For traditional roles in brick-and-mortar business, trainees, and trainers have the advantage of teaching and learning tangible skills in the same space. Trainers are able to do more than tell. They can show and actively coach, providing that new team member the comfort and direction necessary to learn without feeling like they’re being set up for failure. Being able to teach and learn in person is a great advantage.
Training a remote team, on the other hand, requires more finesse. And just like Bruno Mars, we out here drippin’ in it.
Suddenly you’ve got to consider how to teach people all over the world how to represent global companies. That’s what’s what we do at The Chat Shop.
Face-to-face training is simply not an option. A new live chat team member cannot watch a seasoned agent in action and emulate them in the same way a new sales representative can watch a seasoned one and attempt to sell something in the same manner.
So how do we impart the right skills and best practices on a new live chat agent if we’re not able to be with them physically? If you haven’t thought about it yet, that’s okay. That’s what we’re here for.
Do you really think those award-winning results come from a mediocre understanding of good live chat training? (Um, no.)
Good live chat training starts with the fundamentals. If you can successfully understand what live chat training is then you can successfully train new agents and set them up for success.
What is Bad Live Chat Training?
As with most things in life, there is good and bad when it comes to live chat training. It’s important to understand the difference. Here are just two examples of bad live chat training:
Translating phone call etiquette to text. While using a phone call model on chat may seem like a good idea, these chats are generally off the mark. With 92% of live chat users reporting satisfaction, it should be obvious that these people want something different than phone support. In fact, 42% of consumers prefer live chat over the phone because they don’t have to hold. It’s that instant response for an instant age. Good live chat training doesn’t teach agents how to put customers on hold; it teaches them how to do their job right so they don’t have to.
Focusing on only one or two metrics. If you want an entirely satisfying customer experience, you can’t treat any part of that experience as less important than the others. Plain and simple. Training your agents to be fast can compromise engagement. Not having strict response times, on the other hand, disrespects your customer’s time and tells them you aren’t interested so they shouldn’t be either. As Kissmetrics puts it, “The overriding concern is that customers must be made to feel important; however, if it takes several minutes to respond to a customer’s question, he will not feel important, and he will take his business elsewhere.”
In other words, these things will set you up for bad practice.
What is Good Live Chat Training?
Good live chat training is so much more than picking and choosing what you think is important. It requires knowing what is important to your goals as a company and the people you’re interacting with. A solid understanding of brand, marketing strategy, sales goals, and customer service metrics is crucial. With 44% of online shoppersagreeing that having the option of live chat available while they shop is important, your customer experience is at risk. Without that foundation, you can’t expect your live chat agents to know how to speak to your customers or what their goals are on chat.
Good live chat training is a difficult task. It requires taking the time to consistently teach the skills, methodology, and chat etiquette to people all over the world – each bringing their own level of experience with them.
It’s arduous, but much less so if you know what you’re doing. And we do.
So what exactly does good live chat training require?
Live Chat Training Requires Time
Time is the biggest factor in whether you are able to train a successful agent or not. This is twofold on the part of the trainer and the trainee, however. A trainer who cannot dedicate the necessary time to a trainee or a trainee who cannot commit to an ample and consistent training schedule are at a disadvantage.
Simply put, if you don’t have the time to train your agents well, they won’t chat well. Trust us, we’re the experts on successful agents.
In order to provide ourselves with enough of this precious resource, we’ve developed a top notch training program that requires up to 100 hours of commitment from trainers and trainees alike. This starts with The Chat Shop Academy and ends with client-specific training, with over two thirds of our training being client-focused.
When new agents begin their journey with us, they spend their first full work week in The Academy. This course is rigorous and definitely not optional. Over a five-day period, agents spend 26.5 hours focused on the fundamentals of chat. It’s a glimpse into what it means to be an effective and successful live chat agent.
During their time in The Academy, new agents are expected to hit certain developmental milestones. Our experience has shown us that while almost anyone can be a mediocre chat agent, having the best is key to success. This is why our live chat agent recruitment process is highly selective with only about 0.1% of applicantsbeing hired. The Academy is in line with our company culture – it does not compromise time or effort for greatness and only the best make it through.
Once an agent successfully graduates from The Academy, they meet their Team Leader and begin client-focused training. This is when real live chat experts are born. During this time, new agents take the skills and fundamentals they learned in The Academy and apply it to the brands they’ll be working with.
