North American Customer Service Management Association

Support for Contact Center Professionals

Phase 3 Strategy - Step 5 Initial Agent Training

What Do Agents Need To Know To Start Taking Calls?

The recruitment effort doesn’t stop with the offer letter.

Now that the right agents are on board, what do they need to know to be successful at your contact center? What is the training plan and what should it include as well as not include? You can’t teach everything.
Too many times companies put agents through three months of training only to be disappointed with the results because they tried to teach everything, from how to use their applications to being empathetic to the customer. According to Help Desk International, these are the top five new agent-training topics:
1. Customer Service Skills 26%
2. Technologies used by customers 21%
3. Technologies used to provide support 14%
4. Problem-Solving skills 10%
5. Learning to leverage other support center staff 7%

Today’s contact center agent is required to know a little about a lot of things.
What We Won’t Teach You

In most situations, it’s more important to screen applicants for interpersonal relationship skills and an orientation toward service than for technical skills.

Sure, a technically skilled person may reach full productivity faster. But it’s a lot easier to train an empathetic employee to work your computer system than it is to train an un-empathetic, technically proficient employee to show genuine interest in other people. Not everyone knows how to read a customer’s body language or facial expressions, and those skills prove difficult to teach. In the common shorthand, you want people with high emotional quotient (EQ), not just high intelligence quotient (IQ).
21st Century Instructor/Trainer is a Facilitator of Learning

Promoting the rock star agent or SME to a trainer position is setting up corporate training for disaster.

While these folks know the company, product and services better than anyone, they are not always the best trainers. Sure, you can put them through a basic train-the-trainer course but it is much more effective to start with a quality experienced trainer. A professional trainer will make all the difference even if the curriculum isn’t up to snuff. The professional trainer can make new hire training engaging, experiential and time worth spent.
Today’s instructor is a facilitator of the learning process. No more are the days of death by PowerPoint and 8 hours of lectures. Learners expect activities, discussions and projects and these kinds of actions require a strong facilitator. Facilitators are managers of process. Facilitators use their knowledge of how learners learn to create an active environment that values participant’s prior knowledge and learning styles. Instructors are content based and express their knowledge through lecture and writing. You find them hiding behind PowerPoint presentations. Facilitators convey their content and knowledge through learning activities.
A mediocre trainer only tarnishes the training department as a “waste of time”. Select a professional trainer and pay the trainer well. This is the new agent’s first impression of the company. Make the training productive. This is an opportunity to show how “21st Century” the training and contact center is. Everyone will want to work here!
21st Century Learners

Today there are many ways to get information and that is the very question to ask in developing a training plan.

Is it strictly knowledge and information transfer or is it skill building or both? Many companies today try to do too much in new hire training making it overwhelming and therefore questionable as to whether the training “sticks”. Humans haven’t changed much in how they learn. To master a skill, the best way is to do it, get feedback from the coach/trainer/supervisor and make it better and do it again. Many topics of the new hire training like soft-skills and systems training lend itself well to instructor led training for this reason.
Strict knowledge transfer, for example, compliance, regulations, policy and procedure work well with e-learning. It provides consistent information, ability to test the participant’s knowledge, track test results and completion dates as well as delivery of the content. Too many new hire classes ask participants to sit in a classroom for six weeks asking them every day to complete online courses. If e-learning is the only training tool being used, it’s time to rethink your training program.
What has changed is the way the modern learner takes in the learning experience. 21st Century learners expect different training environments from learners of past generations. Many agents want more peer-to-peer learning. They want to acquire knowledge “socially” through communication and collaboration with peers. They like to work on tests and projects together in groups.
Modern learners expect training to be personalized to their learning styles, personal strengths and general interest. Technology is key to personalizing the training experience. E-learning is boring.
Modern learners want

- To have a say in their training plan
- Have higher levels of digital literacy
- Want feedback – good, bad or ugly
- Want to make a difference
- To use their creativity; resist rote learning and memorizing
- Desire teamwork – we’ll figure it out together
- Enjoy “trial and error’ approach to learning new skills
- Learn by doing
- Have a “can do” attitude – they are not afraid of learning new material
- Have the need for challenge or suffer from zone out yet needs to be structured
- Resourceful, don’t know a world without search engines, know where to find information
- Subjects are inherently interconnected – balk at topics organized into subjects – that is the older model
The 21st Century Training Room

Instructor led training is not dead.

Interestingly we have come full circle with e-learning and instructor led training over the past 15 years and students prefer face-to-face training over online courses. No one enjoys clicking through screens full of text. The classroom allows for teamwork and collaboration and is by far more social than online coursework.
Instructor led training is overdue for a technology makeover. Smartphones are usually banned from the corporate training room thinking they are distracting. People run their entire lives from a Smartphone today, asking new hires to put them away is like asking them to stop drinking coffee. The corporate training room needs to look for ways to integrate Smartphones, tablets and other AV technology into the classroom. This usually means the course design and curriculum also needs a complete makeover. Don’t do it halfway – the 21st Century learner can tell – there is no hiding.
Just installing 60” monitors on the wall and stuffing 40 students into a room for system training is hardly a modern classroom. Training today is the total experience of exceptional curriculum design incorporating the 21st Century learner, the technology including the Smartphone, the quality and experience of the instructor/facilitator and a solid new agent training plan. They are all critical to agent success. Taking shortcuts or going halfway will show up in the classroom, the 21st Century learner will catch you!

Tips!

1. Training must be experiential to get lasting impact. Death by PowerPoint is so last century.
2. Include Smartphones in the classroom as a learning tool. Get creative; personal devices are not going away. Learn to work with them.

Take the Next Step!

How training is delivered is just as important as to who delivers it and what the content is to be delivered. Too many companies take shortcuts and think training is a necessary evil. Training is required but do we have to spend resources? Outdated program design, curriculum and instructors hurt the training departments reputation and so it goes when agents get on the floor they are told, “forget everything you learned in training”. Turn your new hire agent training into a 21st Century experience that knocks the socks off participants, contact center managers and instructors. Make it an invaluable resource and agents will be excited to participate, instructors will enjoy facilitating and contact center managers will appreciate the results.

Work Space Vendors

Contact Center Furniture

Commercial Interior Designer

NACSMA Consultant

Furniture

Specialized Office Systems offers customized solutions to deliver printing, promotional products, apparel, office supplies and business furniture to multiple locations across the country. You will receive the personalized service you want and the attention to detail you need.

Interior Designer

Cresa Commercial founded in 1993 was convinced that representing tenants exclusively was the best way to go. Not only would it give our clients the kind of objective, unbiased advice they might not get elsewhere, but it would also give us a unique offering in the real estate marketplace.

Consultant

The North American Customer Service Management Association (NACSMA) assists Service Center professionals with improving the delivery of Customer Care to their clients by providing a collaborative networking approach to operational issues.