How We Train Call Center Agents for Long-term Success
October 09, 2018
By: Pat Ricken
This post is the second in a 2-part series by Pat Ricken, Director of Training, QA, and Leadership Development, on our process for call center agent training. You can view part 1 here.
Too often, contact centers only conduct agent training on the front-end. Sure, they may monitor a few calls and offer feedback from time to time, but that’s about it. Their focus is on filling seats and billing for as many hours as possible. The quality of customer care is a lesser concern.
Research has shown that contact centers that provide ongoing agent training achieve a 4.6 percent year-over-year improvement in agent performance compared to those that don’t.
That’s why we train for the long-term success of our agents, starting from the first day they enter the classroom and continuing throughout their career.
Every new hire gets to hear from members of our leadership team as they visit the class, and from day one we stress that when they accepted the offer to join Transparent, it became THEIR company, too, and, together, we own the success.
Our training rooms proudly display our mantra: “Our Goal Is Your Success.”
Unlike other companies who place their executives at the top, dictating from on high down to the hourly workers below, at Transparent BPO, we invert the pyramid, understanding that our front-line employees have the most important jobs in the company, as it is their ideas, feedback, and passion that will keep our business growing.
Bottom line: When agents provide world-class service, the customers they serve are happy, which make the clients who pay us to do their work happy, which encourages them to bring more business to Transparent, which makes all of us happy and keeps us growing.
We understand that an agent who is committed to the business takes ownership of the impact of his or her contributions, which often leads to a desire to contribute in other significant ways. This commitment to continuous improvement is key to agents gaining the knowledge and confidence needed to handle any assigned call type, and we use a variety of means to accomplish our goal.
Professional Development Portal
We have an online Professional Development Portal (PDP) where our agents learn the skills necessary to do their jobs. Training developers can quickly create simple, yet useful lessons on new products, services, skills, and procedures that agents need to know. Agents can then access, engage with, and review interactive courses and programs right at their desktop instead of spending time in a classroom.
New agents typically spend two weeks in the classroom where they learn employee basics, agent essentials, and details about the program to which they will be assigned.
Once the agent leaves the classroom, we want to know if they can perform on the floor. Are they carrying the behaviors they were taught into production and are we seeing results?
We use Donald Kirkpatrick’s evaluation levels model as a basis of our continuous improvement process:
- Level 1: Reaction – Are agents finding the training favorable, engaging, and relevant to their jobs? (Do they like it?)
- Level 2: Learning – Are the agents acquiring the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence, and commitment based on their participation in the training? (Can they do it?)
- Level 3: Behavior – Are agents applying what they learned during training when they move to the floor? (Can they translate the learned behavior to the Call Floor.)
- Level 4: Results – Are agents attaining targeted outcomes because of the training, support, and accountability? (Is it driving the intended results?)
We work with Operations Managers and the QA team to see where roadblocks exist for achieving results. Where we find those, we re-evaluate and modify the training curriculum to drive success. It is a constant 360-feedback loop between our departments.
As the agents complete classroom training, we move them into a two-week small-group nesting program we call Launchpad where they focus on transitioning from the classroom onto the floor and then to the full production team, launching them to success.
Our goal with this step-wise process is to help the agent gain independence, learn to use the available tools, and start making decisions on their own. During this time, the new agents have step goals week by week, so they have a SMART approach to their success,
Recently, we developed a separate area of the floor called the Success Bay. It’s a place where agents who need retraining can go to get a fresh look and gain the skills necessary to do their jobs well, and where good performers can go to hone skills they have already learned.
We found that changing the agents’ physical environment gives them the chance to refocus, refresh, get new ideas, and interact with other people in a collaborative environment. It’s a small break from their everyday routine that is a tried-and-tested process that works.
Rising Stars Leadership Development Program
Agents on all programs have an opportunity to advance to the level of their leadership potential.
Often, other contact centers see success with a program, but only because they place a superstar agent in a leadership position within it. Then, when they move the person to another program, performance in the first drops because there is not another high performer to take their place.
That’s why, last year, we created a leadership development program called Rising Stars, which ensures we always have leaders in the pipeline, trained and ready to step up when the need arises.
To date, we have graduated a total of 40 agents, which ensures we can meet the growing demand.
Here’s our latest crop of Rising Stars and their coaches. (That’s me in the back with my thumb held up!)
Everything we do in our training is not just about saying we moved agents out of the classroom and on to the floor, but that we helped them become high performers who take pride in their achievements and want to pursue a career in the contact center industry.
For us, training is more than attaining a set of KPI metrics but about developing people, teaching them the behaviors and skills necessary for success. Experience has shown us that if we emphasize the latter, we will achieve the former.