In a call center, employees perform the most important function, that is, directly interacting with the customers on a daily basis.
This interaction keeps the company and its customers connected, and is a major factor in influencing sales. There is no doubt about the importance of the role agents play in the industry.
This also means that any failure at this critical juncture gets amplified in its effects further up the ladder. Call center agents cannot afford to make too many mistakes, since errors wind up being costly every time.
To keep agents in top shape, training is imparted to bring their skill sets to the forefront and keep them aware of the latest technology.
Training is essential for the call center agents to learn and improve at their work, and take their performance to the next level.
It ensures that everybody performs to their full potential, and helps to draw out the best from the workforce.
Without proper coaching and training, performances can be wayward and the team can suffer as a whole, even though certain individuals might shine.
Hemani Sehgal points out six key roles of the call center agents which can improve with training – “Keeping customers happy, delivering high quality product and services, managing continuous change, retaining top talent, working in collaborative networked organisations and achieving top-notch performance.”
These are all factors that lie at the core of good customer service, and they have become a necessity in today’s competitive market.
Bearing in mind how important it is for the agents to stay on top of their game, here is a list of tips for training call center agents, with an aim to make the customer experience better and drive up sales.
1. Introduce the concept of team over the individual.
The success of the call center depends on how well the individuals can get together to provide a unified outcome.
Make sure new hires know every other member on their team as well as their specific areas of expertise. Make it easy for team members to contact each other, and let them work on problems together.
2. Educate new employees with every new function of the business.
New employees should be well aware of all the specifics that go into the business.
They should know everything, to understand the product or service they are selling, as well as the call center operations they are expected to perform.
Further, they should have a good idea about the company’s mission, its values and ethics and future plans.
3. Explain the impact of schedule adherence.
A person who understands the importance of a function, will perform it to the best of their abilities.
New agents often falter to keep a strict schedule because they have no idea how much of an impact it can cause.
They need to be told what are the implications of such factors , especially in influencing performance indicators like service level. Once aware, they will modify their approach accordingly to suit the demands.
4. Provide clarity about their roles in the business.
Sometimes, agents can be unsure about their exact role in the overall operations, because they fail to see the bigger picture.
One useful way to keep the agents motivated is to explain just how their contribution lends meaning to the operations of the call center.
Once they have a sense of where they fit in, they will take their responsibilities more seriously, and the net result will be an increase in productivity.
5. Let top performing agents help new employees.
It helps to have someone who has been there and done that, explaining the nitty-gritty of the job.
New employees can relate to a previous performer, as well as understand the standard that is maintained in the organization. It helps to set the bar high, so that agents can aspire to be matching or even improving the existing bests.
6. Explain the KPIs followed and the outcomes desired.
Clarity of communication between the managers and the agents is very important for a successful call center to operate.
While agents are being trained on how to go about the proceedings, they must be told clearly what are the metrics of the evaluation , what the company expects them to do, and how to perform better in those domains to put up a good show and improve the experience of the customer.
Once agents are sure of which aspects of their job they must work on, the overall precision as well as quality of their work will improve, giving them better results.
7. Teach agents the established practices.
New agents typically have little or no prior experience of working in the call center business.
Therefore, for them to effective in customer service, they need to be taught the essential elements of a good call center executive – the proper greetings, how to progress with or without a script, listening techniques, how to make a sale, how to end a conversation, etc.
They should be encouraged to practice these basic skills with each other until they become almost the second nature.
8. Establish clear etiquette guidelines.
One wrong move in the middle of a call can work against you because you cannot control how the customer perceives your statements.
Therefore, it is a good idea to impart certain established etiquette’s to new agents. This allows them to have a basic understanding of things to do and things to avoid – a knowledge base that gets supplemented with experience as they involve themselves in more and more calls.
9. Teach agents self-help guidelines for the common obstacles.
Very often, agents will encounter a large number of customers with the same or similar queries.
In such scenarios, it is very helpful if the agent is able to have a ready working solution to the problem, instead of having to pass it on to tech support every time.
Empower your agents to find their own answers to their questions using the tools they have at their disposal, and your traffic will move fast and seamlessly.
