Tag Archives: Training Call Center Agents

Components of Successful Outbound and Inbound Telemarketing Training

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 claire.coffman@qualitycontactsolutions.com or at 516-656-4103.

Telesales Best Practices: Three Tips to Improve Telesales Training

By Angela Garfinkel

When it comes to telesales best practices, evaluating your training program is typically at the top of the to-do list. Telesales training can be painful, both for the trainees and for the trainer. Why is this? Primarily because the training is typically not that effective. 

Here are three ideas that will immediately improve your telesales training.

1. Intersperse Classroom Training with Hands-On Practice

Telesales training should not be jammed into a condensed schedule, racing from one module to the next. Telesales training is best conducted with a thoughtful blend of classroom training and hands-on experience. When it comes to telesales best practices, I’m an advocate for training 20 percent of the product knowledge and then giving the team some practice with some low value leads. People will not successfully retain all the product knowledge, market positioning, and benefits of your product or service when they don’t get a chance to practice and use what they have learned. 

Ideally, training follows a schedule like this:

  • Day 1: Classroom training on the first 20 percent of the training curriculum.
  • Day 2: Practice with live leads. Pair trainers to cut down on burning through your list with unskilled sales presentations. One sales rep does the talking, and the other sales rep does the call guide navigation and data entry.
  • Day 3: Classroom training on the next 20 percent of the training curriculum.
  • Day 4: Practice with live leads and set some realistic stair-step goals to master and implement the first 40 percent of the information trained.
  • Day 5: Classroom training for half the day with the next 20 percent of the training curriculum. Then spend the second half of the day with live calls.
  • Day 6: Classroom training for half the day with the next 20 percent of the training curriculum. Then spend the second half of the day with live calls.
  • Day 7: Classroom training for half the day with the final 20 percent of the training curriculum and tying it all together.
  • Day 8: Graduation from training.

2. Implement a Training Graduation Bonus

Pay a reward after finishing training and completing a skills assessment certification. This is particularly important if the team is comprised of new hires. Telesales representatives are motivated by money. Pay them a smaller hourly wage for training hours and then offer a bonus for successful completion of training. This includes perfect attendance and skills assessments tests. 

By pairing the training compensation to an end goal—as opposed to just a flat compensation for their hours—the telesales team members will be motivated to attend all training sessions and prepare for the required certifications. This will also cut down on the people that say, “I’ll try this job, and if it doesn’t work out, I don’t have anything to lose.” 

When it comes to telesales best practices, you want people to opt-in for the opportunity to have a high chance of earning the bonus. I recommend the bonus should be 30 to 50 percent of the minimum hourly rate you pay for a training class hour.

3. Integrate the “Why” into the Training

Why do we say the things we say? What is the psychology behind the words? How does the product or service make the world a better place? What is the potential customer missing out on by saying “no” to our call? 

As a telesales best practice, I recommend that you do the deep work to identify the “why” in your training curriculum. Start with answering these questions.

  • Why does the client and product exist?
  • Why do we pitch the product/solution the way we do?
  • Why does this product or service matter?
  • Why should a prospect take our call and listen to us?
  • Why should a gatekeeper provide us with access to the decision-maker?

Put these three training tips into practice to produce better telesales results.

Angela Garfinkel is the president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing services organization. She leads a talented team that runs thousands of outbound telemarketing program hours daily. Angela can be reached at angela.garfinkel@qualitycontactsolutions.com or 516-656-5118.

How Automated Analytics Can Elevate Agent Performance and Experience



By Brad Snedeker

As a business process outsourcer (BPO) or outsourcing contact center, your agents serve as the face of your clients’ businesses. Low performance and high agent turnover can have a negative impact on the overall business. This can manifest in reduced end-customer loyalty and satisfaction. 

Even in the best of times, high-quality agent training and assessment presents challenges. In 2020, with a sudden shift to agents working from home due to the pandemic, the emphasis on proper training, monitoring, and assessment has become even more critical. This applies not only to new agents joining your organization, but also to existing agents who may be taking on new roles, new clients, or new channels.

Automating Data Science for Improved Interactions

One traditional way of teaching agents how to interact with customers has been to shadow a top-performing agent. But job shadowing has its limitations. It’s difficult to learn how to respond to different customer needs, the trainer agent might act differently when the trainee watching, and the trainee has limited time to learn and ask questions. Even so, shadowing can be helpful for agents to get a high-level feel for the tone and language they should emulate. But training shouldn’t end there.

