How to train customer service agents for successful video chats
Declan Hogan and Stuart Smith explore how to implement video customer service training to deliver real value.
Lockdowns have limited social interaction resulting in increased adoption of video calling. While COVID-19 forced many businesses to re-evaluate and adapt their operations altogether, it has also provided an enormous opportunity to transform the customer experience.
Recent research by OnePoll and Webhelp, surveying 6,000 consumers across the UK, France, and Germany, found that only 21% of consumers had used video calling in a customer service setting before the pandemic. However, since COVID-19, that number has grown substantially, resulting in a 70% increase in video chat preference in this setting.
It seems simple, the use of video chat can increase your business's competitive advantage. Think again – implementing video chat as an added channel cannot do this on its own. Successful training and implementation are vital to supplying actual value to the customer. So how do you train customer service agents to deliver value via video chat?
Key traits to search for in agents
Before training, a few qualities are vital to look out for in potential agents:
- Sales skills. This might seem obvious, but asking customers the right questions to close the sale and prove the service concept will be important.
- Strong customer service skills. Agents will serve as the face of the company, so providing excellent service to tend to the customers’ needs is a must.
- Prior experience. If the agent does not have the experience, a passion for the product/service will help them become an expert quickly.
- Presentation skills. Personality is important for obvious reasons. Since the customer will not be visible, the agent should feel comfortable speaking with a blank screen.
Interactive and engaging training: apply and retain
As with any training, the following approach should be taken to ensure trainees can gain a broad understanding of the product(s) and an in-depth knowledge of the brand.
- A combination of classroom-based learning and activities:
- Trainees should be able to visualise and think through how to respond to various situations.
- Classroom training could include a combination of videos and textual learning, and even creative design solutions, like gamification to engage and test trainees.
- Appoint a mentor. An experienced colleague who can advise on situational questions and quickly teach what’s needed to succeed.
- Role-playing. Utilising questions from real customer interactions is crucial and is why keeping a record of all incoming requests is essential.
- Thorough technology training. Technology partners will likely provide onboarding training and can share best practices and tips with trainees.
- Supervised customer interactions. As the last step, trainees should engage in a week or two of video calls under supervision.
Building trust through visual interaction
Unlike traditional customer service calls, video chat requires a specific focus on visual interaction. Training should emphasise the importance of body language, such as posture, eye contact, smiling, hand gestures, in addition to the tone of voice, which play a significant role in building trust.
Agents also serve as brand ambassadors, both with their attire and with the video interaction and product/service display, which must look and feel professional and on-brand.
The basics like active listening, repeating questions back, and paraphrasing should not be forgotten to ensure the customers are fully engaged.
All other things remaining equal, I would switch company or brand if a competitor offered video as an additional contact method for sales and customer service.
Research shows that consumers prefer video chat when dealing with high-value transactions during insurance claims or technical support, meaning the interaction times will be longer.
Without the ability to sit and chat over a coffee in-person, trainees must understand how to maximise the value of video conversations to build trust effectively. Chatting with customers during pauses and getting to know them can add a personal touch and help build rapport.
Remember to keep it human
During the pandemic, trainees should also be mindful of unique circumstances that can arise during video calls. Today many people are juggling their lives and work at home, so it’s possible a call could include someone’s child, or there could be issues with the internet connection.
Offering to help check a customer’s bandwidth at the beginning of a video call can be especially helpful during these times. Because people are likely dealing with the stresses of working at home, patience and friendliness can go a long way.
Adapting for the future
Organisational changes may shift back after the pandemic, but some services such as video chat have made consumers’ lives considerably more convenient and should continue after the pandemic. A research participant said, "All other things remaining equal, I would switch company or brand if a competitor offered video as an additional contact method for sales and customer service."
Whether your customer is a busy parent or cannot make it to a store due to a disability, providing a convenient and trustworthy service suitable for the customer will position your brand as a leader amongst competitors. Research shows that 76% of consumers would use video calling to contact businesses after the pandemic subsided.
With access to video chat interactions, consumers not only have the opportunity to interact with their favorite brands during the pandemic but will also continue to be able to access high-quality customer service from the comfort of home, even after the pandemic eases.
Although time-consuming, companies that focus on developing an effective training program for video chat agents will be better suited for the fully digital future.
About the author
Declan Hogan is the director of operational learning at Webhelp, UK. Stuart Smith is a live expert team manager at Webhelp, Spain. Declan can be contacted at email@example.com; Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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