I’m working as a Manager of Training & Development at a contact center. I was wondering if you have any tips for new hire training and product-specific training to make it more interesting and less monotonous for the agents/trainees.

11/2/2013

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Question
I’m working as a Manager of Training & Development at a contact center. I was wondering if you have any tips for new hire training and product-specific training to make it more interesting and less monotonous for the agents/trainees.

Answer

Training plays a major role in building a positive work environment, and is essential for the success of all call centers. Training is necessary to prepare agents and give them the information and skills they need to sell, accurately address customer inquiries or questions, and efficiently navigate systems to access information and correctly process transactions. It is also essential for teaching agents to interact with customers professionally, to inspire confidence, and to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Given that new-hire training can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks, it’s important to use a variety of media and methods (live instructors, videos, CBTs, simulations, eLearning, etc.) to keep the content fresh, interesting and diversified. Here are some best practices to foster active participation and keep trainees engaged in the knowledge transfer process.

Keep it interactive – Use interactive role-play exercises. These can include open-ended questions to solicit group participation in learning key concepts, system navigation exercises, etc. The role-play “calls” should be based on the top 10 call types that come into the service center for each topic.

Look at it from the customer’s perspective – It’s a good idea to help trainees appreciate the customer perspective first-hand by having them go through the same steps that customers would for interactions like calling the IVR, signing into online banking, seeing the marketing collateral, new account applications, purchasing from the website etc. The more trainees know about how different services work, the more options they will have in their servicing arsenal.

Incorporate gamification – Create internally-developed games (based on Jeopardy or Family Feud, or a System Information Scavenger Hunt, etc.) to reinforce key concepts, key terms, product knowledge about various accounts/products/services, and system utilization and navigation.

Take “field trips” – Have the group visit other customer-facing departments to see first-hand what they do and how they do it, so they understand the end-to-end customer service process.

Invite guest speakers – Invite a variety of speakers to speak to the class about various topics. For example, have the QA manager or the top reviewer come into the class to talk about the quality monitoring process and criteria. After the training session, conduct a QA evaluation and calibration session so the trainees can see the program in action. Invite members of the management team to visit the training class and speak with new hires about what they are learning about their new role and their contribution to the organization.

Encourage peer support – Include focused side-by-side sessions with an experienced agent as part of the training process. In addition to providing recognition to outstanding agents, this practice allows new agents to see realistically how the knowledge and skill sets that they are acquiring will be applied. This also creates a more supportive and friendly environment for the new agent, particularly if they are paired with someone to whose team they have been assigned.

Last but not least, an effective way of migrating trainees into their new role is to establish a transition section within the contact center, staffed with top-performing agents who can serve as job coaches. This arrangement allows new agents to be productive by taking calls, but ensures that job coaches are readily available, if needed, to provide timely support and assistance.

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