Call centers need to quickly onboard and train agents. Yet ProcedureFlow’s 2021 State of Contact Center Training report found that 55% of contact centers spend 6 to 12 weeks training new agents with no guarantee of proficiency.
Effective training isn’t a one-off program. To develop a high-performing team, call center training should be a continuous effort that is reviewed and updated as the industry evolves.
Ongoing call center training programs are necessary for team knowledge development and retention. Before we dive into developing a training program that works, it’s essential to review whether your existing training is up to standard.
Does Your Call Center Training Program Meet Standards?
The first question to ask about your call center training is whether it’s effective. A study published in the Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies found that call center training was 96% effective while employees were in training. But, once agents started working, their ability to effectively implement what they had learned decreased by 19%.
Call centers like yours have a different kind of standard to meet. They operate under regulations set by the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, to name a few.
These regulations include:
- Call centers need consent from agents and customers to record conversations.
- Agents should train at least annually to stay in compliance.
- Centers can’t record CVV2 numbers from credit cards.
These are just some of the regulations that call centers must follow and emphasize in agent training.
Once you’ve ensured your call center practices are compliant, you’re ready to move forward and improve your training. In these four steps, we offer call center training tips and explore the elements of an effective training program that delivers lasting results.
Step 1: Incorporate Storytelling Into Your Training
Good stories are known to have a profound impact on people. They help us learn from other experiences, retain information and challenge us to look beyond our existing opinions, values and skills.
Good stories come from any subject and can be told in many different ways, but they will always stick out in your mind. And incorporating storytelling into your agent training programs aids your employees in retaining more information and putting it into practice.
Every customer interaction is an opportunity for a new perspective that supports training your new agents and challenges your more experienced employees.
By utilizing actual call recordings, you illustrate the processes agents should follow and demonstrate how agents deal with the complex situations inherent to their role. Encourage an open discussion around these scenarios and create a moment for everyone—including you—to learn from peers.
Step 2: Curate an Internal Knowledge Base
Training sessions are often intense and overloaded with information, leading to agents having many questions afterward. You need to prepare answers to those questions. Your actions before and after training sessions are just as important as what happens during them.
All the information agents receive during training can leave them feeling overwhelmed as they return to work and try to get back to their daily routines. But, as much as you might like to, call center leaders can’t be the team’s sole source of knowledge—whether it’s about training, products, technology or other aspects of the job.
That’s why it is critical to curate an internal knowledge base. This base doesn’t have to be high-tech. You might simply create a folder in your content management system or intranet regularly updated with information agents need. Whatever the structure, it should be a single, accessible source of vetted information.
An accessible knowledge base makes it easier for managers to answer questions during and after training. Employees know where to find frequently asked questions and other resources that allow your agents to take the initiative in troubleshooting problems and improve their skills.
Don’t forget to regularly update your knowledge base, such as when a new process debuts. This way, your team has a written guide of the company’s expectations.
Not sure where to start? The first step to creating a good company knowledge base is deciding what will go in it, who will gather the information, and who will keep it updated. We recommend selecting agents to create an internal knowledge base team in charge of setting up and maintaining your knowledge base for your call center.
Once you know what type of information you are working with, decide how to organize it. You want to make your knowledge base as user-friendly as possible so that agents can find the resources they need quickly and painlessly, so a simple structure is best.
Is your knowledge base missing essential information like your mission statement or basic processes? Do those documents exist? Tap members of your new knowledge base team to write and edit any documents needed to fill in the gaps of employee knowledge or update documents that no longer reflect the reality of your workplace.
Once your content is complete, it’s time to upload your documents. Invite other select contributors and set up a regular maintenance schedule for the knowledge base. Now that the framework is set up, you don’t want it to stagnate while the documentation goes out of date. Gather feedback and make adjustments to its organization based on your team’s experiences.
Step 3: Use Speech Analytics to Anticipate Training Needs
Depending on the size of your call center, your agents will be handling hundreds or thousands of calls per day. That many calls are typically helpful for reinforcing training, as agents get many chances to practice. The constant calls lead them to become more comfortable on the phone as they encounter the typical challenges of the role.
However, while some of the challenges new agents encounter get handled perfectly, that’s not always the case. When you are updating or developing your training program, use the available data from your call center dashboard metrics to identify problem areas for each agent.
Along with that data, call center leaders should use speech analytics tools to quickly analyze customer conversations. This way, they can identify patterns and trends and improve operational efficiency, agent performance and high-quality service levels.
Speech analytics tools provide real-time transcripts you can share during training sessions with your agents. Mining transcribed calls is insightful to you and your agents, especially if you find gaps between your call center training and the results.
These tools allow call center leaders to identify trigger words like “cancel” or “angry.” Signaling a call session gone wrong and, potentially, problems with customer service.
Step 4: Provide a Pathway for Upskilling Employees and Developing Professional Skills
Gallup’s study Perspective on Building a High-Development Culture Through Your Employee Engagement Strategy found that, during the height of the pandemic, highly engaged teams were more resilient than peer groups during the most recent recessions. One essential factor in team engagement is when employers invest in upskilling employees to adjust to the new economy.
Formal professional development in a variety of areas, including technical skills and soft skills, is relevant for all organizations, and call centers are no exception. By investing in your employees, you are investing in customers—a strategy proven to have significant business benefits for many companies. A workplace culture that prioritizes professional development helps agents understand what the company needs and recognize their purpose within the organization.
Agents want to possess skills that make them adaptable regardless of their working environment while advancing in automation and other technologies. Use metrics and feedback surveys to identify the skills gaps and, just as importantly, the skills your agents want to develop.
Once you better understand their metrics, you can combine actionable data, contextual coaching, and training to empower agents to take ownership of their professional development, giving them greater control over their careers. Using the available data empowers you as a manager and your agents to have more constructive conversations about performance and further professional development training.
Make sure your agents understand the purpose of all this training, too. Upskilling is designed to help employees grow and advance, and they need a road map of where training and development will take them.
If your call center needs help implementing these programs, try looking at outside training options. Training doesn’t have to be exclusively in person, either. Digital software solutions also upskill your agents through a variety of online training resources, including how-to videos.
When Training Agents, Don’t Only Focus on Technical Skills
Technical skill training is notoriously difficult for many call centers, but teaching the soft skills all employees need—such as analytical thinking and communication—is even more challenging.
Agents need to be technically capable, but they also need opportunities to improve their communication, empathy, listening, patience and organization. Through one-on-one meetings and employee development plans for each agent, call center managers and team leads track how agents learn and grow toward goals.
Allow your agents to be leaders within your team while exploring different skill sets. This empowerment could occur in many ways, such as seasoned agents training new agents or through task forces that manage additional responsibilities.
For example, you have an agent who is interested in data. Allow them to manage and assess some of your customer reporting, so they learn to track insights and provide feedback for your team. Empowering agents to grow and develop makes your training more effective.
Make Training Continuous
A strong call center training program requires continuous learning and implementation to ensure that your team performs at its best.
Don’t let your training programs lapse. When training and coaching stop, bad habits, practices and gaps grow. This scenario negatively affects your call center’s performance and call center ROI.
Get managers and the leadership team involved in making training and development a priority. The goal is to win buy-in for a continuous call center training program embedded in your company culture and become a norm for all employees. Everyone has room to grow and learn—including you.
These steps offer a path to creating call center training programs that work, and it’s up to you and your leadership team to make it happen.