Customer Service Training: How to Do It Right

Who to train, what to teach, and how to get an effective customer service training program off the ground.

August 2023 | 12 minutes

What exactly is customer service training — and why do you need to do it? Effective customer service training teaches support agents how to create great customer experiences.

Delivering positive experiences matters — for every business. In fact, 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services, according to Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” report. Quality training improves both agent and customer satisfaction, and helps your company build a strong foundation for long-term success.


88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services

"State of the Connected Customer," Salesforce, 2022

Answer top questions about customer service training, including:

Why is customer service training important?

Customer expectations are always evolving. Industries like technology, consumer goods, and retail offer quality customer service experiences, and are influencing consumer expectations for other industries. Ninety-four percent of customers say a positive customer service experience makes them more likely to make another purchase.

On the flip side, poor service experiences cost companies. Unhappy customers may contact the company, share their disappointment on social media, or leave negative reviews. After a bad experience, some people never return.

Customer service skills training helps your company avoid this. For some agents, it might be a refresher or a way to align with your business culture. For others, quality training could become the foundation for a successful customer support career.



of agents say it’s difficult
to balance speed and



of decision-makers say
they’re making significant
investments in training

Who needs training in customer service?

If an employee has a role that includes helping customers solve their problems, that employee needs training in customer service. Their title may be customer success specialist, support engineer, or customer service agent. Or a specialized industry term like patient advocate, customer guru, support ninja, or cast member.

No matter what they are called, these team members interact with customers and need guidelines for how to most effectively, graciously help.

What should you include in customer service training?

Customer service training should include both hard skills – like product knowledge, technology, and tools – and soft skills, like emotional intelligence and work habits.

Here are seven valuable subjects to include in your customer support training:

  1. Product and Service Knowledge
  2. Tools, Technologies, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  3. Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)
  4. Communication Skills
  5. Patience
  6. Effectiveness
  7. Attention to Detail

1. Product and Service Knowledge

It’s frustrating for customers when service agents can’t answer questions about your products or services.

But how do you best teach your team? Many people find learning about a new product or service boring and time-consuming. Plust, team members may have different work backgrounds and learning styles. So work hard to make learning more engaging.


Try this:

Quiz employees on new offerings, as well as basic products and services. Provide study materials and offer incentives.

Get creative. Make learning a game, or a fun team competition, to motivate agents to share knowledge and create accountability. Invent awards, or even a rotating trophy for those who demonstrate the greatest product knowledge.

2. Tools, Technologies, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Nowadays, every service organization uses technology to get the job done. Customer relationship management (CRM) software centralizes data about a customer's interactions with the company. Access to data in a quality CRM empowers agents to more quickly help. Be sure to include a section on navigating your CRM in your customer service training.

Many teams also use artificial intelligence (AI) to create better experiences. For example, AI-powered chatbots help customers serve themselves, offloading simple cases from agents so they can focus on helping customers with more complex matters.

Recently, advances in generative AI have opened exciting new possibilities for customer service. Generative AI can analyze customer messages, pick up on relevant details, and create human-like responses to customer inquiries, speeding up response times as well as customer satisfaction. Generative AI can also draft knowledge articles, which next need to be reviewed for accuracy by a human. In short, generative AI acts like a very smart digital assistant that helps your agents do their job more easily and quickly.

Of course, all this comes with a learning curve. Some agents will pick up these new tools, while others will need more skills training. Help your team learn by giving them hands-on access to explore and ask questions in real time.


3. Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)

Knowledge-centered service (KCS) is a method to improve customer experience and reduce agent training time and attrition. It centralizes support around the evolving information agents collect. As patterns emerge, service managers surface knowledge to relevant departments for action.

The KCS module in Trailhead, our free online learning platform, demonstrates KCS and its potential through the story of a service case involving a leaky roof after a solar water heater installation. During the call, the agent creates an article on how to resolve the issue and attaches it to the case.

Over time, managers notice that many customers contact support about the same issue. When management pulls case history data, it shows that a certain type of heater, roof, and long installation screw are always involved. They recommend that installers switch to a shorter screw, and the leak problems stop.

