are based extensively on training and curriculum information provided by Bell Contact Centre Solutions, a division of Bell Canada, and are included with permission. There are five recommended CSR workshop categories in the series, which cover a range from basic customer service, sales, and listening skills to help desk and collections. A summary description of each workshop is provided, with details of each workshop syllabus shown in the exhibits that follow.

  1. Excellence in Customer Service (One Day)

    • Communication skills

    • Call control

    • Handling customer complaints

    • Maximizing the call

    • Personal effectiveness

  2. Contact Center Sales Skills (Two Days)

    • Attitudes for success (belief in self, goal-oriented)

    • Skills for success (call preplanning, cultivating, discovering, presenting recommendations, why people buy)

    • Skills practice (applying skills learned)

  3. Building Effective Listening Skills (Half Day)

    • Effective listening

    • Listening skills

    • Role of listening

    • Ten common faults

    • Developing a personal action plan

  4. Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk (One Day)

    • Behavior leading to a positive customer experience

    • Understanding the difference between basic and excellent service and the effect it has on customers

    • Communicating with and understanding customers, using effective listening and questioning

    • Addressing and satisfying a difficult or irate customer

    • Dealing with different personalities

    • Declining with diplomacy

    • Negotiating mutually positive outcomes

    • Learning how to manage stress

  5. Collecting Overdue Accounts (One Day)

    • Proactive customer account management

    • Collections call processing

    • Handling difficult customers

    • Skills practice

    • Action planning

Details of each workshop are provided in Exhibits 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, and 4-5.

Exhibit 4-1: Excellence in Customer Service (One Day)

start example


This half-day, six-module workshop focuses on developing the following skills:

  • Enhanced telephone professionalism

  • Adapting individual communication styles

  • Applying active, empathetic listening with question techniques for complete understanding of customer needs

  • Managing conversations with an assertive, action-oriented approach

  • Effectively addressing and satisfying a difficult or irate customer

  • Identifying revenue opportunities for maximized customer contacts

  • Improving personal effectiveness through time and stress management

By learning and applying superior customer service techniques on every call, CSRs will strengthen their customer relationships, resulting in long-term loyalty. How effectively CSRs manage calls directly impacts a customer's perception of the company.

Module 1: Workshop Introduction

  • Objectives

  • The call center CSR's role:

    • meeting and exceeding customer expectations

    • best telephone practices (greet, hold, transfer, close)

Module 2: Communication Skills—Voice

  • Developing rapport through speed, articulation, tone, and modulation

  • Customers with an accent

Module 3: Communication Skills—Listening

  • Listening effectively

  • Acknowledging and empathizing

Module 4: Call Control

  • Question types and how to apply them

  • Managing conversations that go "off topic"

  • Assertiveness techniques

  • Professional phrases

Module 5: Handling Customer Complaints

  • A 10-step process for handling customer complaints or other difficult calls

  • Handling callers who shout, swear/threaten, become sarcastic

  • Declining with diplomacy

  • Controlling emotional reactions

Module 6: Maximizing the Call

  • Identifying revenue opportunities for maximum contact return

Module 7: Personal Effectiveness

  • Stress-management techniques

  • Time-management skills

end example

Exhibit 4-2: Contact Center Sales Skills (One Day)

start example


This one-day call/contact center sales skills workshop will teach CSRs fundamental telephone skills and proven sales techniques to strengthen their ability to deliver superior customer service and maximize sales on each and every customer contact. CSRs will learn

  • The consultative sales call flow strategy

  • The skills and behaviors required to be successful at consultative selling

  • The steps to identifying buying motives and triggers

  • How to effectively apply their product knowledge during a sales call

  • How to use benefits, advantages, and features to recommend solutions and techniques for neutralizing objections

  • Effective techniques for closing the sale

Module 1: Workshop Introduction

  • Overview

  • Personal vision statement

  • Critical teleselling skills

Module 2: Initial Approach

  • Effective call opening—inbound/outbound

  • Quality standards

  • Voice dynamics to capture the customer's attention

  • Establishing rapport and securing the customer's interest

Module 3: Determining Needs

  • Question types and when to ask them

  • Listening effectively to pinpoint needs

  • Positioning information gathered to present effective recommendations

Module 4: Recommendations

  • Linking needs uncovered to benefits of product/service

  • Matching benefits to customer needs

  • Checking for customer approval

Module 5: Answer

  • Preparing to overcome common objections

  • Proven techniques to remove the objection

  • Moving the customer to a buying position

  • Recognizing buying signals

  • Knowing when to close

  • Asking for a commitment

  • Using voice dynamics to close

Module 6: Call Completion

  • Recap agreements and next steps

  • Apply quality close standards

  • Note callbacks/follow-up

end example

Exhibit 4-3: Building Effective Listening Skills (Half Day)

