20 Customer Service Training Ideas and Activities for Busy Teams

June 16th, 2016 | Carla Jerez | Customer Service | Blog Home
customer service training activities

Whether you’re planning a training course or using external courses (we’ve compiled a list of free and paid training courses for you to choose from), it’s important to take a break and have some fun in order to keep your team members engaged.

The following customer service training games may seem trivial, but they do more than simply drive a concept or point home: they help foster a sense of teamwork and shared direction. (For more games, see our post: 10 Free, Quick and Easy Customer Service Training Games with Ready Debriefs.)

Although each of these activities work brilliantly as general customer service training activities, there may be times you want to focus on a particular area of learning. The below table shows which activities cover certain areas especially well.

Additionally, some activities are especially short and fun so are ideal for running as energizers, to raise energy levels during the course of a day or when a team has returned from a break. These are also marked here.

Activity Title Energizer Teamwork Communication Questioning Techniques Listening Skills Self-Awareness Best Practice Difficult Customers Empathy
Road Trip
Attitude Anchors
What Are You Doing?
Four Square
Write Customer Letters
Telephone
Say My Name
Questions Only
Step into the Difficult Customer’s Shoes
HEARD Roleplay
Candid Camera
A Tangled Web
Marshmallow Challenge
Customer Service Means…
Mission Possible
Show and Tell
True, True, False
The Stranger Challenge
The Egg Drop
Customer Service Charades
  1. Road Trip

    Duration: 5-10 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Paper and pens

    This activity is adapted from 10 Customer Service Activities To Supercharge Your Team.

    Have groups of two to four get together and decide collectively what are the three best items to bring on a trip. Give them a short amount of time and then ask them to share their answers.

    Afterwards, direct them into the point of specificity. If a person says clothes, for example, ask them if the clothes are for warm or cold weather. If someone says money, ask if cash or card is better where they are heading.

    In the second round, give each group a slip of paper with a destination, and ask them to repeat the activity.

    This way participants can see the difference between planning for a trip in which they know their destination, and planning for one in which they don’t. The key point is that it’s easier to plan when everyone on your team agrees on the final destination.

    Debrief: Imagine what would happen if you turned up for a trip to a snowy mountain only with beach clothes? The trip would be a disaster, and you’d need to abandon it. The same goes for teamwork – we all need to know where we’re going, and prepare for the journey, in order to reach the destination together. In our team, we need to work together and be clear on our goals. Take the time today to consider what your goals are, and how they match with the rest of the team, to make sure you don’t get caught out along the way.
    customer service training activities

    [Free Download] 50 Customer Service Training Activities for Live Chat and Telephone Teams

    The activities in this eBook can be great training materials to improve customer service or morale in your team. Each activity focuses on a particular area of learning and comes with suggested debriefs. This helps your team link activities to learning and apply the learning to the workplace.
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  2. Attitude Anchors

    Duration: 5-10 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Worksheets and pens

    The concept of an attitude anchor is an activity or thing that helps you maintain the awesome attitude you need in order to be effective in customer service.

    There are two attitude anchors: maintenance anchors, which help you maintain a positive attitude, and repair anchors, which help you fix your bad moods.

    Hand out worksheets that prompt your group to think about and write down their anchors: it may be something like exercising or drinking tea—encourage your workers to think about little things that help them elevate their moods.

    Then encourage sharing, so that everyone can borrow each other ideas if they find they are lacking in anchors.

    Debrief:When you’re in a negative mood, it can be really tough to pull yourself out of it. Often, we wait for something to happen to us to change our mood, but if you proactively use an attitude anchor to help you, you can often stop it in its tracks. Use this worksheet to remind you of the things that help you to feel good, or that will put a smile back on your face after a difficult interaction.
  3. What Are You Doing?

    Duration: 5-10 minutes

    What You’ll Need: A measuring tape, random items of clothing and accessories

    Ask for a volunteer and begin taking measurements and placing the items of clothing on them, encouraging them to put on the jacket, or hat, etc. without saying a single word.

    After several uncomfortable minutes of measuring their arms and even the distance between their eyes, ask the other participants what they think you were doing.

