Call center agents are an essential part of your customer experience and brand.
But they can’t delight customers without your help.
To be fully effective, agents need your support; implementing a solid call center training program will equip your team with everything they need to handle conversations effectively.
Here are 13 tips to give your call center training program a boost.
13 Call Center Training Tips
#1 Start training early
There’s often a lag between agents being hired and actually starting work.
When this is the case, make training materials available right away so new hires can familiarize themselves with the role.
This initial training doesn’t have to be complex; it can focus more on your business and company than specifics of the role.
Case study: Booz Allen
A good example is the consulting firm Booz Allen.
This company has a ‘preboarding’ course for all employees. It contains welcome videos from senior leaders and information about the company’s customers, service lines, and philosophy.
Creating a program like this is very easy and will give staff a head start, reducing the amount of time it takes to get them up to speed.
“Preboarding is all about getting someone engaged and excited about being here, prior to their actually showing up for their first day.”
Aimee George Leary, Director of learning and development at Booz Allen
#2 Don’t skip the basics
It’s tempting to jump straight into the intricacies of dealing with complex customer needs.
But if new hires haven’t worked in a contact center before, they may be missing some skills that experienced workers take for granted.
New hires may be unaware of basics like:
- How to answer calls professionally
- What to say to callers before putting them on hold
- How to check a customer’s needs are met before hanging up
- How to practice active listening
- Phone skills like bridging or transferring a call
This is the stuff that new starters need to be drilled on until it’s second nature.
(Speaking from experience, there’s nothing worse than telling a customer you’re going to transfer them and then forgetting how to!)
#3 Use simulated calls
Simulated calls are a practical and low-risk way for new agents to practice.
You can arrange for new agents to practice with their more experienced colleagues using typical scenarios.
Experienced employees can provide real-time coaching and feedback, which many of them sincerely enjoy doing!
It’s worth doing a mix of face-to-face sessions and genuine ‘over the phone’ sessions for practice that feels more like the real thing.
#4 Go beyond scripts
Scripts help agents provide great customer service. But relying on these set answers too much can be limiting.
Instead, teach agents the ideas behind the scripts so they are better equipped to help in a variety of situations.
Case study: LUX Resorts
This is something that LUX Resorts decided to focus on.
The company upgraded its customer service by launching a training program to help workers understand and anticipate needs rather than take specific actions.
The crucial element to this? Letting agents prioritize customer outcomes rather than speedy calls.
(By the way – in the three years after adopting this approach their revenue increased by more than 300%.)
#5 Build product knowledge
When asked what drives a great service interaction, 62% of respondents say it comes down to how knowledgeable the agent is.
This makes a lot of sense; the more agents know about your product or service, the better equipped they are to help.
You can build knowledge by creating a dedicated product training plan. The exact form this takes will depend on your product and business.
It could mean:
- Providing freebies or samples for agents to use
- Signing agents up to use your product and providing training in how to use it
- Communicating product updates to your agents before rolling them out
- Providing classes that teach agents about your product or service
The key word here is ‘advocacy’. Agents who have genuine interest and knowledge about your product will be far better equipped to engage meaningfully with your customers.
#6 Teach the “lingo”
When you’ve worked in contact centers for some time, the specialized terms you use become second nature.
It’s easy to forget these terms don’t exist outside your industry, or even your business.
So yes – when training new hires, be sure to teach them about the language you use in your contact center.
But – make sure they understand how to talk to customers without relying on in-house terms that will lead to confusion!
#7 Double down on security
You already train agents in security best practices.
But this is one area of training that should always be under review.
Why? Take the following statistic: 7 percent of agents who collect personally identifiable information (PII) said they had been approached by someone inside their organization to share this data.
42% of these people didn’t report the breach!
Modern security training needs to include basic data protection as well as a deep-dive into PCI DSS and GDPR.
The most common call center error? Writing personal information on post-it notes for quick reference.
It’s often done without thinking, but has landed businesses in hot water before!
#8 Personalize your training
As agents settle into their new roles, training should become more personalized. This will help you target the specific weak points of each team member.
Monitoring and grading agents’ real calls gives you an overview of where they still need to develop.
You can do this live with virtually any modern call center software.
It also helps to record calls and listen to them with agents to give them an objective view of their own performance.
Then, you can provide specific help. And be sure to ask agents for input on the types of things they want to learn.
#9 Consider a mentorship scheme
Introducing a mentorship or ‘buddy’ scheme is an excellent way to meet new agents’ specific needs.
Select some of your best agents to help new hires during their initial weeks and months at your company.
Ideally you’ll sit them together; this is part training, and part support. (Because those first few weeks can be stressful!)
97% of new starters say that meeting their buddy just 8 times in their first 90 days helped them to become productive more quickly.
The key to a good mentorship program is choosing the right people to lead new hires.
Don’t just look for high performers.
Ensure those you choose are motivated to be part of the program and have solid listening, communication, and empathy skills.
#10 Don’t be afraid to go all-in
It can be tempting to introduce changes to a training program slowly. But if your performance issues are serious, gradual changes may not generate results fast enough.
Case Study: Air Mauritius
This was the problem facing Air Mauritius, which, when CEO Andre Viljoen took over, was struggling with poor service ratings.
Instead of taking things slow, the new CEO introduced specialized customer service training programs for top managers and select employees.
He also introduced a two-day course for the entire organization.
These sweeping changes had an immediate impact: the airline soon recorded a 12% increase in the ratio of customer compliments to complaints.
#11 Use NLU to assist new agents
You can use Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology to listen in to calls and provide agents with automated assistance.
The tech listens out for keywords and then provides helpful on-screen suggestions mid-call.
This could include highlighting help documentation or pointing out upselling or cross-selling opportunities.
This point isn’t technically a part of training, but it can provide some extra help during the initial stages of an agent’s employment.
Interested in contact center automation? Here are 8 other ways it can help.
#12 Easy access to documentation
Even the most dedicated agents will struggle to remember everything from a training plan.
This quickly becomes a problem because 76% of callers get conflicting answers when bringing with same issue to different agents.
And that probably means they’re getting wrong answers a lot of the time!
Make it easy for agents to refresh their memories with a library of training documentation they can search to find answers to issues they struggle with.
Knowledge base software can help. This is a cloud-based tool that stores all your documentation and makes it easily searchable.
#13 Provide quality feedback
Feedback is an essential part of any training program. But, it needs to be done in a way that motivates agents to improve.
This is something that many organizations struggle with; only two in 10 employees strongly agree that performance is managed in a way that pushes them to do outstanding work.
There are many ways you can give feedback effectively. But some tips are to:
- Provide feedback at an appropriate time
- Be specific, so employees know exactly what the issue is
- Provide detailed steps employees can take to improve the issue
Look for weak points and choose the most relevant ideas
Your business probably won’t need to implement all the above tips.
Instead, the key is to assess your existing training to see where your weaknesses lie. You can then build the most relevant ideas into your call center training program.