Today, contact centers can leverage software automation to record and analyze agent interactions over the phone, email, chat, and social media. Centers can also use this information in near real-time to enable virtual or on-site management insights and training inspiration. This approach to training offers a richer experience and helps build agent confidence. It also makes training more efficient since you’re not asking other agents or managers to listen to and respond to every scenario or question.

Interaction monitoring, recording, and analytics together can reveal the why, not just the what, of agent performance, allowing managers to uncover trends and improve interactions for better long-term outcomes. It offers an opportunity to improve training for specific agents and enhance the customer experience for future interactions.

Uncovering Best and Not-So-Best Practices

Using massive quantities of data and automated analytics to uncover specific areas where agent behavior is impacting a customer interaction can shed light on experiences both positive and negative. This shows agents specific areas where they can improve, as well as find examples of behavior or language that other agents can emulate. A well-provisioned quality management system can even allow a contact center to share best practices with the click of a button, creating a library of successful examples.

For instance, one contact center manager discovered that an increasing number of retail customer calls escalated from first-contact agents to a supervisor. This diverted the supervisor’s attention away from other aspects of the business and hindered unrelated KPIs.

Voice-of-the-customer (and employee) analytics allowed the team to isolate relevant interactions based on this pattern of escalation and apply speech analysis. The analysis revealed the exact point in the conversations where the agents needed supervisor assistance. This level of insight gave the retailer the why for agents who struggled to manage challenging and emotional calls.

Using analytics, the managers identified the agents who grappled with this type of interaction. This allowed them to implement targeted training and assistance, creating a new best practice for all agents. 

Not only was this beneficial for the retail brand’s reputation with customers, it also helped agents improve their skill sets and learn how to de-escalate situations by modifying how agents interacted with customers. Reducing the stress of interactions had the additional benefit of creating happier, more successful agents who were less likely to turn over. 

When Change Dictates New Training

Through automated analytics, contact centers can also uncover training opportunities due to changes in their own processes.

For example, using speech analytics as part of its normal quality control efforts, one contact center identified a correlation between the use of phrases like “I don’t know” and calls placed on hold. Further, managers found a pattern in which calls placed on hold spiked when leaders deployed a new knowledge base. The company had inadvertently introduced its own problem. The analysis helped leaders quickly institute training in the areas where agents had knowledge gaps when new tasks were added, avoiding any long-term impact.

Unexpected situations can also trigger a need for extra training, but without analytics offering insight on changes and the new landscape of operations, leaders often don’t know where to start. 

According to a Calabrio study, 89 percent of contact centers had at least half their agents shift to a work-from-home model due to the pandemic. This compares to only 36 percent of contact centers with half their agents working remotely pre-pandemic.

Contact centers using analytics can stay close to their teams and quickly identify impacts on interactions and behaviors for new remote agents, as well as track how agents are functioning during this time of crisis. For example, KPIs might have indicated longer-than-usual call-resolution times. However, live interaction monitoring and analytics showed that agents were dealing with more customers who were scared, sad, or confused. 

This caused agents to modify their behaviors and spend additional time reassuring callers and working through fewer calls. New training, then, placed the emphasis on easy displays of empathy and ways to navigate complex interactions rather than on speed and low handle times.

Creating a Culture of CX Excellence

In addition to identifying weaknesses, centers can tap analytics to create a continuous culture of improvement. One area where this is especially important is with the customer experience (CX). Customer expectations will become more demanding in the future. In fact, 69 percent of contact center managers expect customers to have an increased need for emotional empathy in customer service interactions post-pandemic. Analytics can be a tool to support agents as customer needs evolve.

For example, sentiment analysis can help contact centers analyze customer and agent tone, as well as track how satisfied customers are based on their voice or text interactions. Radial, a BPO serving leading retail brands, used sentiment analysis to identify strategies to improve its end customers’ experience.

Using speech and text analytics, Radial identified instances of powerless-to-help language and phrases like “not allowed,” “unfortunately,” and “I wish we could” in customer interactions. Leaders correlated those to negative-sentiment scores. The results allowed Radial to create training and strategies to empower agents with the right tools, resources, and language to improve interactions and reduce negative-sentiment scores.