Live Chat Training Requires Communication
We’re online sales and lead generation experts. We aren’t shy about that. But we didn’t become experts with luck. We became experts because we understood from the onset that being able to communicate clearly over text was key to successful live chats. While this skill is obviously necessary for communicating with customers, its true benefits start at the training level.
Using a handful of online communication applications, our Training Coordinator, Rachel, ushers new agents through The Academy. During that time, she provides them with both written and oral feedback. Rachel’s main goal is to highlight each agent’s strengths while fostering constant development in any areas that need improvement.
The communication doesn’t stop there, and neither does the training and development. Once our agents graduate from The Academy and begin training with their Team Leaders, they can expect constructive feedback in the form of KPIs and Quality Assurance. This feedback is routinely given throughout their time as an agent as well.
Good live chat training is an ongoing process. We know that and firmly believe in the three C’s of communication: constant, consistent, constructive.
Live Chat Training Requires Variation
We know practice makes perfect. That’s why our agents do test live chats before they take up the reins on a brand’s website. But we also know that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. This is why variation is key to good live chat training!
Agents need to master a handful of skills and abilities. Anything less doesn’t guarantee successful chats. When you know how to approach each of these areas as well as we do, you’re one step closer to producing a great live chat agent.
Here are only a few of the areas a new agent needs to master and the different ways we approach training:
Effective Resource Utilisation. Having a carefully constructed Knowledge Base is pointless if your agents don’t know how to quickly and correctly navigate through information. In the same vein, if you don’t introduce your agents to the websites they’ll be using while they’re on shift, you can’t expect them to know how and where to find information.
Each of our agents is ushered into using resources by first using a basic Knowledge Base. They use this Knowledge Base during their time in The Academy to familiarise themselves with navigating information, following relevant links, and learning the importance of identifying key information instead of attempting to retain everything.
Methodology. No one goes into battle without a strategy and our agents are no different. Before they are chatting live, each agent is fully trained on the methodology behind our chat structure. Using a combination of previous chat transcripts, quiz material, and tools in the Knowledge Base, each agent is fully trained on how to effectively drive a chat toward a goal.
Balancing Three Concurrent Chats. Some people think modern technology makes this easy. They aren’t entirely wrong, but we’re willing to bet you don’t chat on Facebook Messenger with the intent to sell a product or generate a lead.
Learning how to balance three concurrent chats is far from a “sink or swim” type situation. Agents need to go through a series of hands-on steps before they’re ready to expertly hold three professional conversations at the same time. This is why we go slow. Only after agents understand the fundamentals of chatting do we start mock chatting. Even then, they go from one to two chats and two to three chats when they’ve confidently and consistently displayed an ability to put their prior training into practice.
Client-Based Training. We touched on it earlier, but after a new agent completes The Academy, their training is not over. Next comes their introduction to specific client-based information and procedures. While they’ve already got the know-how for navigating information and following the correct methodologies, it’s important that they understand the nuances that come with the clients they are chatting for. This includes things like tone, marketing and customer experience goals on chat, resources, specific escalation protocol, and even the number of SKUs or product offerings they have!
Working directly with our Team Leaders, new chat experts (because that’s what they are, experts!) are introduced to this important material, tested on their ability to understand the brand and navigate resources, and trained howto chat by reading through transcripts, mock chats, and our Quality Assurance process.
Live Chat Requires Flexibility
In order to have good practice on chat, your agents need to be shown good practice during training. And just like every chatter is different, so is each agent. Good live chat training understands that.
One of the dreams in creating The Chat Shop was to bring humanity back to the digital customer experience. To have a training program devoid of that humanity would make no sense.
In order to foster that growth, Rachel and our Team Leaders are flexible with how they approach each trainee. While one agent may do well with navigating material but need more work on speed, another agent may be a naturally fast typist but struggle with chat flow. If and when these issues arise, the importance of team-wide flexibility shines.
Whether it’s changing the way an agent learns a topic, adding extra training hours with a Team Leader, or an honest conversation between trainer and trainee, being flexible in order to master good live chat practice is just one more important aspect of good live chat training.
Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
If you’re hoping for consistent results and satisfaction, then simply having a chatbox on your site is not enough. If you want big things to happen, you’re going to have to work for it. Good live chat training is just the beginning of that work.
That means rolling up your virtual sleeves, learning how to communicate in the most effective way possible, and taking the time necessary to teach good practice and skill to your agents.