start example


This interactive workshop will provide CSRs with the skills required to determine customer needs, gather important information, and avoid misunderstanding and frustration, resulting in positive customer perception and increased customer loyalty. It includes both individual/group exercises and role playing. Participants practice their newly acquired skills by applying them to their own simulated job environments. This course will enable CSRs to

  • Assess their listening style and identify areas for improvement

  • Avoid the most common faults of poor listeners and use the accompanying prescriptions for better listening

  • Apply and practice empathetic listening

  • Listen "nonvisually" and "nonverbally"

  • Take notes and process information effectively

Key Topics

  • The role and value of effective listening in the overall communication process

  • Listening skills and habit, self-assessment

  • Understanding the role of listening in the perception, reception, and attention equation

  • Ten common faults or barriers to effective listening and the solutions for improvement

  • Understanding key characteristics of the "Five Levels of Listening"

  • How to listen "nonvisually" and "nonverbally" and why these skills are important

  • How information processing and note taking can help with effective listening

  • Developing a personal action plan to apply and build on improved listening skills and habits

end example

Exhibit 4-4: Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk (One Day)

start example


This interactive one-day workshop is designed for the special needs of help desk personnel to effectively manage SOS calls in a friendly, yet focused manner. Emphasis is on understanding callers' needs and maintaining call control. It includes both individual and group exercises and role playing. Participants practice examples, phrases, and approaches to apply during caller duress. By learning and applying superior customer service techniques, this workshop will help CSRs strengthen their customer service relationships, resulting in long-term loyalty to the business. The specific skills learned will include

  • Behavior that leads to a positive customer experience

  • Understanding the difference between giving basic "core" service versus excellent "more" service, and the effect it has on customers

  • Discovering how to communicate and understand customers by using effective listening and questioning techniques, proper words and phrases, and the all-important voice tone

  • Learning how to address and satisfy a difficult or irate customer

  • Acquiring techniques on how to deal with different personality types by identifying your own and understanding the characteristics of other types

  • Declining with diplomacy and negotiating mutually positive outcomes

  • Learning how to manage stress

end example

Exhibit 4-5: Collecting Overdue Accounts (One Day)

start example


The objectives of this workshop are to train CSRs to do collection calls on outstanding company accounts.

Module 1: Workshop Introduction

  • Overview

  • Introduction to the collections call process

Module 2: Being Proactive in Customer Account Management

  • Understanding the time value of money

  • Why collections policies are important

  • The telephone collector's role and qualities for effective performance

  • Seven commandments in collections

  • Eight common mistakes in collections

  • Personal privacy: collections and the law

Module 3: Communication Skills

  • Comparing face-to-face with telephone communication

  • Setting an effective telephone speech rate

  • Why it's important to reflect the customer's communication style

  • Enhancing voice quality through tone, volume, inflection, and elimination of jargon

  • Overcoming listening barriers; listening effectively using active/interactive skills

Module 4: The ABCs of the Collections Call Process

  • Reviewing the collections call process

  • Planning and preparing for the collection call

  • Identifying and assessing "at-risk" accounts

  • Setting call objectives and making the call introduction

  • Asking for payment: the call to action

  • Handling excuses or reasons for nonpayment

  • Selling the benefits of prompt payment and negotiating a payment plan

  • Confirming commitments and ending the call

Module 5: Handling Difficult Customers

  • Handling a customer's complaint

  • Using assertiveness skills

  • Handling anger from a personal and customer perspective

  • Applying principles of empathy

  • Tactics for getting to "yes"

  • Enhancing customer relationships through the "law of reciprocity"

  • Overcoming frustration and call reluctance

  • Techniques for handling stress

Module 6: Experiential Skills Practice

  • Role-playing exercises that allow participants to practice collection skills by applying them in a simulated on-the-job environment

Module 7: Action Planning and Workshop Review

  • Reviewing key workshop lessons

  • Setting an action plan for improved job performance

  • Establishing an ongoing improvement process

  • Workshop evaluation

end example