Simply by understanding the correlation between specific language and sentiment, Radial increased its net first-contact resolution by 3 percent, increased net customer satisfaction (CSAT) by 2.1 percent, and improved net agent demeanor by .56 percent. 

Not Just for the Customer

In the past, analytics-based insights had the stigma of being micro-managerial or critical toward agents. However, modern analytics use is meant to be pro-agent, offering support when needed and credit when deserved. By leveraging workforce engagement management tools together—including recording, quality management, workforce management, analytics, and reporting—contact centers now have the technologies they need to understand the details behind the good and the not-so-good customer-agent interactions. With this knowledge now easily accessible, applying training to make each interaction a positive one has the potential to improve every aspect of contact center work.

With more than fifteen years in the industry, Brad Snedeker has extensive knowledge of the contact center space. As Calabrio’s director of innovation, he ensures that customers have access to the best training available. He works directly with users to develop new and innovative techniques to implement workforce optimization best practices.

Why You’re Not Getting the Most from Your Training Dollars



By Kate Zabriskie

Each year, organizations waste thousands of dollars on training that doesn’t deliver what the people who bought it thought it would. Consequently, remorseful purchasers determine that either training has no value to their employees, training facilitators don’t know what they’re doing, program designers are out of touch with reality, or all three.

If only the root causes of training failures were as simple! Even with willing learners, great content, and strong facilitation, you can still encounter problems that will keep you from realizing strong returns on your training investment. If your training isn’t delivering what you think it should, you may be suffering from one of three major problems that plague all organizations.

1. Training Isn’t Part of a Larger Learning Ecosystem

Just because people participate in a workshop doesn’t mean they’ll change their work behavior. In fact, even if they demonstrate an ability and willingness to apply what they’re learning in class, all may be lost once they exit the classroom.

Why does this happen? Good workshops usually fail to deliver because they’re treated as a training solution instead of a component of one. In other words, a workshop isn’t the answer. Rather, it should be part of a larger apparatus or ecosystem.

Solution: Start small. Creating a strong learning ecosystem is an ongoing and often complex endeavor. It takes time to build a holistic structure that supports continuous development. Ask yourself: 

  • Prior to training, do managers explain to people why they will be attending a course and what the expected application will be?
  • Will someone with authority (other than the facilitator) launch the session by explaining how the workshop ties into the bigger picture?
  • Are there check-in opportunities after training to ensure participants are implementing new behaviors?

If you answer no to any of these questions, do what you need to do to shift those answers to yes.

Next, think about the incentives you can put in place to encourage behavior change, the barriers you need to remove to encourage success, and the corrective action you’ll take if what’s happening in the classroom isn’t replicated on the job.

Once you start thinking holistically and view courses and workshops as a component of learning versus learning in its entirety, you will have taken the first step in getting the most out of your training dollars.

2. Continuous Learning Isn’t Part of the Culture or a Priority

You have great content, and you have a skilled facilitator, but half the people scheduled to attend don’t make it a priority.

When training occupies a position of “nice to have” versus “need to have,” getting the most from it becomes problematic. This most often happens when people are in survival mode instead of on a growth trajectory. In other words, they scramble to get through their work instead of thinking mindfully about the work they’re completing and how they’re completing it.

In practical terms, if people are always putting out fires and don’t regularly ask “What have we learned?” and “How can we improve?”, why should they care about learning new skills?

Solution: Start by asking the right questions. Shifting from a reactive culture to one that is deliberate about its activities takes months or even years. However, it’s not difficult to make big strides over time when you begin by asking the right questions throughout the organization.

Start the improvement conversation at multiple levels and at various times. Frequently ask after training: 

“What have we learned?”

“What do we need to do better next time?”

“What do we wish we’d known earlier?” 

In the rare instances when something goes perfectly, remember that there are still questions to ask: “How can we replicate what we just did?”; “Why did that work well?”; and “Is there any reason this approach won’t work again in the future?”

When questioning becomes the norm, the solutions offered via training should have stronger importance and value. For example, if turnover is an issue, a learning organization wants to know why and may ask several questions: 

“Are we hiring the wrong people?”

“Are we expecting too much?”

“Is there something better for the same money somewhere else?”

“Do our managers not manage well?”

“Do we need to provide people with better tools?”

