The value of roleplaying in customer service training

Infosec 2007. Olympia.The typical customer training course teaches agents what a customer wants or doesn’t want and highlights the common mistakes committed by new and experienced agents. The course traditionally goes on to warn agents about the possible negative impact on the company and business. It highlights the need to smile, help fellow workers, delegate projects as a team player, and have a positive outlook. Many agents politely listen, but consider the training course just a supplement to common sense. How do we then make it more interesting and applicable?

Training needs to start with a clear objective, and role-playing places the service representative into the shoes of the customer, and helps to bring clarity to particular situations. Begin with the customer scenario and use detail to create a  specific situation. Perhaps the customer is calling to ask for more information and is clearly in a hurry. What would a successful outcome then be for the company and for the customer? Start from the beginning, and take it through the question period, the emotional aspect of the hurried customer, and what to say and how to say it.

Keep the role-playing scenarios simple at the beginning. Customer service representatives who are not used to role-playing will need to get used to the heightened awareness of core issues and will actually be able to focus on skills they may have never thought of before the training session began. The role-playing should be fun; employees identify with positive attitudes. We often learn mistakes we are making by laughing at ourselves. None of us like to be lectured, but when we have the opportunity to reverse roles, we can get a clearer vision of our purpose.

Our role-playing then continues with more difficult tasks. Meet the needs and calm the angry customer. Focus and build skills that can handle the issues. What a perfect time to drive home behaviors that are not acceptable or non negotiable. Record and play back the practice scenarios and figure out collectively what could have been said or done to make the experience better. We’re all adults, and when everyone has the opportunity to participate, we all tend to be more interested and more engaged. As roleplaying continues, training becomes more effective as each person has the opportunity to keep trying to perfect an appropriate and satisfying result.

At the end of the training session, customer service representatives come away with existing approaches that work well and have had the opportunity to learn new points and share tips. The opportunity for more experienced employees to share techniques with new employees leads to more teamwork. All of it helps to build more confident, knowledgeable, and happier employees.

photo credit: jlcwalker