When it comes to customer service, everyone has something to learn. Even people who are naturals at interacting with others can find ways to improve their people skills — and, of course, first-time customer service reps always have a lot to learn.
One of the best ways to teach people any skill is to have them practice that skill in a hands-on but relatively low pressure environment.
Customer service training games are a great way to illustrate important factors about the customer-representative relationship. And, if you’re working with a set of new employees, these games can also help to break the ice and build solid working relationships among employees.
The caveat is that the games have to actually work. The only thing worse than not including activities in a training session, is to include activities that flop.
Here are three customer service training games that you can use in your next employee training session.
Customer Service Training Game 1: Don’t tell me, let me guess.
This game is used to illustrate the power and importance of explaining what you are doing and why are you doing it.
Especially in cases where the customer is likely unfamiliar with the process that the customer service rep is following, it can be incredibly frustrating to sit through seemingly pointless questions or long wait times. This customer service training game will help your new representatives step into the shoes of their future customers.
To play this game, select two volunteers from within the session. Have the first volunteer come up to the front of the room, and instruct them to answer each of your following questions quickly but accurately.
Ask a series of questions, without context. Here are a few sample questions, although you can tailor yours to your career field:
- What if your favorite climate?
- Do you have any allergies?
- Are you color blind?
Then, thank the first volunteer and have them sit down. Call up the second volunteer and ask the same series of questions. But this time, explain why you are asking each question.
If you use the above series of questions, for instance, you can explain:
- We are pairing each new representative with the most fitting branch of our company. Some of these branches are located far north in the mountains, while others are bordering on the equator. For this purpose, can you tell me what favorite climate is?
- Some of our branches are pet-friendly, and dogs and cats regularly roam through the offices. Do you have any allergies that we should take into account?
- One of our branches’ primary customers is a paint company. They often call with questions about how to test the consistency of the paint color. That job is best tackled by someone who can see in color. Are you color blind?
Once the second volunteer is done, have them sit down. Ask the group to consider how frustrating it could be to have a series of questions asked of you when you don’t understand the purpose of the questions.
Note also that giving context to your conversation can even make a customer give a different response. For instance, a lot of people don’t include animal allergies when they list their allergies, so removing context can even lead you to incorrect answers at times.
This customer service training activity shows the importance of giving customers context when you’re speaking with them. No one can read your mind and since customers often don’t work in the same field as you, they may not understand how your job works.
Taking a few minutes to explain yourself and your process can help customers feel at ease and taken care of. It can also give you more accurate information to use, making your job easier as well.
Customer Service Training Game 2: Never say never.
No one likes to hear that the thing they want is not possible.
Instead of just saying, “I can’t do X” say, “I can do Y.”
This is an easy concept to grasp, but a difficult concept to put into practice. This game is meant to train customer service employees in this tactic, before they use it with an actual customer.
Make sure that everyone has clearly legible name tags, and then have your new employees gather in a large circle.
Instruct each employee to think of two or three requests that they’d like. The requests can be reasonable or outlandish, realistic or entirely imaginary. Give a few examples of different requests, such as:
- I want to switch places with you in this circle.
- I want a fire-breathing house-trained dragon.
- I would like you to give me a $50 gift card.
Give the employees a few minutes to think up a couple requests (as a side note, make sure that every employee understands that these requests can be fun or funny, but must be appropriate, which means there should be no potentially offensive requests).
Then, tell each employee that they will take turns calling out another employee’s name and requesting one of the things they have in mind. That named employee then has to deny the request, without actually saying, ‘No.’ That named employee will then name another employee, ask for a request that must be denied, and so on.
Start with an example between yourself and another group leader, and then get the group started.
No matter the request, whether it’s reasonable or absurd, there are ways to decline the question without saying, ‘No.’ Once you realize how to do this, it gets easier and easier to answer questions in positive, solution-oriented ways.
This customer service training game is really about exposing your employees to a new way of thinking, and allowing them to get comfortable putting that thought process into action.
Customer Service Training Game 3: Call me by my name.
Nothing kills a professional relationship more quickly than forgetting the other person’s name. In customer service, when you work with dozens of people every day, it’s particularly important to be good with names.
But this isn’t just a natural skill — you can learn techniques to remember names better and for longer periods of time.
One of the most proven ways of remembering names is to use the memory palace. This is something that Sherlock Holmes, in the BBC/Masterpiece version, uses to remember an absurd amount of information.
An employee orientation session is a great time to teach this method, as the new employees can use it to remember the names of their new co-workers.
This activity works best at the very beginning of a session, preferably with a fairly large group of people who have just met each other.
To begin with, explain the concept of the memory palace to the entire group.
Here are the steps to building your own memory palace:
- Select a place with which you are very familiar.
- Many people choose homes, such as the one where they grew up, or other familiar buildings, such as your high school or your college dormitory. You can also choose a road or an outdoor location, but you must be very familiar with the place.
- Begin to list off the things that you want to remember.
- As you go through the list, place each item (or, in this case, each name) in a specific place within the building that you are using as your memory palace. Cement this in your memory.
- “Walk through” your memory palace a few times, naming each item or name that you have placed in each room. Do not move anything around, simply observe.
It’s that simple. Your memory palace has now been created, and you’ve placed each thing you want to remember within the memory palace.
Now, whenever you want to recall the items or names on that list, simply walk through your memory palace and “find” each item or name.
Although this technique works well for remembering grocery lists or to-do lists, it can also be used for names. To associate the name with the correct person, you may imagine each person standing in a certain part of the house that is similar to their name.
For example, you may picture “Frank” standing next to the fridge, where you keep hot dogs, which can be called “franks.” Or, if you know that Frank likes to ski, picture Frank standing in the attic, pulling his skis out from storage.
Even if the correlation between the name and the location is a stretch, it doesn’t matter so long as you can remember it.
Once everyone understands how the memory palace works, have each person say their name and a fact about themselves. Give everyone in the room a moment to place that person and their name in their own memory palace, and then continue on to the next person.
At the end of the session, have a few people try to remember the names of everyone in the room.
This customer service training game teaches not so much a lesson, but a memory technique that is proven to work.
Remembering names and other key items about a person are absolutely crucial in the customer service world. Often, a good memory is the difference between a decent customer service employee and a truly excellent one.
But it isn’t just about person’s natural ability to memorize. There are things that you can do to improve your memory and your recall.
These three games are an excellent place to start for an employee training session. Remember that the more interactive you can make the session, the more that employees will learn.
Sure, you could have someone stand at the front of the room and lecture about methodology and rules, but hands-on learning is always preferable. Throw in a few customer service training games, and you’ll already be on your way to a memorable and educational training session.
Gaetano DiNardi is the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva and has a track record of success working with brands like Major League Baseball, Pipedrive, Sales Hacker and Outreach.io. Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and songwriter - he’s worked with major artists like Fat Joe, Shaggy and loves making music to stay turbocharged. To get in touch, follow him on LinkedIn.