Indifferent Call Center Training Leads to Indifferent Call Center Agents
What’s the difference between a good call center agent and a bad one? For starters, the good call center agent sticks around to pick up skills and become a professional agent. The bad call center agent leaves the job very quickly, wasting the time the company took to recruit and hire him or her, though not before irritating a few customers along the way.
So how are good call center agents and bad call center agents made? While it’s certainly important to recruit the right people – call center work isn’t for everyone – the difference is often in the quality of training offered to the agent from the beginning. When an agent receives good training, he or she will “get it” faster, putting experience under the belt and developing an affinity for the job.
Peter Laurie of the UK-based company Power Partners Development recently provided CallCentreHelper with tips for building a performance-focused training department inside the call center. The trick, he writes, is to avoid the so-called “Sheep Dip Mentality,” which involves subjecting employees to periodic set training courses to “refresh” them. The courses generally remain the same from year to year, and the material is seldom engaging or applicable to real-world scenarios.
These courses are often overly general, poorly designed and don’t always help the agents develop the skills they lack. (This is because they are often designed by people who don’t actually work on the call center floor in a daily capacity.) To improve them, writes Laurie, companies must revisit these courses from year to year and ensure they are still relevant. It helps for mangers to do a yearly evaluation and ensure that the skills being taught are relevant and that the training program fits the companies needs today. It’s also critical to evaluate agents before designing the courses, so the call center isn’t wasting time reinforcing skills the employee has already mastered, while skipping areas where he or she needs work.
“Effective measurement is crucial to success,” writes Laurie. “How can you measure the effectiveness of any training intervention if it isn’t connected to an action plan? How can you expect any new skills to be implemented properly if you don’t follow it closely with an effective action plan? People rarely come out of their comfort zone – if they have done something a certain way for the last three years don’t expect them to implement consistent change following a training course, even if they do agree it’s better than the old way and fill in the happy sheet accordingly.”
Even if this method works enough to justify the time and expense, it should never be the only method used to train agents. Desktop-based training solutions that can be tailored to agents’ needs are a great idea, as are simulations and customized one-on-one training based on real recordings of the agent’s interactions with customers.
Many contact centers find success by training the trainers: putting managers through the paces first so they can learn to become effective managers. The RCCSP Professional Education Alliance offers hands-on courses for call center managers that allow them to more effectively design training solutions and programs that help contact centers achieve their goals. The courses include modules on successful training and coaching techniques that can help contact centers get more out of their human resources without a “one size fits all” approach.
In the end, training agents is very much a matter of getting out what you put in. Train agents in a repetitive, generic and offhand way, and it’s probable that the agents will return work of a similar quality. Design a dynamic, customized and professional training course for agents, and it’s probable that you’ll see every aspect of customer support improve.
Edited by Blaise McNamee