    Ask another volunteer to stand up, and offer her the coat, asking questions like:

    • What do you think about this one?
    • Does it fit well? Perhaps I should measure the width of your shoulders.

    The purpose here is to show how much more comfortable it is for customers if they know exactly what is going on.

    Debrief:It’s obvious to all of us what processes we have, and why we have them. But to a customer approaching us for the first time, it’s all alien to them. Telling your customer what you’re going to do, before you do it, and explaining things step by step will go a really long way towards helping them feel more relaxed about the service that we give.
  4. Four Square

    Duration: 5-10 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Masking Tape and a timer

    This activity will help participants see the value in a comfortable working environment, as well as the importance of creating a good and comfortable environment for their customers.

    Divide the room into four quadrants with the masking tape, and assign a number to each quadrant.

    Explain to team members that within each quadrant they are expected to perform the assigned activity for 45 seconds:

    • Jumping on one foot repeatedly;
    • Reciting the alphabet backwards;
    • Singing nursery rhymes as loudly as possible;
    • Relaxing.

    At first you will assign people to their first quadrant to keep the amount in each space even. Then after 20 seconds, shout: “Switch!” Participants are allowed to go to any other square they want, but they must switch, and they must visit each quadrant once.

    By the fifth round, you will find that most people are in the fourth quadrant—by far the most comfortable!

    Debrief:As you speak to your customers today, think about what options you are offering them. How do you find out what’s best for your customer? Just ask them. Don’t make them go through lots of effort to get to a comfortable place – instead, really put yourself in their shoes and ask, are the options I’m giving truly the best ones for this customer?
  5. Write Customer Letters

    Duration: 10 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Pen and paper

    This activity is adapted from Green Rock Customer Connect.

    Ask one participant to share a customer they serviced the other day; have them share the customer’s name, their most recent purchase, and what they needed help with.

    Now ask the group to each compose thank you letters to your company from the perspective of this customer.

    Have participants imagine how this interaction made the customer’s day better, and to effusively praise the company’s best points.

    Then ask for volunteers to share their letters in order to prompt a discussion.

    The idea here is not only to raise team morale, but actively engages them in considering what a customer is really looking for when they seek help from one of your team members.

    Debrief:We’ve identified some great things here that we all do, which are all part of the service we provide. Although some interactions can be tough, we all have the ability to provide a great experience for our customers, and most customers are looking for these things when they approach us. Take these qualities into your next few customer conversations, and remember how these best practices can work to create really happy customers.
  6. Telephone

    Duration: 10-15 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Smiling participants

    Telephone is a familiar game for many, as it teaches the importance of direct communication.

    To start, you can break the size of the group into smaller groups (but try not to make the group smaller than 10).

    Have each group sit or stand side by side in a line. Then whisper a “top-secret” company mission in the first participant’s ear, quietly so that no one else can hear it. Then that person will whisper it to the next person and so on and so on, until the last person will declare the message out loud.

    Count on lots of laughing, as usually the last message is so radically different than the first that people can’t help but chuckle!

    Debrief:For our customers, even small breakdowns in communication can make a huge difference in getting what they need. As you pass information to other people, think about the ways you can make sure you are heard and hearing correctly. Using questions to check your understanding, and choosing the right method of communication, are two things you can do to make sure your message isn’t being lost or misunderstood.
  7. Say My Name

    Duration: 10-15 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Worksheets and a timer

    This activity requires at least six people. Have two groups of three line up to face each other, and give them two minutes with each person to ask and answer the following questions:

    • What’s your name?
    • What’s a hobby of yours?
    • What was your first pet’s name?

    Then after three rounds, have each individual fill out a sheet in which they recall each answer for each person they talked to (feel free to get creative with the questions). The activity may be difficult, but with each round your team members will improve as they realize the importance of listening when providing quality customer service.

    Debrief:There are lots of different levels of listening, and to truly listen deeply is something that we can often find difficult, especially with distractions around us. Think about what tips or techniques you can use in your communications to make your listening skills top notch.
  8. Questions Only

    Duration: 10-15 minutes

    What You’ll Need: A timer

    This activity comes from the classic TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

    To play, ask for several sets of two volunteers.

