The training you provide to your contact center employees prepares them for what’s to come in the workplace and helps them incrementally improve their skills.
Rather than put people outside their comfort zones by asking them to perform tasks they know nothing about or complete requests they haven’t been introduced to, you ease them into a position of leadership by giving them the skills they need to be successful.
But training new and old employees on an ongoing basis can be tough, so here’s a guide to contact center training, along with our top call center training ideas and methods you can put into practice:
Our 15 Most Powerful Call Center Training Methods Are:
Call center training is any course, seminar, video, coaching session or other activity that teaches the skills and behavior required for success in a call center.
Most people think of training as a one-time event or program but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, training to use the phones and customer management systems are important, but agents must also learn and practice ‘soft-skills’ like empathy and active listening every day.
The best type of contact center training is ongoing, practical learning.
Types of Call Center Training
The best way to go about training your contact center employees is in a variety of modalities. It helps the knowledge transfer better — and it keeps things interesting.
1. Live call training
Live call training is, without a doubt, the most important type of training you’ll do in your call center. It’s where any theoretical knowledge will be put into practice, and you’ll see how your agents handle calls under pressure.
It’s for that reason that live call training should be part of onboarding, initial training, and any ongoing training. Agents (and management too!) should always be looking to adjust and improve their phone manner.
2. Classroom training
Although we’ll do the majority of training outside of the classroom, this kind of formalized learning environment definitely has its place. And it doesn’t have to be the classic set-up; everyone in rows facing a teacher. This includes workshops and group activities too — and we’d encourage you to incorporate these as much as possible!
3. Online learning
Online learning is a great way to complement practical and in-house training. There are various online courses that agents and managers can take to bolster their knowledge. But be warned if using it for required learning — this format has the lowest form of engagement.
4. Mentoring or coaching
With the right guidance, there’s always an opportunity for one-on-one learning, which can be very effective. But without a good relationship and good coaching skills, mentoring can be difficult for both the student and the mentor.
It’s for that reason that we don’t see a lot of in-house mentoring in the call center world. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t work with external mentoring programs or encourage your team to find their own coaches.
We’d also suggest setting up an in-house volunteer mentoring program to support employees who are seeking that opportunity for growth and regularly promoting it.
One-on-one training is some of the hardest training to do but done right, it can be very effective. It’s a good idea to do this during onboarding so that managers have a chance to sit with new agents and get an idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
Telecommuting changed the way employees work by giving them the opportunity to work from home. Video conferencing takes the place of traditional meetings and gives employees from all over the globe the opportunity to work together easily. We’ve all had a taste of that recently.
But working remotely doesn’t mean you have to stop training. Your team can use Zoom or BlueJeans to attend training sessions and conferences while working remotely.
Video conferencing can also be a great opportunity to bring together different offices or teams, have training from teachers from much further afield, and attend virtual conferences.
3. Incorporate storytelling into your contact center training
But storytelling is more than that; it’s what makes us human. The power to imagine, to tell stories and by doing so, to transmit information and work together across natural boundaries of all types.
Using real examples, you can identify potential problems and allow employees to come to their own conclusions on how to solve issues quickly and effectively. Telling a story is the only way to activate the parts of your brain that can pair the information with the listener’s own experiences and ideas. A story is how we transfer information.
Put another way, if you’re not taking advantage of our hard-wired ability to turn stories into knowledge, you’re wasting a lot of energy on something else.
There are — no doubt — countless customer stories and examples you can use from your own call center, and these sessions are a great way to test critical thinking skills and encourage discussion.
4. Use technology to monitor agent efficiency and performance
Incentives create a positive atmosphere, increase productivity, and discourage absenteeism because people like to feel good about what they do. Add a few gamification elements and your call center will be singing.
We’d suggest incorporating various levels of incentive, including public ‘shout-outs’ for great jobs with customers, ‘High-Five’ peer-to-peer recognition for helping out or doing a good job, quarterly performance target individual and team prizes, and employment anniversary gifts.
6. Support extra online training for agents
There is a lot of online training available today, some of it tailored specifically to the call center. Many are mobile-friendly and available 24/7 to meet the needs of employees on-the-go. They can be a valuable training tool when used correctly.
As the engagement rate for online learning tends to be pretty low, we would suggest using this format for optional further training.
Provide resources or guidance — or even your own custom courses — for employees who wish to upskill to take some online training or complete certifications at home in their spare time.
7. Shadowing top agents in your contact center
Peer learning is one of the most effective call center agent training methods, no matter what stage the employee is in. Rather than spending valuable time in a classroom, employees learn the ropes by working side-by-side with another employee. This is usually used when onboarding or when an employee is trying to learn a new role or skill.
