Call center agents should never complete their education. If agents claim to have finished training, either they’re deluding themselves or their call center is letting them down. Agent training isn’t a once-and-done task. It must be ongoing. Seriously.
Here are four key types of ongoing agent training:
Advanced Skills Training: Initial agent training covers basic competencies. Until agents can learn and apply these fundamental abilities in a real-world setting, it makes no sense to provide additional training. However, once agents have shown proficiency with the essentials, they should move on to receive advanced training. One key area is teaching them additional customer service skills, soft skills, to more effectively deal with unusual caller situations.
Call Evaluation: All call centers record caller conversations. In most call centers a quality assurance advisor will listen to a sample of calls to rate them and provide agent feedback. To be most effective the feedback should happen as close to the call as possible. Address actions needing attention, but focus on the positive aspects of the call to reinforce the agent’s great work.
Corrective Action: In an ideal situation mistakes would never occur. Yet they do. Even the most seasoned and accomplished agents sometimes mess up. While ignoring errors is a tempting response, doing so is never constructive and only serves to increase the chance of a repeat episode. Instead meet with the agent as soon as possible to point out the error or offer corrective alternatives. Do this in private without letting other agents know what is occurring. Also avoid taking corrective action during the agent’s breaks or after they clock out. Make it quick. Say what you need to say and move on.
New Instruction: Call centers are never static places. There are software updates to understand, new apps to grasp, advanced integrations to master, and new computers to adjust to. In addition new accounts start service and must be learned, while existing accounts implement different processes to follow. Ineffectual call centers let their agents discover these changes on the fly and expect them to figure out solutions in the midst of live calls.
Professional call centers provide needed training in advance so agents are fully prepared to embrace changes before they encounter them for the first time.
Agents are the key to successful call centers, and ongoing training is the key to effective agents. Start training today and never stop.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan and a longtime member of the TAS industry.