Then, when learning and improvement are a priority, you’ll hear such things as, “Today is a training day for me. I’ll be unavailable until 4:00. If you have an emergency, please see my supervisor, Melissa. The workshop I’m attending is of top importance and part of my effort to reduce turnover.”

Who can argue with that? The logic sounds right and ties into big-picture improvement goals.

To get larger returns from training, use questioning to drive improvement. The answers will help people connect the dots and understand why training is a priority and not just something they do because their schedule tells them to show up in a classroom.

3. Few Annual Development Plans Exist

The world doesn’t stagnate, and your employees shouldn’t either. If they’re doing their work the same way they were five years ago, and nobody is encouraging or demanding change, why should they care about training or think you care about them?

Solution: Regardless of level, every employee should have a development plan and some learning and growth goals that connect to the big picture and enhance their skills.

“I want to improve XYZ skill to drive ABC result, and 123 is how I plan to grow” is a quick and easy format to follow when setting development goals. Three to five goals is a suitable number for most people.

Better still, if you can tie those goals to performance reviews, you’ll be amazed at the interest people develop in improvement, training, and implementing new skills. As with the other two solutions, start small. For example, if your company doesn’t have any development plans, choose one department to pilot them.

Act Now

Whether you suffer from one, two, or all three of these problems, act now. When thoughtful goals and development plans exist throughout an organization, people are conditioned to ask the right questions. With a drive toward improvement and a strong learning ecosystem that supports learning, it’s almost impossible not to realize a stronger return on your training dollars.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part Two



By Kathy Sisk

In part one we discussed the first weakness of call reluctance: agent fears. Now we’ll discuss prospect’s fears.

Most outbound agents don’t receive training to help them handle their prospect’s fears. In many instances, agents are not even aware of these fears. They fall into three categories:

  1. The Approach: What does this salesperson want from me?
  2. Pre-Purchase Insecurity: What if I later regret my decision?
  3. Post-Purchase Remorse: What have I done?

To address this, agents need training to improve their approach. This enables the agent to be more sensitive to and address the prospect’s fears. 

Most agents are uncomfortable using a canned presentation, and so are prospects. However, scripts are necessary, especially when working with multiple projects, training a newly hired agent, or to remain in control during the presentation. Scripts also provide more consistency in the performance levels of the campaign. 

The Benefits of Using a Script (Call Guide)

Before training agents on scripting, you must first sell the benefits of using a script. I do this using my “road map” story:

“A script is like a road map. If you were to travel to an unfamiliar city, would you go without a map? Of course not. If you did, it would take longer to arrive at your destination. So it is with your presentation. You start from a beginning point and a destination you want to reach. Not having a script, a format to follow, or a call guide lets your prospect take you on a detour where you do not want to go. If you do not have a map (a call guide), it will be difficult to get back on track. Not using a script gives your prospect greater control of the outcome. Ultimately you are not able to meet the objective of the call.”

The truth is, after thirty minutes of experiencing negative activity with the prospect gaining control, agents lose interest and their self-esteem spirals downward. Eventually this can affect other agents in the call center too.

Next time we will discuss scripts and how to best use them when making outbound calls and overcoming call reluctance.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Seven Tips to Minimize Risk and Improve the Patient Experience



By Michael Dozier

According to Statista, the percentage of businesses worldwide using a call center in the Americas is 66 percent. However, according to the Global Contact Center satisfaction index, the level of caller satisfaction dropped five points from 2010 to 2018. Medical call centers are now looking for ways to improve patient experience, while minimizing risk. The goal of a call center typically includes:

  • Increasing patient satisfaction
  • Reducing readmission
  • Improving patient safety
  • Reducing missed appointments
  • Increasing patient retention
  • Increasing patient referrals
  • Resolving complaints and disputes
  • Increasing patient lifetime value

In general, tailor the medical call center to increasing the satisfaction of the individual patient and not just the efficiency of the call. In addition to patient satisfaction, there is an overall feeling that many call centers focus too much on efficiency when they need to focus on effectiveness.

Here are seven ways you can minimize risk in a medical call center.

1. Call Center Etiquette Matters

The need for proper etiquette is essential. This includes how agents answer calls, how they treat patients, and how well they address issues and questions.

