Just how important is customer experience? According to a survey from contact center software provider Five9, 75% of consumers say they’re unlikely to do business with a company that delivers poor customer service experiences. 

Think about that: Even if everything else goes right with their experience, a misfire on the service side will drive off three-quarters of your customers. In that light, customer service agent training might be the single most important CX investment your company makes. 

Top-Notch Agent Training

To help your agents deliver a high-level customer experience:

1. Set up a surprise product demo.

Whatever product or service you provide, make sure your agents know it like the back of their hand. An American Express study revealed that 62% of customers see the agent’s knowledge as key to positive service experiences.

Even if your agents are all former product engineers, put on a product demonstration for them. A few days later, without warning, ask each of them to give you a demo. Your goal isn’t to put them on the spot; it’s to identify where their understanding of the product differs from the company’s intent. Create a reference sheet that agents can keep beside their desks for common issues.

2. Get agents more team exposure. 

Too many businesses operate contact centers that are cut off from the rest of the company. Although outsourcing the function can save companies about 50% on their customer service expenses, it has a hidden cost: putting distance between agents and the company’s mission. 

Don’t trade short-term savings for a long-term hit to your customer experience. If possible, keep everyone in the same building. If your agents work remotely, implement processes that require regular contact. Set up once-a-week video lunches. Fly everyone out for quarterly retreats. Encourage banter with tools like Slack. 

3. Take turns playing the customer’s role.

When customer service people spend all day talking to users, they tend to think they’re good at seeing the customer’s side. Put that to the test: Pair agents up, with one playing the rep and the other acting as the customer.

When agents sit on the side of a call they’re not used to, it changes the way they see their role. Take discounts: Reps often receive pressure from above to limit the number of freebies they hand out. But forcing a customer to eat the cost of a defective product is a sure way to destroy his experience. Help agents approach their role with empathy, even if it costs extra.

4. Emphasize relationship-building.

Everyone wants her concerns to be heard by human beings. According to a study done by McKinsey, 70% of the customer experience comes down to how the customer feels she’s treated. Real, human connections make even the most difficult interactions go more smoothly.

Encourage agents to engage with customers on a personal level. Really listen to what they have to say, be sensitive to their emotions, and don’t be afraid to talk briefly about things other than business. Customer service agents are the face of your company, so it’s important that the impression they give off is a human one. 

Customers choose companies not for their products, but for how those companies make them feel. Regardless of why they contacted customer service in the first place, you have a chance to keep — or even upsell — them if you handle it well. Give agents the tools they need to deliver better experiences, and watch your customer experience create lasting relationships.