If you’re like me, the approach of fall always reminds me of going back to school. Pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters, and crunchy fallen leaves all inspire me to crack open a textbook, leaving the lazy summer days behind me.
But as we get further into our professional career, it’s easy to neglect our own learning. We might be busy getting our own kids back into school. Maybe we don’t have room in our budget for personal development. As we get older, learning new skills tends to fall to the bottom of priority list.
However, making time for personal growth is important. Learning new customer service skills keeps us motivated, challenged and excited for the future. It can help us earn a new promotion, or negotiate a raise. Developing new skills help us improve customer service by incorporating new processes or ideas into our work.
Read on to find out how continuous learning keeps you on top of your game, and how you can create your own Fall semester of customer service training.
Why continuous learning is the key to a great career
People change jobs 10 to 15 times during their lifetime. Improving your professional skills helps you navigate the changing job market. Worried about AI taking your customer service job? Learning new skills like data analysis or user experience design can help you stay relevant in your role even as the robots begin to automate some tasks.
Customer service training keeps our brains adaptable. Ever worry you’ll end up like your grandparents, unable to program the PVR to record their favorite shows, complaining about the good old days? Technology is still moving fast, and the ability to pick up those new skills depends on our brain’s ability to learn.
By stretching your brain outside its comfort zone, you’ll continue to improve the brain’s neuroplasticity – it’s ability to create and reorganize connections. Research found that the more complex the activity was, the more benefit you see through short term memory improvements. Class interaction, like discussion groups were particularly helpful in stimulating brain adaptability. Your brain loves learning!
Customer service training and learning new skills takes time and energy, but the personal and professional benefits are so worth it.
Read more: Why Customer Service Teams Should Flex Their Soft Skills Muscle
Create your own customer service training curriculum
Support combines so many different disciplines in our daily work. We spend time writing emails to users, troubleshooting APIs, making UX recommendations to product teams and managing products and people. There’s a lot of room to learn and practice new skills within our existing roles.
Creating a curriculum or a set of goals will help you drive your learning forward. It doesn’t need to be a big commitment – even 10 minutes a day on your commute can help you gain a new skill this year.
1. Determine which new skill you’d like to learn or improve.
If you have a supportive team environment (which isn’t true for every office), talk to your manager about where new skills would fill team gaps. Chat with your mentor or another senior team member about what opportunities are available.
If you’re doing this alone, think about where you’d like to be in 3 to 5 years. What job title would you like to have? Look up job descriptions and note any skills that you would need to improve. Think about what you’re happiest doing, or areas that you’ve found attractive in the past. You don’t need to have any existing ability or experience – that’s what we’re going to learn!
2. Create your curriculum
Remember getting your course syllabus on the first day of class? It’s time to make your own. Look out for all different types of material to add to your curriculum of customer service training. You can find online course and videos to watch, books that you can rent from the library or blogs to follow.
We’ve listed a few great resources here (mostly free!) for the top requested support skills, but this list is not exhaustive! Spend just a few minutes a week on your list and you’ll be surprised how fast you pick up applicable skills for your job.
We’ve also included a list of free learning resources down below that you can search for other skills. Let us know if we’ve missed any!
• Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
• Take part in the Support Driven Writing Challenges
• Become a Better Writer [paid] by Udemy
• Codecademy’s online courses
• Codeschool’s introductory classes
• Coursera computer science classes
User Experience (UX)
• Springboard’s User Experience Design Curriculum
• Coursera Introduction to User Experience
• This massive list of UX resources from a Quora thread
• MindTools on Team Management
• EdX on Becoming an Effective Leader
• GetLighthouse blog
3. Put your new skills to use
Once you’ve started learning (whether it’s a new language, digital photography or product management) find ways to put your skill to use. Pick up projects you don’t feel ready for, or ask if you can sit in on meetings at work.
Write a blog post about what you’ve learned. Sometimes writing things down is a great way to cement what you know (or what you don’t know yet). Join a meetup where you can discuss your interests and find new opportunities or mentors.
Volunteer your skills for non-profits who need websites designed, or set up a freelance business helping friends and family with graphic design needs. Skillcrush has developed a great guide to making an extra $1000 per month freelancing as a junior developer. As you keep practicing your skills, you’ll keep improving.
Free online resources
Regardless of what skills you want to learn, there’s a huge number of free online resources to learn them from. Here’s a list of great places to learn anything from:
Lynda – a massive online learning platform now owned by LinkedIn. You can get a 30 day free trial, which is more than enough time to finish a course.
Coursera – join online courses hosted by real universities on a variety of subjects. They list everything from nutrition, to computer science intro courses to game theory. While the courses and learning are free, you can also pay extra to receive certification at the end of the course.
edX – similar to Coursera, edX offers online courses from top universities for free. You can add an optional certificate of completion for $99. Their leadership and management courses are especially good. You can essentially get an MBA education for free! (Well, at least the book learning – there’s obviously a whole bunch of other benefits to an MBA education!)
Skillshare – definitely on the more creative side of things, you can learn everything from how to build your freelance brand to chalk lettering to digital photography from experts!
TED talks – if you can think up a subject, there’s been a TED talk done on it. Throw these on for a quick 15 minutes learning session. To get the most out of them, write down one takeaway from each video you watch – or, just enjoy the brilliance of the TED speakers.
Customer Support University
Buy yourself some new stationary (ooooooh), brew a cup of coffee and curl up with some books. The only difference between you today and you in 2018 is what you do in the next 3 months. Every little bit you learn helps improve your brain plasticity, your career opportunities and your team’s customer service skills. Get to it! Good luck with your personal customer service training!
Also published on Medium.