Support agents’ high turnover rates are a real pain for all companies - and not just because it is difficult to find competent employees. Customer service onboarding is a time-consuming and costly process that no quality-oriented company can afford to ignore.
However, there’s one particular question that deserves special attention: when is the right time to let new agents talk to your customers?
The short answer is: as soon as possible. Allowing newcomers to tackle real-life support cases is the most efficient way to learn about their job. However, this applies only in the following conditions:
- You’ve done product training and familiarized your team with your support goals and communication style;
- You have a system for reviewing agents’ responses before they are sent to customers.
Most companies understand the reasons behind the first requirement. Letting someone without decent product training solve customers’ issues would rarely cross a manager’s mind.
Sadly, that’s often not the case with the second condition. Too often, companies let new agents handle customers’ cases without ensuring that their replies actually meet their company’s quality standards.
First, let’s dig into the reasons why conversation reviews are an essential part of customer service onboarding programs. Then, we’ll share a neat Zendesk hack to make agent interaction reviews quick and productive.
A surprisingly large proportion of companies don’t have a process in place for reviewing their new customer service reps’ responses. Those support teams don’t really know how well their newest members are handling their jobs - and neither do the new agents.
Here’s why all customer service teams need to read newcomers’ responses before they are sent to customers:
- Companies have to make sure that all support reps provide correct answers that meet their internal quality standards.
Each team has unique support vision and goals that can range from giving quick help to upselling products. They also have different expectations for support reps’ communication style, tone, and other aspects important for the particular company. That’s why even experienced agents need feedback if they switch teams.
When conducting conversation reviews, most companies assess how agents’ responses meet their internal standards in the following criteria:
- The completeness and correctness of the solution;
- Empathy and tone expressed in interactions;
- Accuracy in product knowledge.
Conversation reviews are an essential part of new agent onboarding programs because they help to ensure that new agents provide support of the same quality as the rest of the team. Inconsistent support is one of the things that frustrates customers the most.
It might not seem like a big deal if one response goes out that isn't up to your standards - but consider this:
- Agents need feedback for professional growth.\ \ Coaching has been proven to be one of the most efficient means of onboarding new agents. Constant feedback helps new employees understand their areas of growth and improve their responses.\ \ If you provide actionable feedback on every customer conversation during the onboarding program, your agents will be able to improve with every case they tackle\ \ “That’s fine, continue” is great feedback that reassures your agents that they are doing everything right. This works wonders with your new employees’ confidence levels\ \ If you’re not quite sure how to provide feedback to your agents, check out these [seven techniques](/blog/7-feedback-techniques-for-customer-service-teams/) we’ve picked out for customer service teams.
- Peer feedback boosts team morale. \ \ Conversation reviews come in many forms. You can conduct manager reviews, hire dedicated QA staff for the purpose, let agents do self-reviews, or create a peer feedback system.\ \ The latter can be particularly beneficial in terms of teamwork:\ \ New agents will learn from people with first-hand support experience. Through reviewing conversations they will get to know the tricks and workarounds of your product and support life.\ \ Oldtimers feel valued for their experience and are motivated thanks to the new responsibility.\ \ Everybody wins from improved teamwork. You’ll be surprised to know how many agents think that they are the only ones on your team who know how to help customers. Let them see how well the rest of the team is doing their job, too.\ \ In the end, conversation reviews are an essential part of the customer service onboarding process, regardless of the form you choose for it. See what works best for your team and be consistent in evaluating your newcomers' tickets.
To understand how your new agents are handling their job, read through all of their responses before they are sent to customers. That’s the only way you can make sure that no answers that miss the mark ever reach real customers.
If you’re aiming to provide excellent customer service but struggle to onboard new agents efficiently, you’re either:
- Not reviewing your newcomers’ responses before they are sent to customers. You can probably guess that something’s wrong when you look at your customer service metrics but cannot really pinpoint the causes of the drop in your support quality.
- Not using a tool for reviewing agents’ replies. You’re spending hours on copy-pasting tickets for review and sending out notifications to everyone involved. In the worst case, you’re wasting time sitting next to your new agents’ and looking at the responses as they’re typing them (can onboarding get more intimidating and awkward than this?)