By Janet Livingston
I suggest that you designate 2017 as the year of training. Train your agents, supervisors, managers, and support staff. Train them so they can do their jobs better and wow your clients and their callers. Train them to remove frustration over the unknown and provide a sense of increased confidence. Train them to make your call center better and your operation more successful.
It seems that “everyone talks about training, but no one does anything about it.” For this year, let’s stop yearning for more training and hoping for better training. Instead let’s move forward and make it happen. Here are nine areas to consider for better call center training:
1) Employee Development: Begin with basic agent training to get them started and then move to ongoing training to propel them to success. They need instruction in equipment, software, apps, and technical skills, along with soft skills such as customer service, dealing with conflict, and defusing emotional situations.
Present training in multiple formats: use classroom teaching, one-on-one coaching, and self-paced computer instruction. For group training, mix lectures with discussion; provide handouts; use PowerPoint slides; tap multimedia tools; and allow for plenty of time to role-play and practice. Ongoing instruction and advanced teaching should follow these same ideals.
2) Leadership Training: Most call center positions are filled by former agents, yet without adequate training, a great agent will seldom become a great leader. Look at a career path for agents. What positions can they move into within the call center? What training will they need to do so effectively? Outside of your call center operation, what other positions can they move into within your organization? Consider sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, technical, and mid-level management. Each of these requires training. Failing to provide this needed education will cause your best people to leave to join companies that will provide a career path and the support to realize it.
3) HIPAA Compliance: HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, applies directly to healthcare call centers and has ramifications for all call centers. Is your operation doing all that is required to protect the personal health information of callers and maintain compliance? Don’t leave this to chance; the risks to both your finances and reputation are just too great.
Even if your call center does not serve the healthcare vertical, many of the practical implementations of HIPAA regulations have worked their way into other industries – such as finance and banking – and are emerging as best practices across all industries. Don’t be left behind. Learn and implement HIPAA-inspired processes in your call center this year. It starts with training.
4) Supervisor Instruction: Supervisor training is nonexistent in most call centers. It often amounts to little more than saying, “Go sit by that person.” While job shadowing has its place, it should be an ancillary support tool, not a primary education strategy. Smaller operations can conduct supervisor training one-on-one. Larger operations warrant classroom instruction. This should mirror all the paradigms of agent training, but with different content.
Supervisors need training on how to manage people, adjust schedules, understand agent stats, conduct coaching sessions, resolve conflict, and so forth. Achieve this through a mix of established instruction and practical application as situations arise.
5) Human Resource Education: While human resources take on many aspects relevant to hiring staff and overseeing their employment, a key element is interviewing skills. Do your interviewers know which questions they should ask applicants? More importantly, do they know which questions they must avoid? A quick path to a discrimination lawsuit is asking an illegal question during an employment interview.
Beyond interviewing, human resource staff is also involved in leading disciplinary meetings, developing employee action plans, writing job descriptions, and conducting performance appraisals, which can include both gathering the information and meeting with agents. They need training in all these areas if they are to succeed.
6) Call Center Outsourcing Considerations: If you’re an outsource call center, agent training is much more involved than for a corporate call center. Outsource agents require extra initial training and additional ongoing instruction. The training department plays a huge role in this. Training is much more complex because agents must switch between numerous call types for various clients, back-to-back. In this regard, the idea of training the trainer becomes paramount.
7) Customer Service Teaching: Advanced customer service training is nonexistent at most call centers. Though most agents want to do a good job, most call centers don’t provide the requisite instruction for them to do so. As a result people often receive promotions into key customer service roles without the instruction needed to do a good job. Relevant training is the solution.
8) Agent Onboarding: Welcoming new agents is too often a hit-or-miss proposition. Yet an employee’s first impression of the call center sets the tone for the rest of that agent’s experience. Don’t leave this to chance. Beyond that, the most critical role of a training department is to help each new hire confirm that he or she has made the right decision in joining the company. The third element of the onboarding process is the initial agent training. Again, we’re talking about training for the training department.
9) Quality Assurance Coaching: Every call center claims quality is their number one goal, but do they actually back up this platitude with actionable processes? Quality assurance involves recording calls, listening to calls, and evaluating calls. The focus shouldn’t be on the number of QA reports but on the actionable content of the evaluations.
A key issue in QA is consistency. Will two quality assurance specialists rate a call the same way? Without thoughtful training, a wide variation of opinions can result over the quality of any particular call. Yes, quality assurance staff needs training, too – not only initial instruction on the process, but also ongoing reviews to insure consistent application.
Every call center needs to meet these nine training needs, but few operations appropriately address them all. Pick your call center’s biggest training deficiency and tackle it first. Then move to the next one until you cover all nine. Make this year the year you move your training dreams from hope to reality.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of call center and telephone answering service staff. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.