Call center training has always been one of the key pillars of running a successful call center. As the industry advances, so do the methods we use to ensure our workforce is performing at its best.
A strong call center training program should not just be part of your onboarding process. Instead, it’s helpful to think of it as regular part of your workforce management. It plays a key role in keeping your agents aligned in their approach and messaging, as they support your callers daily.
Still have questions about call center training? Read on for our complete guide, where we’ll explore all the best practices.
What is Call Center Training?
Simply put, 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 agents to use the phones and customer management systems is important, but agents must also learn and practice ‘soft-skills’ like empathy and active listening every day.
Contact center training in the most successful contact centers is an ongoing process — for every employee from the top down. Training topics may include things like:
- Compliance training
- QA training
- Technology/software training
- Sales/customer service training
Why is Call Center Training So Important?
There are plenty of reasons why you should invest in your call center training programs. Aside from teaching critical skills and knowledge to new agents, it also has other benefits.
Your call center training program is important because it’s part of your customer service plan – and part of a strong employee engagement plan. Statistics say that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to quit their job than disengaged employees. It’s a pretty safe bet that if your agents feel aligned with company values and are recognized for their hard work, they’ll stick around for years to come.
Happy agents are those who feel fulfilled and satisfied in their work. A huge part of that is making sure they’re set up for success and armed with the latest information and techniques so they can excel in their work.
Regular training sessions can also help sharpen both soft and hard skills, which makes for better overall customer support. In short, there’s plenty of ROI to be had from a strong call center training program!
The Most Common Call Center Training Methods
When planning your call center training, you will want to consider what type of method you plan to use. Don’t just pick one. Offering a variety of training methods will help accommodate different learning styles and keep things interesting for your veteran staff.
1. Live call training
Live call training is undoubtedly 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.
Include live call training in your onboarding program, initial agent training, and any ongoing training sessions, too. Agents (and management) should always be looking to adjust and improve their phone manner.
2. Classroom training
Although we’ll do most training outside the classroom, this formalized learning environment has its place. A classroom doesn’t have to be the classic set-up with everyone in rows facing a teacher. Include workshops and group activities as much as possible!
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.
Try setting up an in-house volunteer mentoring program to connect employees seeking growth opportunities with those who have skills and experience to share.
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.
E-learning and Online Call Center Agent Training Courses
E-learning is a great way to complement practical and in-house call center training. There are plenty of online training options available today, some of them 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.
Provide resources or guidance — or even your own custom courses — for employees who wish to upgrade their skills or complete certifications online. Here are just a few online resources that you can use to get started:
- EdApp – Call Center Customer Service Course
- Universal Call – Call Center Customer Service
- ICMI – Call Center Training Courses
- Benchmark Portal – Live Online Contact Center Training
- The Call Center School – Online Training Courses
13 Best Practices to Include in Your Call Center Training Program
1. Host training sessions regularly for all agents
The first thing to have in your plan is a regular, formal, group training session for employees. Aim to host training monthly or quarterly.
This is your chance to bring staff together and keep them in the loop on things like new policies and procedures, safety programs, software, and hardware. They can also be used to provide regular, customized training from an outside company.
As part of your formal training plan, schedule time to send staff to conventions, classes, and workshops. These off-site training sessions give employees the chance to keep up with industry best practices and bring back ideas that can help the workplace.
2. Use video conferencing for training
Telecommuting changed the way employees work by giving them the opportunity to work from home. Video conferencing takes the place of traditional meetings and lets employees from all over the globe work together easily.
But working remotely doesn’t mean you have to stop training. Your team can use Zoom or another video conferencing platform to attend training sessions and conferences online.
Using interactive online training techniques with video conferencing can give agents opportunities to engage with their team mates on a more personal level.
3. Use customer profiles in your training sessions
Call center customer profiles are like the buyer personas that marketing and sales professionals use to understand their target audience. They can include key information like age range, income level, life and professional goals, pet peeves, and more. These profiles help expand your call center agents’ knowledge base and give them the information they need to effectively manage customer complaints and resolutions.
Ultimately, a successful call center customer profile reveals expectations about customer service. It also includes concrete information about how, when, and why the customer might interact with contact centers. Once your call center agents know this information inside out, they will be much better able to handle inbound inquiries on any channel.
Here are some key ways to integrate customer profiles into your agent training plan:
- Make agent feedback a priority. Encourage your front-line staff to offer their insights into the types of customers they face.
- Foster empathy with the customer. Prompt your agents to discuss why some of these customer types might react a certain way when placing a call to your contact center. During this training, encourage your agents to find ways to personalize their messaging for each profile.
