It's hard to conceive of a customer service training program that doesn't include at least some role-playing elements.
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But too often, customer service role plays come off as hokey and ineffective. Is it possible to keep role plays interesting? And what kinds of role plays are most useful for your customer service staff?
Customer service role plays are important because they give your employees opportunities to learn and make mistakes without consequences. In a real world scenario, a bungled call can quickly turn a current customer into a former customer. But in a role play, every call is a learning moment not just for the individuals participating in the role play, but for the entire staff.
As much as possible, you should try to set up scenarios that challenge your employees and cover the full range of customer requests. Although it might be tempting to try to cram every possible problem into a single "nightmare" call scenario, it's better to focus each scenario on one or two issues to maintain parallels to actual customer service calls. The scenarios you establish should include the following:
- Calls relating to product returns and exchanges.
- Problems with incomplete or wrong orders.
- Payment issues such as incorrect credit card charges and billing errors.
- Requests for information about specific products and product lines.
- Angry customers who are generally dissatisfied with the company and demand remedies for their complaints.
In this day and age, it might even be a good idea to establish role plays concerning emergency scenarios such as direct threats against the company, your stores, and individual employees.
The training session leader has the responsibility of assigning roles for both the customer and the customer service representative. At times, the leader may find it helpful to play the role of the customer herself. However, it is also useful to allow the customer service reps themselves play the role of the customer. By pretending to be a customer, staff members gain a customer perspective and can more easily anticipate responses when they find themselves in a real world, customer service situation. A great way to keep everyone focused and attentive during role plays is to periodically switch new people into each role. If staff members know they may be asked to jump into the role play at any moment, they will be more likely to pay attention and remain engaged.
At the end of each role play, you should debrief your staff about what you learned. Start by asking the person who played the customer service provider how he thought the role play went. Then ask the "customer' and the rest of the group to give their perspectives about what worked and what didn't. Finally, ask both the customer service provider and the rest of the group to talk about what they might do differently next time. It's also appropriate for you – the trainer – to interject your thoughts into the conversation, but only after staff members have had the opportunity to process the role play themselves.