It’s a given that providing great customer service requires a thorough understanding of the product offering. Customers come to the service team with all kinds of questions. When a service rep can speak competently about the product, that transfers to the customer who takes comfort in the fact that she is being helped by someone knowledgeable about her issue.

Ideally, every service rep is an end-to-end product expert. However, that’s not a realistic possibility for a lot of teams. New service reps naturally have less product knowledge than their peers. As companies grow, their offerings become more complex and diverse. Knowing the ins and outs of every product becomes more information than a single brain can handle.

Prioritize What You Learn

The goal may be to learn everything, but some information will be more immediately valuable. Service reps often have some kind of a tool kit—maybe an admin panel, special user rights, or a dedicated piece of diagnostic hardware. Get comfortable with that. Become familiar with what kinds of problems your tools can address, and learn what you can explore in a sandbox environment. (Similarly, learn what not to mess with.) Once you know your tools of the trade, you can start looking for problems to solve.

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Smart service teams have a sense of which customer issues occur most frequently, and where they fall on the spectrum of complexity. Knowing how to solve the most common issues gives a new service rep immediate value. It’s also a nice confidence booster to get some quick wins under your belt. That gives you the confidence you need to speak with customers.

Explore the Product

We dogfood our own product heavily at InsightSquared. Not only does it help us become familiar with the product’s various ins and outs, it puts us all in the mindset of the user. Whenever possible, service reps should interact with the product as a user would. It makes it easier to establish empathy and gives you context for solving the problem. Absent that, service reps should explore their product offering whenever possible. Press all the buttons to see what they do. Experiment with settings. See if you can break something—if you can, users undoubtedly will too.

The key here is to expose yourself to as much of the product as possible so the first time you hear about something, it’s not a customer asking you how to fix it. As you explore the product, find your favorite feature. This will give you a positive association with the product that will come through in your communication with customers.

Know Where Answers Live

The best way to get around knowing everything about your product is to know where to learn everything about your product. Service reps are naturally inclined to help people. Asking your peers questions about the product is a perfectly good way to learn. Shadow them for a day and see what tricks and techniques they use to solve problems. Go through whatever emails, wikis, prior cases, or chat histories you can that tell you about how the product works. Documentation is your friend.

As an example, take Leslie Knope from the TV show Parks and Recreation. As a mid-level local government employee for Pawnee, Indiana, Leslie has a seemingly exhaustive knowledge of the city’s history and laws. However, when she finds herself facing a new problem, she utilizes all her resources in search of a solution.

Leslie is an expert in Pawnee, Indiana, and in a rare moment when she’s caught off guard, she knew what to do: act with confidence, ask for help, and know where to find answers.


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