Typically, a manager or a top performer, the employee being ‘shadowed’ provides a hands-on training experience by performing their day-to-day tasks in front of an employee, before showing the new employee how to do things, and then walking them through it as they do it themselves.
Despite being old-fashioned and resource-heavy, shadowing is a very effective way to quickly learn a new role.
Coming up with a mutual solution is a great way to help your call center team understand the rationale behind certain procedures, learn how to empathize with customers, and remember company values and voice — plus there’s a bonus team-building aspect.
9. Use role-playing to teach active listening and empathy
Role-playing is another classic teaching method that doesn’t get used enough. It’s ideal for customer service and supervisory positions. Employees act out possible scenarios in front of others. This helps them learn how to handle situations quickly and effectively.
Role-playing is GREAT for training, as it encourages teamwork and allows agents to live out a real-life situation, and games are always fun and stimulate the brain in various ways. Together, the two work like magic!
Here’s an example: Have agents pair up and sit with their backs to each other, then let one person describe a drawing while the other draws it. The idea here is to see how well your agents can listen, transcribe, and communicate. These traits are obviously essential in the world of customer service. Cap off the exercise by giving whichever team has the closest matching drawing a prize.
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10. Use demonstration to teach technical skills
Demonstrations make learning how to use tools and equipment easier.
This is where you would have a seasoned employee demonstrate how to use a tool or complete a task. That person calls on another employee to share what they learned. He or she then walks through each step of the procedure as part of the review process.
These are great for teaching technical skills, new software, or tricky and complex processes that are error-prone.
11. Use speech analytics to predict training need
Phonetic search and analysis — or speech analytics — tools are becoming increasingly common and even come built into some of the larger cloud platforms.
It uses keywords to identify specific issues on calls, specific issues with agents, as well as trends across the whole contact center. This ability to analyze large volumes of customer interactions helps to identify opportunities for coaching; good examples, bad examples, and everything in between.
This data can also be used to refine scripts, determine customer sentiment, predict call length and topic, and a whole host of other clever tricks to help train agents and improve performance in your contact center.
12. Create a buddy system for call center agents
A buddy system is a great way to set the tone for training in the future.
Set up new employees with top performers, and give the buddies a structured plan for introducing the new employee to call center life.
Although this is a pretty informal ‘mentoring’ method, it’s a great way to help new employees feel at home, and they’ll always have someone to turn to if they need to ask a question. It can also be a great way to sow the seeds for organic mentoring in the future.
Great customer service should have a ‘self-service’ knowledge base where customers can find answers themselves.
Great call center training requires a ‘self-serve’ knowledge base where agents — old and new — can find the answers they need quickly and easily.
This is essential for a call center’s customer-facing teams, but make sure that you have ample training resources and answers for issues in-house. Not everyone is comfortable asking questions so provide the resources for agents to train themselves on your systems and processes.
14. Have informal Lunch ‘n Learns
This is a popular feature in many companies, and if you go ahead with it, will be a popular feature in your call center training program.
Choose some food — pizza always works — and host some lunch-time training sessions. The format is up to you; host inter-departmental updates, bring in outside teachers for workshops, or companies for presentations.
Bribing employees with food has been shown to increase engagement by several thousand percent; at least, until the pepperoni slices run out.
Our final call center training idea is either part of company culture from the beginning or it will take some time and work to bring about.
A ‘straight talk’ environment or ‘P2P mentoring’ can be a powerful success driver in the right hands. But like the Thanos’ glove, it can also make half your team disappear.
In a ‘straight-talking’ culture, employees aren’t afraid to give each other feedback on the go, they talk to each other honestly about failings and work openly together to resolve problems or fix inefficiencies.
The best way to go about instilling a P2P mentoring in your contact center is hiring as many top performers as you can. These are people who naturally look for feedback and are confident enough to take it and learn from it. They should be empathetic and their ego needs to be manageable.
The other important thing is to work on team-building.
Great teams are made of people who are committed to reaching the same goals. They’re always looking to improve and support each other, and don’t mind being called out by their colleagues when they’ve dropped the ball.
Training Your Call Center Team for Success
Well-trained employees take pride in what they do. They display confidence in every task and ask for help when they’re unsure of job requirements. They’re absent less, better leaders, and next in line for promotions.
Having a well-trained workforce increases productivity, discourages time theft, and gives your customers and clients a better idea of your company’s plans for the future.
Do your part to make sure your employees get the training they need and you won’t regret your decision. In fact, investing in call center training for your support agents is the best investment you can make in your contact center.