Are you responsible for training new recruits for your call center? Or perhaps managing your call center agents and realizing it’s time for more training? Remember first and foremost that call center training is an ongoing process.
As good as your initial training may be, you can’t stop there. New service agents, as well as call-center reps, need thorough training at the start, ongoing monitoring during the early phases of employment, and more in-depth training over time to develop expert knowledge and skills.
No matter how good your new-hire training is, always remember that there is only so much that a new employee can process at one time. So take your time, do it right, and don’t stop there.
Stage Your Training, Don’t Overwhelm
First stage training should be about the big picture: your company, an overall understanding of your products or services, and your mission to provide outstanding customer service for each and every caller.
The next stage needs to be about the details: the mechanics of the call center software, equipment and devices, and how they all work together for efficient customer service.
Third, the nitty-gritty training regarding how to take a call, provide great service, record the information in your call center or customer relationship management () system.
Next and ongoing: More in-depth training about your company’s products and services, frequently asked questions, quick guides on how to find information in a timely manner with a customer on the line. Add focused training sessions, perhaps lunch-and-learn sessions for in-house reps, or online video training for all reps including those working remotely. Focus on specifics related to customer retention, efficient troubleshooting, upselling when relevant, and furthering customer loyalty.
Bring In Your Top Performers
From Day 1, help your team learn from your top performers. Bring them into your training sessions to share their enthusiasm, their passion for providing excellent customer service, and their favorite techniques for keeping a positive attitude, call after call, day after day, month after month.
It’s one thing for new service reps to learn from professional trainers and call center managers, and another thing to hear firsthand from their fellow reps who are on the frontlines, personally providing top-notch service. And don't just limit this training to the classroom. Be sure your new hires have a chance to listen and learn from your top performers while they're on calls, dealing with real problems in real time.
Share the Good, Bad and Ugly
Service with a smile. Happy customers. The satisfaction of a job well done. That’s the good and you definitely want to emphasize all the positives. But, let’s face it: being on the frontlines of a customer-service call center is often about dealing with the bad and the ugly -- those angry customers who wouldn’t be calling if they didn’t already have a problem. Some are rude. Some are irate. Some are just plain fed up, while others may be well meaning, but just unhappy about a malfunctioning product, a presumed overcharge, an expired warranty, or whatever else prompted their call.
Turning those troubled callers into happy customers is the daily challenge. That’s why it’s so important during training to share the good, the bad AND the ugly. Don’t gloss over the bad and the ugly. Go ahead and share the worst of the worst, because sooner or later (and probably sooner), you know that your reps will be faced with their own nightmare calls, and you want them well prepared from the start.
Role Play and Get on the Phones
One of the biggest dilemmas for call center managers is deciding when to put new hires on the phone with live customers. Proceed too soon and it could have a negative effect on customer relations. Wait too long and you could be losing valuable time and even creating apprehension for the eager new rep who is ready to jump into action.
Finding the sweet spot -- the ideal timing to put new reps on the phone is key to any training program. First, it’s essential to get through the training basics outlined above. Knowledge is power, and knowing at least the basics will empower your people.
Next, you want to be sure that your new hires have had sufficient role-playing experience. Let them be the caller. Let them be the rep. Easy calls, moderate calls, and then, the tough ones. And let them observe, watch and listen to real reps handling real calls. There’s nothing like real-time, real-life observation to get new reps ready for getting on the phone.
Train, monitor, and train some more. It’s the ongoing process and gradual education that truly empowers your frontline agents.
No discussion of call center training would be complete without talking about the real first step, which happens before training ever begins. In a nutshell, job number one is to ‘hire right’ -- meaning hiring people that have the right skills for call center success. Think: patience, problem-solving skills, clear communication skills, a friendly tone -- oh yes -- and even more patience on top of that. Always ask during the hiring process: Does this person seem like someone who can and will solve problems and leave customers with a positive impression of our company?
During the interview process, it is essential to be open and honest about the job requirements and environment, getting back to the good, the bad and the ugly.
For how many hours will a rep be on the phone each day? What breaks are offered? What is the atmosphere like? Is your call center a hub of activity with row upon row of agents using state-of-the art equipment? What are the downsides or problems that cause some reps not to succeed? How will each rep be evaluated? What key performance indicators (KPIs) are measured? How closely is each rep monitored? Will the applicant be comfortable with the level of monitoring and oversight your company employs? And what rewards and promotions are available for achieving peak performance?
Call Center Success
As you know, your call center agents and customer service reps are on the frontlines everyday and key to your company’s success. To ensure their success, always remember to be realistic about expectations. Be thorough with your training. Listen to your agents about what’s working well and what’s not. Share that feedback with upper management, and get the support you need all the way up in the C-suite.
And of course, provide the high quality tools your reps need -- from comfortable, quality headsets and communication systems, to efficient computers and call center programs, and ergonomic office furnishings that can make all the difference.
Put it all together, and you’ve got the right recipe for call center success.
Posted: 2014-12-16 @ 11:54pm PT
Excellent article. Please share more...