Do you need to improve call center performance? You’re not alone!
Keeping up with customer expectations is the #1 service challenge, according to a 2019 Customer Service Trends report by Salesforce. The same report reveals that 4 out of 5 customers say their experience is as important as products.
So, how do you meet the needs of today’s customers when they are smarter, more skeptical, and have higher expectations than ever before?
Call center training can ensure that you provide your customers with the experience they expect and deserve. The good news is that your employees want training. According to long-term research from Middlesex University, 74% of workers feel they aren’t achieving their full potential at work due to a lack of development opportunities.
When you offer high-quality training, you can:
- attract more high-quality talent,
- reduce employee turnover,
- increase employee satisfaction,
- encourage agent career growth,
- and improve profit margins (by as much as 24%).
The question is: how do you provide call center training that works?
16 Call Center Training Tips and Best Practices
Below is a list of 16 quick call center training tips that you can start using immediately to boost your call center performance, improve the customer experience, and develop exceptional quality assurance.
Tip 1: Give Agents Positive Reinforcement
Comment on, congratulate, or better still formally recognize your call center agents when they perform well. Gallup studies reveal that employee recognition is critical to not only influencing employee engagement, but also organizational performance.
Recognition, when visible to other employees, is a call center training best practice that will boost your agents’ performance. It is also likely to motivate all of your employees to replicate their celebrated colleague's behavior.
Just make sure you recognize top-performing employees in a timely manner. Don’t wait to motivate employees on a quarterly or annual basis. Recognize good work immediately and often.
Tip 2: Implement Agent Cross-Training
We’re not talking about the fitness type of cross-training! Cross-training involves taking the agent out of their usual environment of answering customer calls or emails, etc. and training them on other sides of the business that are impacted by customer service.
According to a 2018 academic research paper, cross-training is among the most effective methods of improving individual and team performance while driving employee efficiency.
Moving your call center agents to a different department or team every few months will not only upskill them, but it will also help boost morale. When done well, it prevents agents from falling into the trap of dull, repetitive work. Cross-training gives agents a chance to learn more about your business as a whole, and it can be a great opportunity for them to progress their careers. Just be sure the cross-training skills your agents gain are transferable!
Tip 3: Give Agents More Time For Regular Training
According to a 2020 LinkedIn report, 49% of learners admit that they don’t have enough time to learn at work. At the same time, 94% said they see the career benefits of making time to learn.
It can be difficult to justify more time for learning at work because people have a full schedule and lots of tasks needing attention. But it’s worth it. There’s a significant return on investment for spending just an additional 15 minutes per week conducting call center training.
And if you’re really struggling to provide more training time, consider cutting time from activities that don't add as much value. The truth is that if your call center coaching tools are effective, performance will improve, as will all other metrics associated with that.
Tip 4: Empower Your Customer Service Agents
Your agents' performance will improve five-fold if they are given control of their own training. Your agents should have access to data about their performance, so they can perform a gap analysis on their own skills and identify where and how they can improve. This means empowering your agents through access to performance reviews, agenda setting, goal setting, and other items.
One way to do this is with Scorebuddy self-scorecards. Agents can use these cards to give themselves precise feedback on how they’re performing with customers. From there, your management team can work with your agents to set goals for coaching and training, even allowing them to choose the type of rewards they want for meeting milestones.
When you encourage your agents to focus on their own strengths and weaknesses, you produce happier and more engaged employees. These employees also end up providing better customer service. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Tip 5: Train for Agent Knowledge Gaps
Lack of knowledge and skills is likely a huge problem for your employees. In fact, 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs.
However, you have to be careful about designing call center training programs you think your agents need; that’s just going to waste time and money. According to McKinsey, only 25% of employees believe that training measurably improves performance.
To avoid falling into this training trap, research the knowledge gaps with tools for quality monitoring and performance reviewing. Then, tailor-make training for what's needed. Making assumptions could be a costly mistake!
Tip 6: Train for Agent Soft Skills Including Emotional Intelligence
Only 38% of managers believe their training fits their learner’s needs. And this is especially true when your training only focuses on knowledge gaps and not soft skills. Soft skills are essential to your agents’ success and quality customer experiences.
To train agent soft skills, first, you have to identify critical customer service soft skills, such as communication, adaptability, initiative, teamwork, empathy, integrity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence. From there, you need to develop an effective soft skills training plan.
