In the call center arena, your frontline people are key to success. This starts on day one of their employment in their initial training. Here are some tips to foster successful agent training.
There is a time and place for online training, but self-directed instruction will not work in all situations. Some training calls for a classroom setting, where agents can learn from one another when they seek clarification, share insights, and respond to questions. Other times, such as coaching or call evaluation, effective instruction necessitates one-on-one interaction. This is not to discount self-paced online training, but view it as a secondary resource, not a primary teaching tool.
To effectively address all learning preferences, employ a variety of teaching tools, such as lecture, PowerPoint summaries, take-home handouts, interactive multi-media, and time for practical application. While some will learn via verbal instruction and visuals, others need printed material they can study or multi-media interaction.
Regardless of how agents learn the theory of a process or rationale behind a skill, preforming that element of work, helps establish their competence in that area. Yet instead of practicing on real callers, a safer environment that is more conducive to effectual learning is to use roleplaying in a classroom environment. While some relish these opportunities, not all do. Yet all agents can learn through roleplaying and internalize key proficiencies before applying them to actual callers.
When instructing agents, don’t take anything for granted. For example, a hashtag to some is known as a pound sign to others. Explain everything in detail. Saying “URL” may be clear to some and confuse others, who will instead understand “web address.”
Too often the focus of agent training is tangible skills, such as how to use programs, navigate resources, and the most efficient button sequence to accomplish critical tasks. Yet callers are more concerned with the agents’ customer service abilities, soft skills. Teach agents how to truly listen, hear what’s not being said, convey empathy, and defuse emotions. For maximum effectiveness share these in a group setting, with ample time for discussion and roleplaying.
Great instruction means nothing without the opportunity to apply it. As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” Build practice time, including roleplaying, into all group training. People can quickly forget what they hear or see, but what they do stays with them, especially when they to it repeatedly. Athletes call this muscle memory; the same principle applies to agents as they master call center skills.
Agents are the key to successful call centers, and strategic training is the key to effective agents.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of call center and telephone answering service staff. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.