10. Provide individual attention while training agents.
Every agent has a different strength. Due to so many new agents being freshers, there is often a situation where the agent himself does not know what he is good at.
During training, the experienced professionals need to identify traits in every individual employee and groom them accordingly.
If individual attention is provided, the team becomes equipped with more diverse skills and can tackle a wider range of problems.
11. Keep your training modules interactive and take feedback from the new employees.
The entire point of a training program is that employees participate in it.
To that end, your company would be much better served if you fashion the training courses to reflect a high level of interactivity and keep the employees involved.
This also prepares them better for their actual job, where their interactive skills will be the key.
12. Provide a prior call recordings.
Playing recordings of previous calls to demonstrate a point is a very effective method of providing a clear guidelines to the new agents.
The agent can then have a clear understanding of the situation that the call represents, and how the caller went about with their business.
A prior call recordings are a great way to demarcate a standard that agents must achieve.
13. Give importance to the practical aspects of training.
The coaching and training provided to agents is most effective when it is hands-on.
Since agents are typically going to be using a lot of technology and spending time on machinery, it is advisable that they be given a good run-through of these things before they actually start working.
Practical training helps them understand the day-to-day requirements of the job.
14. Monitor the performance of new agents constantly.
At the initial stages of finding your feet at work, it is very important that you have someone looking over your shoulder and assessing whether you are doing the right things or not.
For new agents, managers need to keep tabs on their performances regularly and suggest any changes if necessary, so that they can settle into the workplace quicker and feel more comfortable in a more autonomous role once they get a hang of what is to be done.
15. Keep introducing training on new technologies.
Every day, there is some new software that comes up in the market aimed at making call center operations easier.
Advancements happen so often these days that it is hard to keep track and stay abreast of all your tools unless you are regularly trained in new technologies.
Whether an agent is experienced or absolutely new, he would need some sort of a run-through to fully utilize new technologies and bring about the best results.
The Case Study
So far, we have spoken about the best way to make sure that new hires are integrated effectively into the workforce, and can contribute in keeping with the standards of the organization.
Training provided must be specific and practical, so that agents can get a feel of what is expected out of them and how they should go about their job.
Conducting such training modules is critical to the success of the organization, because it teaches the agents not just the principles adhered to in the company, but allows them to dabble in the call center software that they will use for the customer service.
To shed light on how important these listening practices are in the context of contributing to sales, let us turn to a case study featuring a real example of a call center.
For the scope of this case study, InfiTech Solutions is a telemarketing agency providing call center solutions for an established organization.
This case study will progress through the problem scenario and the challenges faced by the company, to studying the solutions they drew up and how these changes led to a growth in business.
The Problem Scenario
InfiTech worked on a fairly large scale and brought in new agents every year.
However, they noticed that a large percentage of these new recruits took a long time to settle in, and some of them simply could not find a comfort zone, opting to leave within a year or two of joining.
This constant shift in personnel was damaging morale in the teams working on customer service and was costing the company significantly.
The challenges that the company faced are listed below.
1. In their initial transactions, a lot of agents were unable to answer queries about the products owing to lack of sound knowledge. This caused a sense of mistrust among the customers and impacted the brand negatively.
2. New recruits found it hard to adapt to the technology they were using, and were hence unable to properly utilize it to derive required insights.
3. Agents were unsure about the metrics on which they were evaluated, as well as the standard that was expected out of them.
The company drew up the following solutions to counter the problems that they faced.
1. Proper training courses were introduced to educate agents about every feature of the products they were selling, as well as the company they represented.
2. The company brought in the best call center software, along with experts to guide the agents on how best to use it.
3. The KPIs of note were clearly communicated to agents, and they were given the assistance of previous call standards to explain the standards expected.
The introduction of a structured training regimen worked wonders for the organization. Agents now had a clear sense of what to do and how to handle the call center software solutions at their disposal, to bring about helpful insights and provide better customer service.
Sales figures rose correspondingly along with customer satisfaction and retention rates.
We can see the significant role of training in developing agents to become champions of customer service.
Once you get the basics right, you will see your business grow from strength to strength.
Adopting a clear training procedure for agents new and old helps to boost your business and cement your place in the competitive market.