2. Hire the Right People

Hiring experienced call center agents is critical to the success of any medical call center, as this will significantly reduce the likelihood for agent turnover as well as the costs incurred in training. When you hire the right people, agents will be able to achieve first call resolution, resolve disputes quickly and effectively, assure quality and security on every call, and reduce wait times.

3. Use the Right Technology

The technology that both your agents and patients use is important. From an agent perspective, having the right technology includes agent desktops, call monitoring, queue callback, intelligent dialers, and CRM integration with screen pops. From the patient perspective, having the right technology includes various ways the patient can easily interact such as email, SMS, video chat, tweets, and Facebook posts.

4. Measure Success with Call Center Metrics

Measuring quantitative performance such as call quality, first call resolution, patient satisfaction, average speed of answer, abandonment rate, and wait time are some of the ways medical call centers can have a visible eye on the success of their operation.

5. Reward and Motivate Agents

How agents deal with patients is in direct proportion to how well they are dealt with in their own company. Rewarding and motivating agents can go a long way toward producing a pleasant experience for the caller. This also includes empowering agents so they feel confident in their ability to do the job.

6. Ensure Agents Adhere to Regulations

Every organization has their own regulations, and medical call centers are no different. It’s vitally important that agents are well informed and follow the rules outlined by the call center. The medical call center needs to put in place proper measures to ensure those expectations have been communicated and understood by the agents. Proper training is the key.

7. Evaluate Agents

A method for evaluating agents is important to any medical call center, as it keeps the organization up to date with what is going on with each employee. Depending on the organization, having daily meetings with agents can help reduce potential risks that can take place on live calls.

Conclusion

The medical call center is a crucial component within healthcare to improve the patient experience while reducing risks. Ultimately the decision is yours as to how you go about minimizing risks in your call center. The key is creating a positive experience for the patient.

Michael Dozier is the president and CEO of Pulsar360, Inc., a leading provider of SIP services and disaster recovery solutions for call centers.

How to Make Good Training Great in a High-Turnover Industry



By Stephanie Jones

If you’ve made a management career for yourself in a high-turnover industry, you’ve probably found yourself frustrated about training. After all, training new employees is expensive and time-consuming. And if they’re just planning to quit soon, why even bother?

It’s important to note that high-quality employee training is essential, no matter what your turnover rate looks like. The problem is wasting great training materials on employees who are often gone before their one-year anniversary.

Our call center is based in a town with several colleges, so we know a few things about high turnover. Here are some of the ways we make our employee courses great and disseminate as much information as possible with efficiency.

Think Beyond Your Main Objectives

How does the topic apply to your employees in the real world? What about your customers? Take time to consider all angles of the story you’re trying to tell.

Consider what happens when someone doesn’t get it right. If you only see training from your perspective—which is the perspective of someone who already knows the answers—then you might miss what happens when someone doesn’t get it. Look at the language you’re using to present the material and the questions you ask.

When you consider the whole picture while creating a course, you become ultra-efficient. You cover more material faster. You spend less time adding content or editing quizzes.

Share Relevant Information Where Employees Will Actually Read It

Things can change quickly. Expecting trainees to always check into a learning management system (LMS) to see what’s going on isn’t practical. You must meet them where they communicate.

We make use of the collaboration hub, such as Slack, to share important updates, communicate with employees about their courses, and impart information about current training initiatives. It’s a quick and easy touchstone for our training team.

Whether it’s sharing a video about how much tone can change a conversation to a scripting change to fielding feedback on our courses, our training team can deliver information instantly. No more sending emails and hoping trainees will see and read them.

Write Your Training for Human Beings

It once was common practice for learning and development and HR departments to create ultra-polished and highly technical courses and manuals. Many large organizations still do despite the changes in modern communication.

Your employees don’t have the attention span or energy to take on a thick book of dense material. And if they do, how much are they learning from it?

Certain industries will always have a need for technical training materials, but not all of us work for engineering companies. It’s time to write from a place of empathy and understanding. It’s time to write with voice and character.

As an instructional designer, one of my biggest goals was to rework our training materials so they were easy and enjoyable to read. I wanted our courses to have a blog-post feeling to them. This meant shorter paragraphs, visual aids, and interactive elements. I use bulleted lists, subheadings to draw out main points, and gifs and emojis to illustrate and break up the content.

