Effective training must meet clear-cut and measurable objectives. Here are some solid guidelines for effectively accomplishing this crucial task
- Provide agents with step-by-step procedural guides organized by call type. There is no shortage of reference materials for the call-center agent. There are mountains of manuals filled with legal rules, system information, company codes, etc. What doesn’t exist in most instances is a procedural guide that agents can easily access for step-by-step instructions based on the type of call they are facing at any given moment. While this may seem like a lot of work to put together, there are a number of advantages to developing procedural guides. By publishing best-practice procedures for every call type, all of your agents will know exactly how they are expected to respond to any given call situation. This will create consistency and increase call accuracy. Even if you don’t have time for formal training, providing procedural guides to agents will go a long way toward helping you improve call-center productivity and quality.
- Simplify existing reference materials as much as possible. To ensure easy access to information, make existing reference materials short and to-the-point. If your reference materials are paper-based, you may wish to consider making them available online. Above all, the information should be organized in such a way that agents will be able to find what they need quickly and effortlessly.
- Organize training topics based on call types. If you do have time for formal training, the procedural guides you create will help support your training efforts if you also organize your training based on specific call types. This will allow trainees to practice handling each type of call they can expect to receive when on the job. When developing training based on call type, you should first start off with simple calls that require more basic skills and build up to calls that require complex skills. Before allowing trainees to advance in training, make sure that they have demonstrated competence in each skill being taught.
- Allow agents to role-play a variety of call types. Once agents have learned each call type, give them a chance to role-play a variety of call types in a learning environment that, while supportive, mirrors actual job conditions as closely as possible. To be as realistic as possible, the role-plays should include both simple and more complex calls as well as different call types.
- Model the learning environment to match on-the-job conditions as closely as possible. Consider the actual job environment your agents will face. Are there multiple conversations taking place in the background? Do agents work in a high-traffic area? While you don’t want to create a practice situation that is too disruptive, trainees should be able to demonstrate their ability to handle calls effectively in their actual job environment.
- Allow agents to learn at their own pace and to practice as much as necessary. People learn best through practice. To ensure the success of training, practice should comprise at least 50% of the training course. As is human nature, some trainees will require less practice than others to gain proficiency in their jobs. To ensure that more experienced trainees don’t become bored during training, structure your training to allow these trainees to move on to more complex skills, while giving less-experienced trainees the time they need to gain the skills and the self-confidence they will need to be able to perform effectively back on the job.
- Hold trainees to the same performance standards as required on the job. Provide plenty of practice opportunities to help trainees not only process a variety of call types successfully, but within the performance standards required of their jobs (e.g., talk time). For agents who do not achieve 100% proficiency by the time training is over, it is important to come up with a specific plan of action to support these trainees when back on the job. This ensures that they will be able to meet established performance standards as quickly as possible.
- Keep reading to a minimum. For any information that does need to be made available to trainees, consider non-paper-based options such as online learning or audiotapes. If you do need to provide paper-based information, keep the content slim (only include “need to know” information, versus “nice to know” information). Use a lot of white space in your materials. And keep the reading level to about an 8th grade level to ensure easy and quick comprehension.
- Give supervisors the tools, skills and information to provide ongoing support to agents after they complete training. To ensure the ongoing success of training, it’s important that supervisors “buy in” to the training, reinforce the training, and support the best practices that have been taught during training. If not, newly trained agents may find different procedures, performance standards and expectations awaiting them back on the job.
- Provide newly trained agents with a supportive work environment. To ensure that newly trained agents can effectively apply their skills back on the job, consider teaming them with a mentor or a coach for a limited time.
If you decide to do this, be sure that the mentor or coach is properly trained in this capacity. At the same time, make sure that the coach or mentor role isn’t considered punishing to the person being placed in this position. At a minimum, the newly trained agent’s supervisor should be available to provide any necessary support or to answer any questions that may arise.