Training and Ramping New Customer Service Agents: A Guide

Written by Kayla Brehm | Jan 26, 2015 2:53:34 PM

There is a tipping point in every successful business where growth goes from slow and steady to blindingly fast. Once this happens, scaling teams becomes rapid, and onboarding correctly becomes nearly impossible. For support, this is harder than other teams because they are the support pillar customers lean on.

Support is supposed to be an omniscient, always smiling, cure all. Needless to say, ramping support people correctly is crucial to the long term success of the business (in the form of customer retention). In fast growing companies, creating a repeatable system for onboarding new team members is  good place to start on the road to making a great impression on new employees.

The single most important thing when training and ramping a new customer service agent: Protect them. Throw an agent into the fray immediately, especially during a time of fast growth (so, when you’re hiring) and you risk overwhelming them. Make it easy on them or else a stressed and overwhelmed agent will take longer to get to their best than they would otherwise.

Their first day should start at 11am, so the team can get settled before a new person comes in. Once the new member is there, their day should start by meeting with the VP of Customer Service (maybe the CEO, depending on the company size), getting acquainted with the company culture and core values (and how they relate to their role specifically), and being introduced to the internal systems. The VP of Customer Service may have other things to attend to, totally fair. Designate a senior team member as the “mentor” for the week. Start the day out with a little surprise and delight: take the new team member to lunch with the team.

The first day, once the new employee has been welcomed and settled in, have that team member serving as a mentor do “drive time” with the new agent. This will give the agent a chance to see their role done the right way. They can ask questions, get a sense of normal workflow, and watch what a fully ramped agent does in their day-to-day.

Post drive time, have the mentor sit with the new agent and go through the system to see how much they learned during drive time. This passive form of learning will prevent them from getting swamped to early. If the system has any webinars or online training, direct the agent towards that so they can get further familiar.

Day two: Day two should be a progression on day one. Start with drive time in the morning with the mentor, and then in the afternoon let the new agent handle their first tickets. They should do an hour or so of “reverse drive time” where the mentor sits with them to make sure they have the hang of it and can ask any questions they have.

Good ticketing/chat/phone systems will allow you to limit volume that gets directed to specific agents, so by allowing the new team member to do real tickets/chats/calls without risking them getting swamped, you allow them to slowly work through their workflow with a real customer.

Cap the day with a quick check in with their mentor.

Day three: The new agent is still getting used to their role so do a ten minute Q&A with their mentor about any questions that came up since they left work. After that, do some reverse drive time, and let the new rep go solo until lunch.

Note: mentor should always eat lunch with/bring the new rep to lunch, that way they get integrated more quickly into the team.

Post lunch:  After two days of systems training and set drive times, let the rep take the lead. If they want to sit with their mentor and do drive time, they’re welcome to, or they can opt to continue working independently (this is a good benchmark of how comfortable the new agent is in their role). As usual, end the day with half an hour of reverse drive time followed by some Q&A to make sure they’re really getting the hang of it.

One of the advantage of having a senior team member mentor the rep is that it’s both a leadership opportunity for the senior rep, and a chance to learn the hacks and tips that may not come in a systems instruction video for the new agent.

Days four and five: These should be largely rep directed. If they want more time to get to know the systems, do drive time, or ask questions, that’s totally fine. If they’re comfortable enough to go full speed, awesome!

By creating a mentorship program, doing hands on training for systems and processes, and ensuring that the new agent is integrated into the team, you will address the three major pain points for new employees: being part of the team, learning the systems, understanding day to day workflow.

Week two the rep will be a fully ramped and trained “customer service” agent. Of course, this program can be stretched as needed, but a week was the easiest to work with because it automatically breaks each day into 20% of whatever the necessary or desired ramp time is.

What processes do you use to ramp and train new customer service agents? Tell us in the comments, or @tweetsfromhelp.