Product training for your call center agents is not a one-and-done thing. If you have an extensive product line that changes with the seasons, the time you invest in training your call center agents and increasing their product knowledge will pay off in increased sales, lower return rates, and higher customer satisfaction.
In-person training provides valuable feedback
One of Global Response’s clients is a good example. Via a catalog published three times a year and a website, this client sells hundreds of items in range of categories, many of them unique items hand-made by artisans. The client recognizes that for Global Response agents to be able to answer questions about the products, advise customers, and upsell and cross-sell, ongoing training is essential.
“We do our best to visit Global Response before each catalog is mailed and educate agents about the new products,” says the client’s merchandise manager. “For the holidays, many of the agents are new to the account, so we cover not only new products but products that may have issues. Our goal is to highlight the things that customers will ask about so the agents on the phone have the right answers.”
The training is done in person—not over the web or by video. The client’s trainer has the product in the room, discusses it, allows the agents to actually handle the products and take notes in their copy of the catalog. “We do in-person training because the communication is clearer and the back and forth conversation with the agents is valuable,” says the client. “We get feedback from the agents about what customers are saying and use it to make changes to the catalog or the website. That customer feedback, passed on by the agents, is really beneficial for us.”
Why product experts are the best trainers
It’s also important to send experts to conduct the training so they can share their in-depth product knowledge with the agents. “We send merchandisers because they selected the product and understand its selling features,” says the client. “They’re also responsible for returns, so during training they highlight aspects of the product that might cause a customer service issue, such as variations in design patterns on a hand-made item or how a garment is sized. Our merchandisers even have details to share about individual artisans. We understand that the more information the agents have, the better.”
In-depth product knowledge helps agents provide better service—and reduce returns. “For example,” says the client, “when Global Response agents speak with a caller who has an issue about a product not looking exactly like its photo in the catalog, they can explain that the product is one of a kind and hand-made, and that variations are part of its appeal. Conversations like that educate the customer, increase customer satisfaction and head off returns.”
Deep product knowledge also helps agents advise customers. “Most companies just want you to sell, but what our clients want is for the customer to be happy,” says the Global Response account manager. “So our agents know we expect them to gently steer a caller to another product other than the one they called about if it’s apparent the first product isn’t right for them. Doing that reduces returns and increases customer satisfaction.”
Training helps sell more products
“We know product training helps sell more products,” says the client. “Agents can make suggestions for alternative products the customer will like and turn a return into an exchange. More product knowledge also helps agents effectively upsell and cross-sell. There’s definitely a top-line benefit to having really knowledgeable people on the phone.”
Extensive, ongoing training has the additional benefit of strengthening the connection between the call center agents and the client company. “Short of having your own call center, Global Response is the best partner you can have as far as having people on the phone who are invested,” says the client. “Other call centers we’ve worked with pale in comparison. Partly because of our extensive training and the faith we show in their judgment, the agents at Global Response consider themselves employees of our company—and that shows in their approach to the job and their results.”