Agents are key for call center success. Good agents produce good call center operations and having good agents depends on hiring the right employees to start with. However, between agent hiring and agent success sits agent onboarding. The goal of agent onboarding is to provide newly hired agents with the needed information, skills, and behaviors to become effective members of a call center team. Without a comprehensive onboarding process, even the best hires will struggle to perform at acceptable levels. Successful agent onboarding involves these components: Orientation: The very first, essential aspect of agent onboarding is to make a great first impression on the agent. This initial impression sets the tone for the rest of the agent experience. Integral to this is to confirm that the new employee made the right decision in joining the company. Failure in this area is hard, if not impossible, to overcome. Classroom Instruction: Following orientation is group training in a classroom setting. This is primarily lecture based, since a great deal of information must be disseminated. However, wise trainers will employ various training techniques to engage the class and facilitate learning. They encourage discussion, promote communication, and provide an interactive experience whenever possible. Demonstration: Although talking about call center processes is essential, witnessing actual calls is invaluable. In this case the trainer plays a call and then discusses what went right and what could have gone better. In this, don’t just select perfect calls, as this will establish a high standard that new agents may feel is unattainable. Instead share a mix of good and not so good calls. Each one provides a valuable learning experience. Role Playing: Next, onboarding should introduce a bit of role-playing in which trainees can practice by interacting with others in a simulated call experience. In this the trainer or another agent serves as the caller to a trainee. The goal is to produce actual interaction in a safe environment. Practical Application: This final phase of agent onboarding involves taking actual calls, albeit in a controlled environment. Provide a strong safety net for the trainees so they can move forward in a confident manner, knowing that they have adequate backup if needed. Limit the amount and pace of calls during this phase. If possible have them start with the easiest type of calls that come into your call center. Begin with a trainer or senior agent sitting alongside each trainee, ready to take over at a moment’s notice. Over time the trainer need only be in the room to observe and be available as needed. Soon they will be ready to move out to the call center floor. Don’t leave agent onboarding to chance. Put forth the effort needed to do it right. 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 staff in the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at email@example.com or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.