#7 Sharpen the saw. Stephen Covey’s last habit.

Well, until he came up with Habit 8, but we won’t go into that now.

Customer Support Organizations invest a lot in training-an area of significant “mis-investment” or sharpening the wrong saws. Most agent training has been focused on pre-call training, where they learned about the process, learned the most common problem and its response, and tried to memorize everything they needed to know about the less common, and usually more difficult, problems.

It was a good idea once upon a time, but is out of sync with the recent self-service transformation that has swept Customer Support Organizations. Before phone and web self-service became popular, the 80/20 rule applied well to service interactions: 80% of the calls were about 20% of the issues.So, it made sense to train an agent on the 20% issues. They would solve 80% of the issues and escalate the rest.

Self-service targets the same 80% now. As a result, the issues that get to agents are more complicated and definitely not the kind that can be learned in a few short weeks of newby agent training. Add in the facts that product cycles have shortened and new product variations are exploding. Agents are burning out.

These customer support organizations have to cram more into these newbies as self-service continues to take care of the easy, repetitive service issues. Training needs to shift from “pre-call” to “in-call.” Instead of the agents being forced to learn a bunch of processes, new interactive process support software can help capture and codify service best practices that can be easily used by novice agents.

This approach has helped large software providers and financial services companies reduce training time for agents from two months to one week, even while their first-time resolution rates have improved significantly!

Invest in the right training resources. There are many successful examples of migrating from “pre-call” training to “in- call” interactive knowledge base customer support tools that result in a better customer experience, a more empowered (and less burned out) agent, and a more profitable interaction for the support organization.

That’s it for the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Customer Support Organizations. What works for individuals works equally well for Customer Support Organizations. By reusing proven, timeless principles of self-improvement and applying them to service operations, businesses can achieve new levels of performance without compromising on customer experience.

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