How a Best-Practices Training Organization Can Make the Difference in Call Center Performance
If your telephone agents are the glue that drives performance in the call center, how did they become that way? Sure, natural talent is always a factor. As is terrific candidate recruiting and excellent hiring. But, more than likely, the performance of your call center agents hinges on the training department. From new hire training, when agents first learn about your products and services, to ongoing training, where skills can become refined and accentuated. It is your training department, its staff, and your best practice systems that will keep your telephone performance thirty or forty percent above minimum goals.
The training process is the beginning of a relationship between management and its agents. Management must understand the power of quality training. New agents base their first impressions of their jobs, and decide whether they can succeed, on the basis of expectations set within new hire training. Long-Term agents predicate their continued success and future prospects primarily on the ongoing training provided. Training is the foundation for call center excellence.
Yet, typically in call centers, a pattern emerges. First, new agents get smothered with supervisor attention over their first five or 10 working days. Then, they often have the misfortune of becoming all but forgotten. One can call this the “build them up and ship them out” mentality of managing. Supervisors provide the training, show the agent the ropes, and say “Good luck, let me know if you need anything.”
How can call centers stay away from the training trap? How can they blend initial new hire training with ongoing training to support performance? Let’s look at three reasons why supervisors fail to provide continuous training for new agents, and then three ways your call center can do a better job in training both new agents and veteran agents who are in need of ongoing support.
Why supervisors fail to provide continuous training for new agents:
1) Training Touches Every Area But Not The Core Areas
Although the intention is to train in-depth the new hires and the veterans, neither receives the support needed. Although the intention is to teach in all area’s of training, the core area’s are forgotten. So, new agents get a taste, but not the whole picture. In the call center, the core areas are very simple. Telephone communications (such as customer care or sales training), product training, competitor training, computer training and organizational training.
2) New Agents Disappear
New agents are sensitive to “getting along” with their supervisors. Therefore, when they have issues and concerns, they will either keep it to themselves or find a peer to assist them. The supervisor is generally the last person a new agent will contact with any questions they might have. Therefore, new agents don’t get critical ongoing training.
3) New Agents Do Not Know Where To Ask For Help
Since new agents don’t know the ins-and-outs of the company, they are more likely to suffer with a problem than to ask for assistance. This means the communication systems are not in place to help agents grow. There must be platforms where agents can ask questions and gain knowledge away from the day-to-day activities.
How your call center can do a better job training:
1) Teach Agents The Four Key Principles To The Call Center
Don’t assume your agents understand the relationship between telephone, product, customer and company. These four segments bring success or failure to organizations. The telephone is a channel of communication between the company and the caller. The product is the area around which telephone conversation revolves. The customer is the
central point- –customers initiate calls and require assistance. The company is the backbone that provides the agents with credibility. You know this. Your agents may or may not know this. Explain it to them.
2) Ensure That Ongoing Training Is Implemented
A common perception is that training begins and ends once the new hire training period is completed. This is where management loses their agents. By not receiving consistent and detailed residual training sessions, agents gain neither the skill sets nor the confidence to improve at any level other than the practical day-to-day work level. Management should institute classroom training followed by on-the-floor training, followed by residual classroom and residual on-the-floor training, for an endless period of time for each employee regardless of experience. It is important to recognize that training does not stop after the new hire leaves the classroom. That is when training begins.
3) Dedicate One Training Person to Lead The Process
Would you be stunned to learn that many call center departments don’t have one dedicated trainer that conducts or oversees training? Instead, they delegate training to a supervisor who has other duties, a manager who may not be prepared to conduct training and therefore delivers a poor class, or a part-time trainer who also serves as a representative or team- lead. An organization that takes pride in its call center must ensure they have the budget for a training organization. The key mistake many organizations make is treating training as the low-rung and least important part of the organization. This is because management doesn’t see immediate revenue payoff from the training department. The irony is that training is predominately responsible for facilitating the success of agents. How agents view their company, their brand, their corporate goals and the value they place in their customers defines the success and failure of a company. Training must be a key priority for the company to achieve success in the long run.
If your call center puts a premium on training then you are in great shape. If your training department recognizes the blend between new agents and veterans who require ongoing support, then it is very likely you have thought out and implemented a well established training program. However, if your minimum goals are not being met, and you are frustrated by the lack of initiative from your training, management and agents, take a glance first at the training programs your team has in place. It may provide the answers you are looking for.