    Then invite a set to the front, prompting one of the two to ask a question a customer has asked him or her before.

    Then the other volunteer must respond with a question—the entire conversation should be composed of questions for a minute.

    This activity serves as a fun ice-breaker, but also encourages team members to actively think about questions they have been asked by customers, and to realize that they are often asked similar questions as their fellow team members.

    Debrief:Conversations with lots of questions in them can be difficult, and sometimes it can take some skill to gather information without it sounding like a barrage of questions or an interrogation. Varying your tone, pitch, and positioning the need to ask a few questions can help to make your conversation sound more natural.
  9. Step into the Difficult Customer’s Shoes

    Duration: 10-20 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Sheets of paper and pens

    With this exercise, break your team up into smaller groups of 3 or 4. Then have each group spend five minutes coming up with a rude, demanding, or vague statement a customer could say based off of their own experiences. Then have someone in the team fold the paper over and hand it to the team to their left.

    For the second round, give teams 5-10 minutes to develop both a backstory and response to the fictitious customer.

    The idea here is to explain why the customer may have become difficult—for example, maybe the difficult customer had a bad day or a subpar experience.

    Have groups share the message, the created backstory, and their appropriate customer service response.

    Debrief:Customers are not usually deliberately rude, demanding or vague. Usually they will have had a bad experience in the past that has caused them to be this way, or they could just be having a bad day. It’s important to remember that when you’re confronted by one of these customers, there will have been a chain of events for each and every one of them which caused them to act the way they are acting. Knowing this will help you remain objective and solution-focused when these customers come to you for help.
  10. HEARD Roleplay

    Duration: 15-20 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Prompts

    Disney has to handle over 135 million customers in their parks each year, so customer service isn’t something they take lightly.

    The technique Disney has developed to train customer service representatives on angry customers is called HEARD:

    • Hear: Listen to the customer’s entire story.
    • Empathize: Use phrases that convey that you understand how the customer feels.
    • Apologize: And do so effusively!
    • Resolve: Fix the issue, and if you don’t know how ask the customer, “How can I set this right?”
    • Diagnose: Get to the bottom of the issue that way you can make sure it won’t happen again.

    You will precede the activity with a HEARD lesson. Then you’ll ask for a set of volunteers and tell the other participants that they’ll act as judges.

    Provide the volunteers with a scenario that you may have seen happen in your company—something either common or comical to keep their interest.

    Assign one role-player to be the customer service agent, and the other to be the customer.

    Then have them move through each of the five steps, encouraging them with the next step if they seem stuck.

    Afterwards, ask your judges to discuss how the customer service agent handled each step, and to come up with their own diagnosis.

    Debrief:When a customer is upset or angry, it may not always be our fault, but it is our problem. Using a technique like this is great as it ensures that you’re handling all customer complaints effectively and in a consistent way. Although following this might feel a bit clumsy and awkward at first, with repeated practice it will become natural for you to respond to complaints in this way. Give it a try and see how it helps you.
  11. Candid Camera

    Duration: 15-20 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Pictures of each team member/character, and a recall test

    This activity is adapted from The Big Book of Team Building Games.

    This activity, like Say My Name, drives home the point that customer service representatives need to remember who they’re talking to at all times.

    Whether in person or online, have each person state their name.

    If this is online, have each team member share a picture of themselves in a group chat as they state their name.

    If you are all well-acquainted with one another, have each team member create a customer persona, with a fake name and a picture of a celebrity.

    Then hand out or email a test. Encourage team members to turn it in within two minutes—then share the answers. The key here is to test how quickly team members can learn names.

    Additionally, this memory game created by the BBC is a great resource to send to your team members if they’re having trouble remembering names or faces.

    Debrief:None needed for this activity, as it speaks for itself – you may want to simply draw some parallels between remembering names effectively, and good customer outcomes through the easier formation of rapport.
  12. A Tangled Web

    Duration: 15-30 minutes

    What You’ll Need: A ball of yarn

    This activity is adapted from mftrou.com.

    A Tangled Web is an activity that everyone can participate in together, making it an exceptional team building activity.

