Building a Training Program that Works

There is nothing more important than the enablement of a Support Team. Not only do you need to get your team up and running in a short amount of time, but you need to make sure that they stay up to speed on the latest processes, procedures, and in our case, technical advances to be able to deliver a consistent and high-quality customer experience. 

How Do You Build the Ideal Training Program?

Your ideal training program will vary depending on the kind of customer service you offer but I always recommend starting with the basics.  Technical support is our primary function so understanding the Kustomer Platform and how to help clients solve their technical challenges is paramount for us.  We started by pulling people together across the organization who understood different areas of the product better than we did and asked them to conduct live training sessions for us during our new hire onboarding. 

This worked for a short while, but we found it wasn’t scalable and if different people conducted the training sessions, we were not teaching the information in the same way.  This led to gaps in product knowledge that were difficult to pinpoint and inconsistency in our interactions with our customers.

We spent so much of our time focused on product training that we missed other sessions that were equally as important like “how to handle stressful client conversations”, or “understanding what it takes to deliver an exceptional client experience”.  We found that our new hires were getting stuck on many of our basic processes and procedures and discovered that we were missing training on how to be a Technical Support Engineer at Kustomer and set out to quickly remedy this.  

How Did We Solve These Problems?

We went through many iterations before we landed on our current plan.  We split this work into three tracks.

 

Document Internal Processes and Procedures

In the first track, we formally documented our internal processes and procedures, first in a google document, then in Coda.  In some cases, we documented these directly in our Help Center so clients could have access to this information themselves.  We discovered in this exercise that most of our processes were in place, they were just not easily retrievable when we needed them because they were spread across multiple channels like email or slack, making them impossible to find.  

Once we gathered everything in one place, we were able to quickly see what was outstanding and set out to fill in the gaps and team members could more easily find what they were looking for to provide faster responses to customer questions.

Build a Formalized Onboarding Program

In our second track we decided to have someone focus on enablement internally and take inventory of our existing training content to help us build a more formal onboarding program to get our agents up to speed quickly.  It used to take us 6+ months to fully onboard agents and bring them to the level of our more seasoned team members. With the anticipated increase in volume, we knew we wouldn’t be successful if we continued our current path and set out to improve our onboarding program.  This had the additional benefit of allowing everyone to go through the same training and standardized our responses so that we could deliver a consistent client experience.  Through this inventory project we discovered modules that were missing and added them to round out our program. Now we were covering things like appropriate messaging, delivering a consultative support experience and proper follow-through on conversations that we didn’t have standardized before.

Next, we focused on knowledge retention and scalability.  What started as live training went to recorded training sessions listed on a spreadsheet and then ultimately into a Learning Management System (LMS) where we could create dynamic and interactive training for our new hires that would keep them more engaged. We layered exams on top of this, directly in the system, which helped them retain the knowledge they just learned and the LMS also allowed us to report on their progress so Managers could see if anyone was falling behind or needed more help during their onboarding period.  This also allowed us to more easily see if any content was missing and help close those gaps.

Once we had a version of this training program available, we tested it both on our existing team and on a few incoming groups of agents. Based on agent feedback and team performance, we were able to continue to iterate on the training until the results were consistent across different groups of agents and fewer and fewer changes were necessary. Along with our LMS training program, we partnered each new hire with a mentor who they would meet with daily to help answer any questions or connect the dots on concepts they may be struggling with.  Over the next 6 months we formalized the mentorship program and eventually our 6-month long onboarding time went down to about 30 days, with the ability for new agents to take on some issues in as little as two weeks.

Build an Ongoing Enablement Program

Now that all our agents were successfully onboarded and delivering an exceptional and consistent client experience, we decided to take a deeper look at our training to see how we could get everyone to level up so that we had more people handling complex issues to reduce the overall turnaround time.  

This led to a third track of work to build an advanced enablement program focused on continued product education and creating Subject Matter Experts who had a deeper understanding of our product.  We started with a comprehensive skills assessment and formalized the training from there. Once we had the advanced training available, we had everyone on the team go through this training to level up their skills. This resulted in a much higher confidence score in the next assessment and a 25% decrease in issue duration.

What’s Next?

We have a lot more to go as we continue on our enablement journey.  We plan to add modules focused on agent efficiency and time management, more training on networking concepts and cloud infrastructure and advanced training on various coding languages.  It’s a never-ending effort that needs to be revisited regularly to ensure Agents are knowledgeable, confident, and consistent in their delivery.  We’ve found this ongoing enablement has served as a great motivator for our agents too, who naturally love to learn new things and grow in their roles.  In recent months we’ve been able to try our hand at creating Apps and partnering more closely with our Product and Engineering teams. You’d be surprised at the strengths you can uncover when going down this path.