Customer expectations for service are constantly increasing. Now, customers expect more than an answer to their question. They want their problems solved quickly and desire a personal interaction with a skilled agent.
Apart from choosing intuitive and easy-to-use call center software, call center managers are also investing more time, money and effort into the development of training programs so that their call center agents will be well prepared to meet the increasing expectations of their customers.
According to The Global Call Center Report, compiled by researchers at Cornell University, newly-hired call center agents typically receive 15 day of initial training. If your training protocol falls shy of this 15 day mark, it might be time to take a long hard look at your training curriculum and whether or not your agents are sufficiently trained to meet the needs of your customers when they hit the phones.
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This blog post contains 15 tips for training call center agents. Use them to enhance the training you provide your agents so they can better meet the needs of your customers.
Kick off training with an introduction (live or video) from the call center managing director, department heads, and agent supervisors. Encourage them to introduce their role on the team as well as how the agents can contact them. This will help agents put a face to a name and give them a lifeline when needed.
Your new hires should have a comprehensive understanding of your business, product and call center operations. They should also be provided information about company culture, mission, core values and vision and understand their role in achieving business goals. With this understanding, your agents will be more prepared to interact with customers in a manner that is consistent with your business values.
Most new hires have no idea how schedule adherence impacts the call center. Make sure your agents are in the know by having someone from Workforce Management explain the impact that schedule adherence has on key performance indicators like service level. It would also be helpful to give new hires information on which KPIs managers will assess, how these will be tied to performance evaluations as well as practical tips on how to hit their KPI benchmarks. Doing so will prepare your new hires to be mindful of these KPIs and adjust their approach to interacting with customers accordingly.
Encourage your top agents to come to trainings and give practical tips on how to be a top performer. This will set the bar high for new hires and enhance their insight into how to effectively execute their job.
A great way to enhance agent motivation to provide outstanding service is to help them understand the role they play in building customer relationships. Educate them on customer lifetime value as well as the cost of a bad interaction. Let them know how the quality of the service they provide impacts customer conversion, retention and loyalty. Once they have this understanding, they will be more motivated to provide top-notch service.
New agents should be provided examples of appropriate greetings, transfer techniques and how to end a conversation. Allow them to listen to recordings and also provide them with scripts. Encourage them to practice with each other until these become natural.
When your agents have a concrete understanding of what to say and what not to say, they will be more prepared to provide excellent service. Accomplish this by teaching them about call center etiquette excellence and informing them of etiquette guidelines.
Their overarching goal (apart from providing amazing service of course) might be to increase sales, resolve a customer’s issue on first contact or resolve the customer’s issue as quickly as possible. Whatever the goal, agents should know it and know how to achieve it.
Have a knowledge base? Teach new hires how to use it. Have a technical support department? Teach agents how to conference them into a call. Have managers that are available to jump into a live call? Tell agents who to ask for help. Do they have a rock star agent in their department? Tell them who that is and when it is ok to ask for their assistance. Trainees will inevitably come across questions that they don’t know how to answer. Show them where to look and who to ask to help them resolve the issue.
According to The Global Call Center Report the time to proficiency can vary depending on:
Keep this variation in mind when training agents. Keep your eye out for learning or knowledge gaps and do your best to adjust your approach to training in an effort to fill them.
Agents often learn best by doing. Team up your agents and have them role play common call scenarios. Allow them to get their hands dirty playing with your product. Give them sufficient hands-on time to learn your call center software. These hands-on training experiences are essential to cultivating a capable workforce.
Videos are a great way to engage your agent trainees. Don’t have the budget to produce your own training curriculum? Don’t worry. There are great how-to videos and videos you can use for icebreakers on YouTube.
One of the best ways for call center agents to learn how to interact with customers is to hear recordings from previous calls. Choose recordings that will help you demonstrate a specific point (i.e., how to handle an angry customer, what to say if you don’t know the answer to their question, how to give a customer refund, etc.). Letting your new hires hear for themselves how more seasoned agents interact with callers will give them a better understanding of how they should too.
Throughout the training program, consistently monitor agent performance and provide them with timely feedback. New hires should know exactly what is and what is not working so they can adjust their approach accordingly.
According to The Global Call Center Report, experienced call center agents receive an average of six training days per year. Make sure your agents keep their performance high by continually providing refresher courses, training on new products or software and training to enhance their professional development.
As customer expectations for service increase, it is on call center managers and executives to train agents to effectively meet their customer’s needs. Following the aforementioned 15 tips will help you enhance your training curriculum so your center agents can provide amazing service.