    Have everyone stand up in a circle, facing inward. The first person is to hold the ball of yarn in his or her hands, and then state a fact about themselves. (For example, “My favorite food is sushi.”).

    Everyone who relates or agrees to that statement raises their hand. The first hand the yarn-holding individual sees will get the rest of the yarn. He or she will hand the ball to this person, while still holding on to an end of the yarn.

    At the end (and after a number of chuckles), you’ll find that the web is incredibly tangled—proving the importance of your interconnected team.

    Debrief:Great teams are made through both their similarities and their differences. In this activity we’ve been able to see the huge number of different ways we can relate to each other, while also recognizing that there are lots of things that make us unique. In that sense, we’re all connected in different ways – and that’s what really makes for effective teams.
  13. Marshmallow Challenge

    Duration: 20-25 minutes

    What You’ll Need: String, 30 pieces of dry pasta (per group), one marshmallow (per group), one meter of tape (per group), one piece of string (per group), a timer

    This design challenge was made famous by Peter Skillman at a conference in 2007, and even has a Ted Talk effusing its benefits.

    To start, divide people into groups of 3 to 6, and give them the supplies listed above. Then give them 18 minutes to build the tallest, free-standing tower.

    Introducing a competitive element helps inspire teamwork, but beyond that it also drives home the importance of resourcefulness and communication in the most dire of customer service scenarios.

    Don’t forget to take pictures of the resulting towers—you’ll be inspired the creativity!

    Debrief:In our teams, you might find that you naturally take a particular role – whether it’s more action-focused, coordinating, or planning. It’s really important to have a mix of different people in teams with different strengths and preferences, to make sure that we can complete tasks effectively. This activity will have demonstrated some of the ways we can use our natural resourcefulness and communication skills – as even in the direst of customer service scenarios, we’re stronger when we work together.
  14. Customer Service Means…

    Duration: 20-30 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Pen and index cards, a timer

    This activity is adapted from The Big Book of Customer Service Training Games.

    Write the following words and phrases onto index cards: extraordinary, delight, serve, above and beyond, discovering, like family, adding value, positive experience.

    Separate individuals into groups of two or three. Hand each group an index card, and ask them to write down, based off of the word or phrase given, a definition for excellent customer service. Give each group 5-8 minutes to complete the activity.

    Then ask a representative from each group to read their mission statements out loud to the other groups. Guide the discussion to find the common link between all definitions, and create a definition together on a white board.

    Debrief:Although customer service might mean different things for different people, you can see that there’s a lot of common ground between these definitions, even though we’ve all been using different words. Having a clear vision of what we want to achieve will always make us more focused, working in a joined up way, and stronger as a team.
  15. Mission Possible

    Duration: 20-30 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Print outs of your company’s mission statement (or digital copies), and pieces of paper, pens (or access to a shared document)

    This activity is adapted from The Big Book of Customer Service Training Games.

    Create teams based off of different departments, or people who share similar duties or shifts.

    Discuss the company mission statement as a whole, and then ask each group to create a collective mission statement for their team.

    Have a spokesperson from each group present their mission statement after fifteen minutes.

    Then, with the extra time, encourage individuals to create their own personal mission statement with the company, and suggest they keep it in their office or on a sticky attached to their computer.

    Debrief:Customer service means different things to different people. But one thing that unites all of our definitions is that they all cover off the ways that we try to be at our best when interacting with our customers. Think about the ways that you can develop and live by your personal and team definitions as you interact with your customers today.
  16. Show and Tell

    Duration: 20-40 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Sheets of paper and pens (or a prompt in a document for virtual teams)

    Give each participant a piece of paper and five minutes to recreate a difficult customer service experience they had and to share how they resolved it.

    This could be due to a number of factors, whether it be a difficult customer, internal error, or multitasking strains.

    Encourage participants to think creatively. Then have the group break up into smaller groups of 3 to 5.

    Each person should share with their group the situation and how they handled it. Then other members in the group should be encouraged to offer a compliment on what the speaker did well in the situation, as well as offer suggestions for the future.