This example demonstrates the power of creating knowledge articles and attaching them to a case. Because the first agent captured the information, others then used that information to fix the next issue. Because management looked at data, the organization fixed potential issues before they occurred.

It’s one thing to create an article to help solve cases. It’s next-level service to catch issues before they happen. Use KCS to improve customer experience and the business at the same time.


Learn more about KCS in this Trailhead module.


4. Communication Skills

Customer service agents need not only to know the product or service, but also to be able to explain it clearly. If agents bluff or seem in over their heads, this creates distrust in customers, which leads to eroded trust in your company. Trust is something that many companies struggle to gain. In fact, only 52% of customers generally trust companies.

In customer support, great communication means breaking complex concepts down into easy-to-understand parts. Helping a customer solve a problem is, in some ways, similar to programming a simple robot. You can’t tell the robot, “Go to the door and open it.” Instead, you must tell it exactly how far to go, when to stop, and what to do next. Extend right arm, open hand, rotate 45 degrees, push down on handle lever, and so on. The same goes for service: You need to explain each step to your customers.


Try this:

Use the robot example as an exercise during a meeting or training session. In two-person teams, one agent pretends to be the robot, while one is the programmer. Keep it lighthearted and be supportive if anyone gets flustered. The idea is to create an “aha” moment and flex a new muscle.


For more tips, check out the trail “Communication Skills for Customer Service Agents.”


5. Patience

For a support representative, patience goes a long way. Agents need to be able to regulate their own emotions and put themselves in another’s shoes. As part of your customer service training, be sure to encourage your team to empathize with confused or frustrated customers.

It can be quite difficult to be patient when helping someone with an issue. Especially when you feel the pressure to keep the conversation very short. When clocks drive interactions, agents aren’t as likely to be patient and provide the best experience for the customer.

That’s why agents need to know what matters most: getting off the call (or chat, text, or site visit) quickly — or solving the customer’s issue in the first contact. Align your goals and metrics with your priorities. Are your KPIs around average handle time and first call resolution in sync?


Try this:

Encourage agents to imagine the customer’s perspective as they practice patience. Suggest they picture a friend or an older relative asking for help.


73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, yet 56% say most companies treat them like numbers

"State of the Connected Customer," Salesforce, 2022

6. Effectiveness

We’ve all had experiences of trying to get help from a company, only to be placed on hold. Or wait days for an email reply. Compare that experience to a single, effective call to resolve the problem. Customers expect your support team to know who they are, and to quickly solve their issue. It’s important to include effectiveness as a pillar of your customer service training program. Here are some ideas:
  • Train service agents to value the customer’s time.
  • Give agents authority in your technology systems to resolve issues.
  • On top of product knowledge, teach agents to expect issues, and to prepare solutions — even when they don’t have all the facts. (A knowledge-centered service approach helps.)
  • Make sure processes and technology are up to date.
  • Rethink customer service workflows to gain efficiency

Customers expect your support team to know who they are, and to quickly solve their issue.



of customers expect consistent interactions across departments



of customers say it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company



of customers have made purchase decisions based on the quality of customer service


7. Attention to Detail

Each customer has unique needs, and many customers experience problems that have no obvious solution. Attention to detail in customer service involves carefully tracking the details of the conversation, as these are clues that point to the appropriate resolution. Make sure your training program includes ways to develop a detail-oriented mindset.

One way to help agents become more detail-oriented is to review cases with missed details, and encourage agents to find them. Another is to create automated processes that ensure agents follow all the required steps. For example, does your system allow forms to go through without a zip code? Case management flows and automated forms guide agents to collect every necessary detail.

Interested in learning more? Check out a comprehensive list of customer service skills in this article.

Types of customer service training


1. Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS)

Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) technology puts users in the driver seat by empowering them to perform tasks, find information in databases, or present information. These systems integrate with websites and online applications and allow users to guide themselves through processes. They may offer pop-ups and icons that help agents learn and explore the material being covered. The information the EPSS serves up may appear in a variety of formats, such as videos, text, images, or data.