Condensed your most important material into relatable language. Then you can disseminate the information, and have it applied fast. This is a priceless advantage in the call center industry.

Training doesn’t have to be dense or dull. Taking dense or dull information and turning it into something anyone can easily read (without dread) should always be the goal.

Use Tools That Make Course Design and Organization Easy

The ability to create effective training courses with expediency is key in an industry with a high turnover rate. We have a finite amount of time to teach our agents. That’s why it’s so important that we create courses in as little time as possible.

We use Rise by Articulate360 to author courses that are beautiful and easy to use; it doesn’t seem possible that we made them with a drag-and-drop tool. We organize and assign our courses with Litmos, a cloud-based learning management system.

Sometimes we need animated videos to drive a point home, and Powtoon makes video creation simple—no editing or design skills are necessary. What about visual aids? Instead of outsourcing design work, Canva helps us make graphics in a matter of minutes.

There are many cloud-based resources to help streamline the training process. Using a combination of the top tools will help you get your training materials to your trainees much faster.

Creating Great Employee Training Is Possible

Have you ever thought, I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel? How do we expect anyone to learn anything when the turnover rate is so high?

If so, you’re not alone.

Building quality training in a high-turnover industry can feel like a struggle. Without modern tools and a willingness to expand your thinking on training, you’ll only move as fast as you do now. Instead, use these ideas and tools to produce great employee training materials for the high-turnover call center industry.

Stephanie Jones is the instructional designer for PATLive, a US-based call center, where she imbues her passion for great customer service into building better employee training. She has a background in journalism and has written many posts for the PATLive blog.

Keep Your Call Center from Suffering a Privacy Incident



By Sachin Kothari

Call center managers have plenty to worry about. Just recruiting and keeping staff, watching margins, and managing stakeholders (external or internal) can keep you busy.

In addition, you know privacy and data protection are rapidly becoming major issues for any organization gathering or using customer data. The last thing you need is a privacy incident to mar your organization’s reputation or lead to aggrieved customers.

You might even be pitching breach remediation work as part of your business plan. That pretty much becomes moot if you have an embarrassing breach yourself. Therefore it’s vital to know where a call center’s vulnerabilities are and how to prevent them.

Social Engineering: Terms like phishing, spear phishing, and whaling all refer to the practice of criminals misrepresenting themselves to employees—even high-level employees (the whales)—and convincing them to give away important information of their own accord. While movies and television might make hackers into scheming geniuses behind souped-up laptops, a simple phone call is almost all they need to get some unsuspecting employee to hand over a username and password or other compromising information.

Luckily the solution is relatively simple: Train, train, train. Employees must understand how important it is to stick to your policies about how information is handled and think critically about what it is they’re being asked to do for a customer. Most phishing techniques are apparent once you know what to look and listen for.

In truth, it’s likely some of the good training you’ve given your employees—designed to help them deliver great customer service—has created good intentions that can have bad results.

Consider the case of an important client calling a frontline call center employee and explaining that he wants to make some adjustments to his account. Suddenly, right in the middle of verifying his identity, this big fish says that he must take an important call and explains that his assistant will finish up.

Of course, this woman doesn’t know her boss’s credentials. That’s silly. He was just there on the phone, right? This shouldn’t be a problem. No one would fault that call center employee’s instinct to be helpful and make sure this assistant gets the important changes accomplished. This is an important client, and the assistant sounds nice and seems harried.

Of course, the call center employee has just found herself victim to a data breach.

Teach your employees about these scenarios and emphasize the importance of verifying identity according to your policy, without exception. Hackers are smart. Give them even the tiniest bit of personal information, and they can exploit it.

Who Can See What?: Even in today’s digital world, people need to write things down when working with customers. It’s a part of the call center job that will likely never go away. Make sure there’s a policy in place for destroying that piece of paper. How handy is your shredder?

Unless the shredder is in steady use, the janitorial staff could be selling client info to the highest bidder. Ideally your cleaning personnel has training and knows to destroy compromising information pronto, but custodial staff are often third-party vendors. Does your contract with them require training in information handling?

You should also make sure that your call center employees don’t have keys to every digital door. Invest in software that redacts information based on role and scenario. That way employees only see the information necessary for the call they’re handling.

Procedures for Escalation: Perhaps the most common issue is a lack of proper plans for what to do should something bad happen. What does your employee do if she gets a call from a customer saying someone has accessed their account? Does that employee know where to go for help?

