4 Steps to Build a Call Center Training Program that Works

Designing an effective training program in a call center is no easy task. Sure, your onboarding may be sufficient for new hires. But as those new hires become seasoned employees, their initial training fades, and you need to supplement it with new knowledge.

Why?

Well-trained call center agents are essential to your customer loyalty. When PwC surveyed 15,000 consumers, they found that 1 in 3 customers leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. One! And as many as 92% completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.

There’s little room for error in customer service. Customers want to know they’ll get consistent care from employees who know what they’re doing. Every time.

Does your call center training program meet standards?

A study by EJBO critiqued call center training programs. They found that call center trainees generally reported their training programs as effective, giving a score of 96% in effectiveness. Seems positive, right? But, once those trainees put their training to the test on the job, only 86% of the trainees could effectively implement what they learned. And after only a month on the job, effectiveness dropped to 77%.

So, as the employees continued working, training lessened in effectiveness. Yikes.

It might be time to revamp your call center training program to avoid this declining trend. Let’s consider 4 clear steps you can take to create a call center training program that invests in your agents.

Step 1: Incorporate storytelling in your training

A good story has a powerful effect on the brain. Storytelling keeps our attention. It enhances learning and helps us retain information. Our imagination and ability to concoct stories are what make us human. Stories have always been a compelling and convincing way to learn. I remember studying for exams and often narrating my notes like I was reading a book so I could commit them to memory.

Use stories and role-playing scenarios to make the learning stick. Every day your agents interact with real people. Each customer brings stories of frustration or problems that your agents need to interpret and respond to. What better way to help them than by using these stories in your training scenarios.

With your call center training tasks, tie in real-life examples to illustrate the processes your agents should follow and how they can remedy problematic situations. Present agents with a problem and allow employees to come to their own conclusions on how to solve the issue quickly and effectively. Encourage discussion and teamwork to reach the right solution. Your employees will learn from one another’s perspectives.

Tell stories as you train to activate different parts of the brain that help with memory. Pair info with real experiences and fresh ideas to ingrain concepts in your agents’ minds. And who knows! You may even learn something from the discussions that ensue, too.

Step 2: Curate an internal knowledge base

With phones ringing and back to back meetings on your agenda, you don’t have time to answer every question your agents have during training.

But, call center training can be like drinking from a water hose — so many details and processes to get to know. Your call center agents have to learn the product or service, the customer, the brand — oh my.

Instead of sitting on standby for every question that might pop up, answer some of the basic and common questions ahead of time. Document answers once, then store them somewhere for easy access. This is where an internal knowledge bases come in handy. First off, what is an internal knowledge base? An internal knowledge base is like your team’s FAQ page. It serves as a library of all the processes, systems, and troubleshooting guides your team has in place.

Knowledge bases are a fantastic way to store, organize, and share information with your team. They also encourage self-coaching. Your agents learn from their own mistakes or questions and work through problem-solving without your help. More autonomy is a good thing in the call center.

When you come up with a new process, add it to your knowledge base so your team has a written guide of what’s expected from them. Not sure where to start? There are a lot of guides to help you establish what categories and types of documentation you should have.

House your knowledge base in a spot that’s easy for your agents to access and that doesn’t add an overwhelming number of windows to their desktop. So, when all your other agents are busy, and you’re in a meeting, your trainees aren’t left without answers.

Step 3: Use speech analytics to anticipate training needs

Every day your call center handles hundreds of customer interactions. In all of those conversations, your call center agents encounter challenges and make moves that are, at times, awesome, and other times… maybe not so awesome. When you’re refreshing your call center training program, take advantage of the data and information available in your call center.

Speech analytics tools help you transcribe customer interactions and identify triggers in conversations, so you can improve your training. You can search through those interactions to find training gaps, find examples of common customer problems, or track trends in your customer experience. With speech analytics, your team can convert every day conversations into helpful transcripts. Then, you can offer insights to help your team improve.

Use the data you find with speech analytics tools to highlight where your call center agents need training the most. If you’ve found that your call center training isn’t serving your team long-term, mining transcribed calls helps you see trends and spot agent errors.

Watch for trigger words from customers, like “cancel” or “angry”. These words signal when interactions are going south and where you can offer your team more help And, they serve a dual purpose. You can also use transcriptions and speech analytics tools as examples of real-life customer stories. It gives you first-hand accounts to show new hires how they should (and shouldn’t) act in certain customer scenarios.

Step 4: Provide a pathway for upskilling employees and developing professional skills

Employee engagement has seen a lot of ups and downs this past year as a result of COVID-19, and it matters now more than ever. A recent study by Gallup found that in this tumultuous year, highly engaged teams were more resilient than their peers during previous recessions.

Investing in your call center agents is just as important as investing in your customer. And, there are significant business benefits to employee engagement.

One of the best ways to improve agent experience and offer better training is to invest in professional development. Your employees want to know they’re not just in a dead-end job, but that the skills they’re learning will apply to their future.

Your agents want to have skills that make them adaptable, no matter the environment they’re working in. In an age of increasing automation, there’s a need for technical skills like well-developed computer skills and the ability to evaluate customer data and documentation. As many as 38% of organizations say it’s difficult to train for in-demand technical skills. Yet, 43% said it’s even harder to teach the soft skills they need in employees, like analytical thinking and communication.

According to a report by ManpowerGroup, by 2030, the demand for human skills, like social and emotional soft skills across all industries in the United States will grow by 26%. In the call center industry, there’s an increasing demand for skills like problem-solving, communication, and relationship-building.

When you’re training agents, don’t only focus on the technical skills they need.

Provide them with opportunities to grow in skills like communication, empathy, listening, patience, and organization. Through 1:1s and employee development plans for each agent, track how your agents are learning and growing to meet their personal goals.

Give agents who excel more opportunities to lead within your team or explore different skill sets. Have experienced agents train new hires so they can pass on what they’ve learned. Or, set up task forces to manage various responsibilities. Have one task force that maintains the knowledge base or another that documents customer trends from surveys.

If you have agents who aren’t as interested in leadership roles, work with them to define their interests. Perhaps you have an agent discover an interest in data. Allow them to manage and assess some of your customer reporting so they can track insights and provide feedback for your team. When you give your agents room to grow and develop, your training will be more effective.

Make Training Continuous

The best way to maintain a strong call center training program? Don’t stop training. If training and coaching stop when onboarding is complete, your agents can’t autocorrect bad habits and practices. The best way to create a lasting impact with your call center training is to make time for it regularly. Build training into your culture. Keep agents humble by demonstrating that the whole team has room to learn and grow together.

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