2. E-learning

E-learning is accessible anywhere with an internet connection. It is on-demand, and may include a learning management system, which is software that helps your organization manage, distribute, and track training. E-learning may also include digital customer service training manuals. Do beware of passive or read-only programs without opportunities for interaction, though. Generally, users don’t recall information as well as when they actively participate.

One tool to consider is Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform, which provides a gamified experience. With Trailhead, a service manager can recommend specific trails and modules relevant to the support team. Trainees can also expand their knowledge by exploring other modules of interest. Interactive quizzes and challenges incentivize progress through points, badges, and ranks.


3. Instructor-Led Seminar or Workshop

Instructor-led training depends on the skill of the instructor. The best workshops allow for conversation, problem solving, and knowledge sharing. On the other hand, lectures with little audience participation may create a poor learning experience for some team members. Of course the challenges of instructor-led seminars include time, cost, and travel or audience size limitations.

4. Webinars or Online Teacher-Led Training

Webinars are a form of e-learning that involve sharing knowledge through either a live broadcast or recorded video. Instructors may be on or off camera, and share presentations that include demonstrations or slides. Whether live or on-demand, most webinars offer an opportunity for questions and discussion.

5. In-Person Team or Peer Training

Team or peer training may include mentor and buddy programs, lunch and learns, or role-playing and small group coaching. These are all effective ways to support upskilling and cross-skilling for agents.

How to develop a customer service training program

Organize assets and pull data

To get started building out your training program, you might form a small committee of stakeholders from various levels and departments. Determine what assets you already have.

  • To get started building out your training program, you might form a small committee of stakeholders from various levels and departments. Determine what assets you already have.
  • How about a CRM that centralizes customer information? If not, how do your agents currently access customer information?
  • Do you have documentation of customer service processes like standard operating procedures and best practices?

How do you currently measure success and coach your team? What does everyone like about the current system, metrics, and goals, and what do they not like? What are the pros and cons of the status quo?

Consider creating a survey to determine what your team currently knows and where there are gaps. Ask support agents what they wish they knew, or what they want to learn. Also include questions about previous training experience, and tenure in the customer service field as well as with your company.

Separate the survey responses of veteran employees from those in their first year. As you execute your new training programs, survey agents again to compare the data to your baseline.

Collaborate, experiment, and listen

As you build out your training, be sure to use all of your resources — including your people. Different agents have diverse strengths. One may be amazing at calming frustrated callers. Another may be incredible at handling multiple cases at once. Another may be a social channel expert. All can help each other learn, and collaboration and co-teaching strengthens camaraderie among your team.

Peer training also provides an excellent growth opportunity for both trainees and mentors. It gives mentors a chance to develop management skills and learn from others. Experiment with pairings. Even new employees with previous customer service experience may benefit, as these more tenured folks may have habits from their old companies to unlearn. Everyone has room to improve to best represent your company.

As you roll out peer training, survey anyone involved in new programs such as mentoring. What’s working? What’s not? Listen and adjust as necessary. Those surveys just might yield new or nontraditional customer service training ideas -- be open to them!

Access free customer service training materials

Customer service training continues to be a popular topic and so there are many resources available. Encourage your team members to share interesting articles or podcasts with the group.

Don’t forget about Trailhead. It’s free, and teaches soft skills as well as product knowledge and certification prep. It’s also growing all the time, so users can constantly find new ways to keep upleveling their skills.

Check out this curated Trailmix: “Lead as a Service Manager from Anywhere.” Here’s one to share with agents: “Succeed as a Service Agent from Anywhere.”

Customer service training is foundational to success.

Remember, customer service training programs must evolve, just as customers do. Consider training to always be a work in progress.

As you build your customer service training program, remember that it benefits everyone. When you invest in your team, you improve the employee experience. When employee satisfaction goes up, so does customer satisfaction. To truly stand out as a company, make the customer experience the best it can be.



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