    Debrief:We’re stronger when we share our experiences with others, and it’s important to talk about and learn from situations that are challenging, as much as it’s important to celebrate our successes. Never be afraid to talk about difficult situations – part of what’s great about being part of a team is having the openness and trust to share and learn from each other.
  17. True, True, False

    Duration: 20-40 minutes

    What You’ll Need: Smiling participants

    Keep groups no smaller than 10 and have the group seated in a circle.

    Have each person state two truths about themselves and one lie. For example, you might say that you had a burger for lunch (true), have two siblings (false), and like to play hockey (true).

    Then have the next person in the circle decide which statements were true and which statement was false.

    After the second individual guesses, the first person will reveal the lie to the group.

    This is especially fun for new teams, and can be exercised over a group chat or forum (in this case, just set the order of respondents beforehand by assigning each person a number).

    Debrief:None needed, this activity works best when it’s just for fun.
  18. The Stranger Challenge

    Duration: One Week

    What You’ll Need: Smiling participants

    AppSumo has developed a great challenge to get people out of their comfort zone and making connections, which is important for customer service agents who need to be a little more assertive than shy.

    This is a great challenge for virtual teams as well, as it doesn’t require an immediate presence and can be done on individual time.

    All you have to do is direct workers to this website and have them follow the instructions.

    The Stranger Challenge requires that workers print out the “I Don’t Know This Person” sign, and find a stranger who agrees to pose for the photo with them, effectively pushing them out of the bounds of introverted behavior.

    Then challengers can upload their photo onto the site to be featured in the gallery!

    Debrief:None needed, as this activity works best if revisited with participants over a number of days in an informal way – asking them who succeeded, who failed, why, what circumstances led to which actions, and what from this we can apply to the workplace. It’s also important to link back to the reason why you’re doing this activity – to build confidence in communication, get used to pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, and understand how to weigh up what risks are worth taking.
  19. The Egg Drop

    Duration: One Week

    What You’ll Need: Eggs and miscellaneous packing materials and office supplies

    This classic science class project isn’t just for teenagers—it’s also an activity that can help adults think outside of the box and connect with their deeper problem-solving skills and abilities.

    Have your team split into smaller groups by randomly selecting a name from a hat.

    The idea here is to face challenges with co-workers they might not traditionally work with, just like how you can’t pick what customers you’re dealing with or what problems you may face.

    Now present each group with an egg and encourage them to use whatever supplies exist around the office to create a casing/contraption that can survive a drop form the top of the building, and to convene with their groups over lunch.

    At the end of the week have teams drop their eggs from the top of a building to see which eggs survives and which go splat.

    Debrief:None needed, due to the duration of this activity. However, in the final closing session, you will want to question your team to find out what they learned from this activity and how it can be applied to the workplace, as well as drawing out insights they have relating to teamwork, creative thinking and collaboration.
  20. Customer Service Charades

    Duration: Depends on group size (and how much fun you’re having!)

    What You’ll Need: A list of relevant phrases/words to your industry and company

    Good old-fashioned charades can teach your team a lot about the importance of both verbal communication and body language. Also, it’s just plain fun, and as a result sure to help your team bond.

    Give each individual a term or phrase. Have the first participant stand up and act out their term (without saying a single word!).

    While the traditional game has the person who guesses the term/phrases correctly perform next, it’s easier and more efficient to assign turns no matter who guesses correctly.

    Debrief:Sometimes we encounter situations where customers only give us a piece of the puzzle, and we have to guess what they need through careful questioning. Even where a customer is being quite clear, if we’re not communicating face to face we may be disadvantaged by not being able to see their body language or, in the case of email and live chat, hear the tone of their voice. Charades can be a fun way to consider the impact of missing information from our communications – when you’re speaking to your customers today, think about what information could be missing from your communications, and come up with some strategies to bridge the gap to ensure crystal clear communication, every time.

Hopefully the above customer service ideas, activities, and exercises will help you develop a customer service training program that keeps all of your team members actively engaged.

Whether you need a debriefing activity or transitional one, the activities and games above are sure to inspire insight as well as laughter.

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About 

Carla Jerez is a senior content writer at Comm100. She has a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University and has years' experience writing for the SaaS industry. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, traveling, or playing around on Photoshop. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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