- Act it out. To demonstrate the practical aspect of your customer profiles, write up role-play scripts for each profile and have staff act them out. This is an engaging exercise, and also demonstrates how different customer profiles could play out in real life.
- Make the information universally available. Once your profiles are done and dusted, save them in a place that can be easily accessed by the company. A shared company knowledge base is a great choice. Because this will be a living document, it’s important to keep track of where this document lives to minimize the chances of your employees using outdated information.
4. Incorporate storytelling into your contact center training
Who doesn’t like a good story? Not only are stories more engaging, but stories also enhance learning and help us to retain information better.
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. These sessions are a great way to test critical thinking skills and encourage discussion.
5. Use technology to monitor agent efficiency and performance
Call center training should use real-life examples to help employees see the results of good and bad techniques. This approach will help them feel more connected to the department.
Many contemporary call center software products monitor agents’ performance and help identify problem areas and time wasters. Set up each employee with their own ‘Performance Dashboard’, so they can see their own numbers, and one for the managers too.
Involve your employees in data collection and analytics. You might share a live customer call with trained agents and then show your agents in training that customer’s CSAT score! Or, you might share a few metrics like FCR or abandon rate before and after your team uses Fonolo’s Voice Call-Backs!
6. Use incentives and gamification
Call center training material can get pretty dry. Why not spice it up with some competition and fun games for your agents? Offer rewards and competition throughout your call center training to keep your agents engaged.
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.
Rewards might look like a shortened workday for the person who answers the most questions correctly in the training, or an award of recognition for a game-winner.
7. Shadowing top agents in your contact center
Peer learning is one of the most effective call center agent training methods, for agents at any stage. This is often used when onboarding a new employee, or when an employee is trying to learn a new role or skill.
The employee being ‘shadowed’ is typically a manager or a top performer. They’ll provide hands-on training experience by completing their day-to-day tasks in front of their trainee. Along the way, they’ll share insight and best practices as they complete their daily workload. Despite being old-fashioned and resource-heavy, shadowing is a very effective way to quickly learn a new role.
Allowing the trainee to observe the experienced agent handle customer calls is excellent training. This helps them see strong customer service skills in action rather than just in theory. Take this approach one step further by coaching your veteran agents on setting a positive tone and building a friendly mentor-mentee relationship with your new hire. You’ll be impressed by how much further your training efforts go!
8. Hold small group training sessions discussions
Small group discussions are a useful way to teach new processes or refresh guidance with employees. To get started, trainers place students into groups. They give them case studies or tasks to go over, and then set a timer.
Each group has until the timer finishes to come to a conclusion and share their opinion with the other groups in the training session. The rest of the groups offer feedback and share their opinions.
Coming up with a mutual solution is a great way to help your call center team understand the rationale behind certain procedures. It also helps them 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 real-life situations. Plus, games are always fun and stimulate the brain in various ways. Together, the two work like magic!
10. Use demonstration to teach technical skills
Demonstrations are great for teaching technical skills, new software, or tricky and complex processes that are error-prone.
Have a seasoned employee demonstrate how to use a tool or complete a task. As part of their review process, their trainee then calls on another employee to share what they learned. By walking through each step of the procedure, they review their learning – find their weak spots – and share it forward, too. Demonstrations make it much easier to learn new tools and equipment.
11. Curate a ‘self-serve’ knowledge base
Great call center training requires a ‘self-serve’ knowledge base where agents — old and new — can find the answers they need quickly and easily.
If you host your resources in one central database, it’s simple for remote agents to take training into their own hands. It’ll empower employees to seek out training opportunities and streamline the onboarding for call center managers.
Cloud-based services make storing and sharing data simple. Your information will be stored online, so you can instantly share training resources with anyone from your organization. End-to-end encryption keeps your data secure, and you can grant role-based access to specific information, preventing private files from entering the wrong hands.
12. Host an informal ‘Lunch & Learn’
This is a popular feature in many companies, and if you go ahead with it, it will be a popular feature in your call center training program.
Order some food — pizza always works — and host some lunchtime training sessions. The format is up to you. Host inter-departmental updates, bring in outside teachers for workshops, or outside companies for presentations.
13. Cultivate ‘straight talk’ and P2P mentoring
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 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 by 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 they don’t mind being called out by their colleagues when they’ve dropped the ball.
Keep Your Training Program Up to Date
Call centers are always changing. Whether the company is expanding, upgrading to new technology, or setting goals to improve metrics, there’s a good chance that shifts will be made over time.
Every 5–6 months, look over your training materials to ensure the content is still correct and relevant. Letting training resources go stale can hinder employee growth and lead to poor job performance.