The breach experts all say the same thing: Speed matters. The faster your security team knows that something is amiss, the faster they can act.

Just a single sign of improper access could mean a typhoon is coming. Maybe your security team recognizes a hot new piece of malware and knows how to quickly contain it. It’s vital that all employees, from frontline staff and shift managers right up to the chief information officer, know what the response plan is. 

Conclusion: Unfortunately, this is just the start. There are books that address this issue in detail. I hope you have auditing capabilities and smart procedures in place for screening potential employees to make sure they are who they say they are. If not, you should start by addressing this.

Regardless, the simple message is this: People make mistakes. They make more mistakes, however, when they don’t have any training to help them avoid making them.

Privacy and data security should be standard at call centers, no matter where you’re operating. Otherwise you might find you’re not operating at all.

Sachin Kothari is CIPP/US and director of online privacy and compliance at AT&T.

Three Steps to Establishing Positive Training ROI



By David Mathews

Training is one of the last remaining areas in business whose value and ROI are taken on little more than faith. We all get it.

Training is important. People need to know how to do their job. Managers need to know how to effectively lead. Companies need to protect themselves legally through annual compliance courses.

Luckily, training resources are everywhere. Whether you have a robust in-house learning and development team, outsource all of it to third parties, or are somewhere in between, there are thousands of companies, consultants, books, and platforms to help you accomplish the never-ending task of knowledge transfer.

But one area where there is shockingly little discussion or resource allocation is in what some call learning effectiveness or training analytics: How effective is your training as it pertains to your bottom line? Measured effectively, employee and manager training can verifiably produce dividends that far exceed the initial training investment. The key word here is verifiably.

Consider the following three steps to discover and then improve your organization’s total return on training.

1) Ask the Right Questions: Learning effectiveness is more than a survey that learners fill out after a class. And while there are good reasons to know how your employees feel about a given training, ROI isn’t one of them.

Hopefully they liked it, but so what? Did they do anything differently because of it, or did they simply have an enjoyable four hours off the phones?

It’s the same thing with knowledge tests. No one would argue that knowledge is irrelevant. It’s clearly important, but by itself it isn’t predictive of behavior change. We all know eating pizza isn’t good for us. We all know exercise is important to our overall health.

The overarching goal of any training is to increase the profitability of the company via some intermediate objective. These objectives are simply a means to an end. They could be things like increased first call resolution, higher close rates, reduced average talk time, higher morale, lower attrition, and so forth.

If you want to accurately quantify the fiscal success (or lack thereof) of a given training, start with asking whether and by how much the metric of the objectives moved. From there it’s just a matter of translating that into dollars.

2) Acquire Data: Now that you’ve defined the appropriate questions, it’s time to collect data. This can be as simple or as complex as the metrics you are measuring. If you have an analytics team in place, they likely can help you acquire the data you need. In many cases you probably won’t need anything more complex than a spreadsheet. The important thing is to collect the data.

It’s usually a good idea to capture data at a macro and micro level before and after the training. This will help you to effectively isolate other variables that could affect the metric, thus leading to a purer training impact analysis.

3) Analyze the Results and Create a Plan: Take the results at face value, but also dig deeper. Numbers on their own are great for a PowerPoint presentation, but the story they tell is where you will get the biggest impact. Maybe you find that post-training, first call resolution improved by 10 percent—but why? Was it isolated to a particular group or manager? If there were folks that didn’t complete the training, did they show a similar increase? Find the story.

Monetize it. This is where training analytics has a chance to really shine. If you were measuring the impact of a coaching class for managers and you find that final written warnings decreased by 20 percent as a result of more effective coaching skills, then that can be quantified. If you know that 50 percent of all final written warnings end up in employee separation, know the onboarding cost of a new rep, and know how many fewer final written warnings there were, you can easily assign a fiscal return on that training. Put that number against the overall cost of the training program and you’ll have an accurate training ROI.

But why stop there? People learn by association and through repetition. Now you have concrete evidence to justify a phase two of your coaching class. Act on this new plan, keep measuring, and you will keep achieving.

The Bottom Line: A small step for training is to say that training is a bottom-line issue. Any job posting for training director job titles is likely to include some verbiage about business results. This is a good start.

