A customer service or call centre agent is a customer’s first point of contact with an organization and so excellent performance is mission critical for customer retention. It directly impacts the business’s bottom line.
A study of customer service in mid-sized companies1 showed 95% of customers share bad experiences and 87% share good experiences with others. Social media and web review sites drives this sharing of experiences.
According to Tom Discipio2, a client success expert, the most significant effects of bad customer service are:
- a damaged reputation
- leads don’t convert
- customer lifetime value drops
- loss of best employees
- the business enters a profit-sucking cycle
High staff turnover and its cost are also factors to consider.
“One of the biggest staffing problems that call centers face today is staff turnover. Finding and retaining qualified staff has a huge impact on the bottom line as well as to quality of service.”3
Staff turnover increases costs to the company as new staff must be paid while being trained. Research shows that well-trained staff feel more self-confident and competent and staff retention rates increase. 4
Its straight-forward to train customer service staff to use ‘canned responses’ for the most frequent questions or problems. The challenge is to equip them with critical thinking and decision-making skills. They must be able to handle scenarios which are unusual and unexpected. In a perfect world, every agent should be able to resolve every customer service situation imaginable.
Customer service agents need techniques for identifying problems, thinking on their feet and finding solutions as fast as possible. Research shows that speed is the top factor determining customer satisfaction:
Data from Customer Service and Business Results: A Survey of Customer Service from Mid-Size Companies Dimensional Research
“The most important factor cited by participants was a quick resolution of the problem (69%) followed by being helped by a pleasant person (65%). Interestingly, the actual outcome of the problem was least important with less than half (47%) indicating that their customer service interaction was good because of the outcome.” 5
Simulations and branched scenarios are ideal for developing these soft skills so that agents can make the best decisions as fast as possible. It can also help agents to be empathetic and understanding, to handle sensitive or challenging situations and even to upsell and cross-sell products and services.
An overview of considerable research6 reports that simulation training in service industries is very effective for:
- The development of decision-making skills
In a replication of reality, trainees can make difficult decisions without the risk of harm to the business and its reputation. This allows them to learn from their mistakes.
- Improving communication skills
Simulation training improves conflict resolution skills, coping with diverse personalities and helps trainees change their attitudes and behavior to interact successfully with others.
Simulation eLearning mimics the job context more realistically than role-play training and leads to the development of superior capabilities.
It enables learners to receive more detailed and accurate feedback in a less-threatening environment.
It allows trainees to progress through the training modules at their own pace and their own comfort level.
Complex branched scenario-based training allows trainees to develop critical thinking skills. They can continually refine and develop their knowledge and skills as they learn from the consequences of their decisions.
By backtracking, they can practice again until their choices and execution of the procedure is acceptable. In the process, they learn the fastest route to solve problems too!
A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology7 showed that simulation training reduces agents’ call handling time by at least 13%. Agents who completed simulation training also scored higher on ratings for accuracy and pleasantness.
The fast action-feedback cycle of simulation and scenario-based training is what makes learning more engaging. Instead of being passive in a classroom situation, learners are active participants.8
Overall, simulations provide intellectual skills that empower trainees with tools for processing information, problem solving, and making decisions effectively. It builds staff competence, which is essential in the customer service industry.
Customer service is a mission critical role. It requires excellence in the performance of duties from day one. It is vital that training builds self-confidence and competence. This is also important to reduce costs caused by inferior service and high staff turnover rates.
Simulation eLearning develops this intelligence and empowers customer service staff. It equips them with skills for processing information, problem solving, and making decisions effectively.
Simulation eLearning offers the added benefit of not keeping experienced agents out of service while they train new recruits.
It achieves positive outcomes faster and more cost-effectively than other learning methods.
Image: Branched scenario content authoring planning tool showing possible responses to a customer call.
SimTutor offers an innovative content authoring and branched scenario planning tool to enable instructional designers and trainers to create customized simulations and scenario-based eLearning quickly and easily.
Simulation eLearning reduces training risk, promotes competence and optimizes training time and costs. SimTutor helps you to build competence.
1. Customer Service and Business Results: A Survey of Customer Service from Mid-Size Companies Dimensional Research | April 2013 https://d16cvnquvjw7pr.cloudfront.net/resources/whitepapers/Zendesk_WP_Customer_Service_and_Business_Results.pdf
2. Tom Discipio, https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/5-dangerous-side-effects-of-bad-customer-service
3. Penny Reynolds from Quality Assurance and Training Connection, http://qatc.org/winter-2015-connection/exploring-call-center-turnover-numbers/
4. Kerry, L. Sommerville 2007. Hospitality Employee Management and Supervision, concepts and practical applications. New Jersey. John Wiley & Sons
5. Customer Service and Business Results: A Survey of Customer Service from Mid-Size Companies Dimensional Research | April 2013
6. Edelheim, Johan & Daisuke, Ueda. (2007). Effective Use of Simulations in Hospitality Management Education - A Case Study. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education. 6. 10.3794/johlste.61.104.
7. Murthy, Nagesh & Challagalla, Goutam & H. Vincent, Leslie & Shervani, Tasadduq. (2008). The Impact of Simulation Training on Call Center Agent Performance: A Field-Based Investigation. Management Science. 54. 384-399. 10.1287/mnsc.1070.0818.
8. Strickland, Paul & Benckendorff, Pierre & Whitelaw, Paul & Pratt, Marlene & Lohmann, Gui. (2015). Creating Educator Resources for Online Simulation-Based Pedagogies in Tourism and Hospitality.