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Even if they have years of experience, your support staff needs to be trained on their soft skills on a regular basis. The expectations of today's customers are constantly changing, and what made them happy last year won't necessarily cut it this year. It's up to your staff to stay current and be ready to deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction in this highly competitive climate. In this post, I'll share how you can make sure your support services team can stay on top of the latest support techniques to continue delighting your customers.

The Real Impact of Soft Skills Training on Customer and Employee Satisfaction

TSIA's Support Services Benchmark study identifies the top priorities for today's support organizations and the best practices they're implementing in order to achieve those objectives. Based on the data collected, we found that 87% of our Support Services members consider CSAT (customer satisfaction) to be of utmost importance.

In comparing the data collected from the 2014 through 2016, we noticed major changes occurring within support organizations over the past 2 years. Employee attrition has grown from 6% to 13.5%, CSAT has declined from 4.5 to 3.9, and employee satisfaction declined from 81% to 71%. So, what has changed? Back in 2014, an average of 4 days per support professional was allocated to soft skills training, but according to our 2016 study, that number has declined to only 2 days. 

The numbers don't lie: the amount of time dedicated to soft skills training is critical to CSAT and employee satisfaction levels, and a decrease in either can directly impact customer happiness. After all, when employees are happy, it's much easier for them to make your customers happy. So, how do you make sure you're providing the right kind of training that keeps your employees engaged, satisfied, and at the top of their game for fielding customer inquiries?

How to Train for the Right Skills at the Right Time

TSIA recommends that every support professional within your organization should be receiving soft skills training on a regular basis. In order to keep your employees engaged, you should offer the right training at the right time with the goal of providing information that your support staff can apply to what they do every day.

To determine which type of training will benefit your team the most, you will want to train based on a target metric you want to improve. Identify what you will need to do in order to raise that metric, and create training around the specific steps your support professionals will need to take when working with customers to meet the goal. Here are three approaches you can take to make sure you're offering targeted training.

Step 1: Identify the Metric that Needs Improvement

Conduct a deep-dive analysis of your CSAT levels to identify a metric that needs improvement. This can be accomplished by conducting and analyzing transactional surveys with customers to determine how they're being served by your support staff. What's driving satisfaction? What's driving dissatisfaction? This practice can be an ongoing practice, not just be a one-time event, that will allow you to regularly monitor areas that need improvement within your support organization. Once you've established a clear idea of where your support services could stand to improve, you'll then want to outline the specific steps that should be taken in order to accomplish this goal.

Step 2: Develop and Deliver Training to Address the Needs

Work with the training team to develop a training program that targets the established goal. This training can take the form of a short 15 to 30-minute online video, or an all-day, instructor-led workshop. For example, TSIA's Support Staff Excellence program, jointly created with customer support training authority Miller Heiman Group, provides online or in-class training and corresponding certification tests to make sure your team is prepared to deliver the best customer experience.

Keep in mind that with any training program it's important that you not only keep learners engaged, but also measure learning comprehension. We also recommend that all support professionals within your organization participate in training, with best practice being to require training updates no later than two weeks following the release of new training material.

Step 3: Focus on the Metric

Once your staff has been trained, keep an eye on the metric you're trying to improve. Do you notice any improvements at the 30 or 60-day marks? Have you noticed CSAT results improving in the targeted area? Our Support Services members who are currently following this process have reported seeing significant improvements within 30 days of providing targeted soft skill training. 

Staying Current on Soft Skills Best Practices Benefits Everyone

While you should always be communicating with your customers on how to better meet their needs, regular soft skills training will ensure that your support staff has the knowledge they'll need to serve them in record time. In fact, TSIA research has found that companies that provide more soft skills training have higher than average first-call resolution rates, more one-day resolution rates, and lower resolution time. By investing in regular training, you'll be empowering your staff with the assurance they're able to make a positive impact, and your customers will thank you for it. 

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Kari Dodge

About Author Kari Dodge

Kari Dodge is the project manager for TSIA's Support Services Operational Best Practice Program. Since joining TSIA in 2011, Kari has directly assisted many technology and services companies as they participate in TSIA's Best Practices, Rated Outstanding, Excellence in Service Operations, and J.D. Power certification programs. Kari obtained her PMP certification in 2010 and has over 20 years of experience in project management, consulting, training, and support.