A giant leap for training is to measure things that really matter, tie them to your bottom line, and take that data to make your training program even better. It’s a positive feedback loop.

With verifiable positive training ROI, it’s much easier to budget for more.

David Mathews is president of Training Analytics and Consulting LLC. With over fifteen years in the learning and development field, he has helped pioneer robust training analytics operations at some of the most well-known companies in the world. David is a recognized expert at translating raw data into meaningful and actionable business insights that will increase the impact and ROI of any training organization. Contact David at david@trainingtac.com or 469-626-7980.

Kick the One-Size-Fits-All Approach to the Curb



By Chad Hendren

When it comes to customer service, a cookie-cutter approach won’t cut it. After all, a meaningful connection isn’t meaningful if it’s the same for everyone.

Depending on your industry, Harvard Business School reports that increasing a company’s customer retention rate by just 5 percent can increase profitability anywhere from 25 to 95 percent. Additionally, Walker Information predicts that by 2020, customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator. This means that how you differentiate your brand depends on how you treat your customers.

Making customers wait on hold for lengthy periods of time, transferring them from agent to agent, and opening the conversation with a canned list of questions that may not relate to the reason they contacted you will leave customers frustrated and ready to hang up for good.

So how do you ensure that an experience is meaningful to each of your customers? Connect with context.

Acknowledge the Customer’s Journey: Smart watches, smart homes, and essentially the Internet of everything has put brands at a customer’s convenience. What they haven’t done is stop phones from being the number one support channel. According to a 2017 customer service trends report by Forrester, 67 percent of people contacted companies by phone for customer support in the last twelve months. 

But ending up on the phone doesn’t negate the importance of the channels where customers started. With those channels in mind, think about the various pathways or touchpoints customers may have taken before placing a call. Did they go straight to the phone, log in to their account on a website, jump to social channels, or email the helpline? The effort customers take to reach a company should never go unnoticed.

Depending on the complexities of their journey, customers are likely to be scattered, rushed, and frustrated before they pick up the phone. Having a system in place that shows each customer’s route, where they have looked, and their history allows agents to acknowledge who the customer is and where they’ve already been. This shows a company cares about and understands how valuable the customer’s time is, which is a crucial component for making a positive first impression.

Personalize the Experience: When a customer connects with a company, context clarifies why. Without it, agents ask customers for additional information, put them on hold, or transfer them to another agent to repeat the cycle. If the customer wasn’t already frustrated when they first called, they will be after jumping through context-less hoops.

As customer service and retention rise to the top of company priorities, contact center staffing issues also take higher priority. Agent training should focus on improving overall communication through active listening skills, asking questions to unearth other relevant information, and using positive phrasing to help build positive relationships. To take it one step further, every customer should be routed to the most appropriate agent.

Context ensures that customers are given the service and attention they deserve on their first contact. Seek tools to reduce customer effort, automate warm transfers, and provide agents with informative screens that highlight the customer’s past and present journey, including recent channels they have navigated. This information not only arms agents with much-needed context, but it allows the contact center to provide the most relevant agent for the issue.

For example, a customer who looks at their bill online prior to picking up the phone is best matched with an agent well versed in billing. Additionally, that agent can acknowledge that the customer was checking their statement by asking if they have any questions about the bill. From the start, the agent addresses the issue before the customer even speaks.

Arming agents with this information empowers them to solve the customer’s issue quickly, eliminating repetitive, unrelated questions—thus decreasing the possibility of frustrated customers. Additionally, companies primed for future success are the ones that continue to create personalization out of context. Imagine all the opportunities to present customers with a product, idea, or service when they are most attentive and the solution is relevant to their immediate concerns.

Connect with Meaning: When customers connect with a company, a meaningful and personalized experience helps their interaction go off without a hitch. When done successfully, any frustration the customer initially had can—and most likely will—melt away. In fact, CEB reported that 65 percent of a customer’s perceived level of effort is driven by how the customer service representative made them feel during the service interaction. What the customer actually needed to do accounts for only 35 percent of their perceived effort.

What does this all mean? When customers come in with negative emotions and leave feeling more positive, they remember.

Chad Hendren is vice president and general manager of customer experience solutions for Virtual Hold Technology, providers of VHT Navigator, which addresses cross-channel customer experiences by connecting key moments as customers move across channels.