By Claire Coffman
In today’s ultra-competitive landscape, businesses place a greater emphasis on customer satisfaction, retaining customers, and providing world-class customer service. Tailoring training programs to focus on the skills needed to reinforce positive customer interactions is crucial. Consumer confidence is key to maintaining long-lasting customer relationships.
The success of telemarketing campaigns depends on how well trained the agents are. The combination of skill, product, and technology education helps establish a foundation to set call center agents up for success.
The Learning Environment
Teaching or training anyone anything requires a sturdy knowledge base on the instructor’s part, a willingness to learn on the student’s part, and a well-structured instruction guide. If any of these components are missing, learning can’t happen. At least not without increased frustration for everyone involved.
Trainers have an innate ability to switch between teaching a concept to provide support effortlessly, sometimes in the same breath. They must be able to quickly process when a learner is frustrated and how to alleviate that emotion. No one learns when they are upset.
Teachers, trainers, or anyone in any instruction position must mix in a little compassion in their subject matter. By understanding that everyone learns differently, treating learners with compassion, and exercising patience during every step of the learning process, we can cut back on the time it takes to train agents on new material and cut back on attrition rates.
A One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Training Is Ineffective
As different as the job descriptions for inbound and outbound telemarketing are, the training required to perform these jobs is just as diverse. Inbound telemarketing agents need instruction in customer service areas and cultivating relationships with new and existing customers.
Inbound telemarketing training is typically seen as less strenuous than outbound instruction, primarily because most people calling into a company’s service center are already customers or want to become customers.
Outbound telemarketing agents need to learn all the above and how to reach sales quotas, which adds to the stress of calling customers when it may not be a convenient time for them. Outbound telemarketing agents also need to be more prepared to hear a no than an inbound telemarketing agent will.
Components for Inbound Telemarketing Training
When training for outbound and inbound telemarketing, the critical focus is to develop sales through service. Customer service develops through connecting with people—treating every caller as a human with a name instead of an account number and dollar signs. That means showing empathy, documenting and understanding customer complaints and compliments, and creating a positive experience for the customer.
For inbound telemarketing training:
- Inform agents about the company’s history, product, and expectations.
- Train agents how to use the company’s technology for remote workers, including how to access any remote desktops and use any customer tracking programs the company has.
- Have a session on customer service and what the company expects from their agents. Some companies have specific ways of speaking to customers. Agents need to learn to meet those expectations and practice company-specific speech.
- Practice, practice, practice. A quote I love to share is “Don’t practice until you get it right; practice until you cannot get it wrong.” Build up the confidence of your agents. An agent with no or low confidence in their ability to navigate a call, customer, or company system will always need help. You can never practice too much.
- Roleplay with your agents. Let them listen to recorded or live calls of other agents in the same campaign. Use quizzes or games to help the information stick in their brains.
- Listen. This is crucial. You cannot be a good instructor if you are not listening to your learners. Note not only the words the agents use when expressing concern or asking a question. You also need to note the tone and stress levels of an agent’s voice. Being a good listener is half of a trainer’s job. We cannot expect others to learn from us if we do not practice what we preach. As instructor’s when we listen, we also learn. We learn what concepts stump our learners; we learn what concepts build confidence. Training is not a one-way street. We must make constant adjustments to be sure our agents are grasping the information. If some training technique isn’t working, try a different approach. Everyone learns differently, and instructors need to adapt.
- Smile. Teach your agents the importance of smiling, even if no one is looking. Customers can hear a smile through a phone line. It also helps an agent sound engaged and confident.
Components for Outbound Telemarketing Training
For outbound telemarketing training:
- Practice scripts to help your agents sound like they aren’t robo-reading. Nothing will lose a listener’s interest more than an agent that sounds like Ben Stein reading a script.
- Practice with your agents how to react to hearing a no and the sound of a phone hanging up. Rebuttal and objection guides and scripts are excellent for this. When cold calling, if a person hears a telemarketer on the phone, they tend to hang up without even listening to the offer. When outbound agents call existing customers to check in, offer deals, or update information, they are slightly more likely to keep a customer on the phone. Outbound agents need thick skin and practice how not to take hearing a no personally.
- Plus everything in the inbound telemarketing training tips.
Confident agents who know that they will be heard when they ask for help tend to stay in their position more often than agents who don’t feel supported in their learning journey. Confidence leads to happiness which agents pass on to customers.
Claire Coffman is the corporate trainer for Quality Contact Solutions. After teaching for 15 years, Claire took her love of sharing knowledge to the corporate world to help improve customer relations. Claire enjoys a good challenge, is highly competitive, especially against herself, and constantly strives to be better than the day before. Contact Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 516-656-4103.