As part of this training plan, you’ll need to hire agents with soft skills and then implement regular soft skills training opportunities and exercises. For example, once a month, you can review customer service calls and role-play the interactions for better results. You can also make analyzing soft skills a key element of agent self-scoring.
The key is to combine engaging soft skills training content with modern technology and a strategic partnership between your leadership team and agents to get the best results. Your company will be rewarded with better call center results, employee retention, and more loyal staff.
Tip 7: Make Training Fun Through Gamification
Most employees find training uninspiring. They’re easily bored by the content, which is a huge barrier to actually learning. Instead, you need to develop training programs that are entertaining and informational, which is where gamification can help.
While games might seem trivial, they are actually an exceptional way to foster teamwork, increase engagement, raise energy levels, and encourage skill retention during training. The idea is to reward agents as they reach certain levels of training with badges, performance bonuses, and other benefits.
You can also implement call center training games to build creativity into your learning program. Ideas include:
- Break the Ice: Give everyone on your team a chance to get to know everyone else with fun ice-breaking ideas.
- Are You Listening: Test your agents’ abilities to listen by asking a tricky question and tasking you agents with finding the solution.
- Telephone: Test how well your agents communicate with each other in this classic children’s game.
- Do You Remember: Test your agents’ ability to remember key facts using small groups and a series of questions.
- Angry and Happy Customer: Test whether your agents can handle angry and happy customers and how well they do so.
Tip 8: Provide Mentorship Opportunities
Mentoring your agents can prove invaluable. A mentor acts as a go-to guide throughout the training process and beyond. They can help demystify complex issues while also offering agents a more in-depth look at what they can expect in the future.
Mentoring is also about real-world value. Mentors become a valuable networking asset for the employee—someone they can leverage for career advancement. In addition, a mentor is one of the best individuals to encourage agent’s to pick up new skills and try to go to the next level.
And don’t forget the value of reverse mentoring as well. In this scenario, your agents are responsible for teaching others, which is one of the best ways to retain information, expand viewpoints, and gain new skill sets.
It's amazing how much you can understand about a person's role and how they might feel if you walk in their shoes for a day. By sitting next to agents, you'll be better equipped to help and empathize with them and deliver effective call center training tips. In addition, they are more likely to be susceptible to your suggestions.
Regularly sit in on agent calls to listen, see, and feel what they are going through. Then you can provide feedback. Remember, sometimes call center coaching sessions are an avenue for agents to vent their grievances. Often, poor performance is not due to a lack of skill, but due to an overload in frustration.
Working alongside agents will help you understand these day-to-day agitations that can get under anyone's skin. Agents often know the solutions to their problems and don't need a coach to point them out; they simply need someone to care and understand the problems.
Tip 10: Use Benchmark Calls and Call Monitoring Forms
When training, the use of good and bad benchmark calls is a great way to dissect a conversation, to provide call center training techniques, and allow agents to validate their own performance. A call monitoring form is critical to this evaluation.
Call center QA forms provide your management team and agents with essential feedback on how well or poorly a customer interaction was handled. This form can then be used to train and motivate agents, identify trends, and reveal areas that are lacking.
And while every call monitoring form should be customized to your business sector and company priorities, there are four essential areas for training:
- Soft Skills: Your call monitoring form should have a section that allows you to test your agent’s communication skills, professionalism, ability to gain customer trust, product knowledge, and problem-solving.
- Processes: The form should answer the question, how well did your agent follow all of the correct processes when it comes to customer service?
- Compliance: Compliance is an increasingly serious risk for most call centers. Your call monitoring form should help you determine if your agent passed or failed basic compliance requirements.
- Outcomes: The key to measuring outcomes within your call center monitoring software is putting all customer insight on one page. In a single dashboard, you should include the outcomes from your soft skills, process, and compliance monitoring.
Tip 11: Give Balanced Feedback
According to a survey on how companies could help employees be more successful, the majority of employees (37%) cite recognition as the most important method of support. That means feedback can’t only be negative. It is just as important, if not more important, to recognize good work privately and publicly.
Use your judgment to assess to what extent you give both kinds of call center coaching. High performers who are competitive might either crave constructive criticism or recognition for excellent work. The last thing you want any call center agents thinking about a call center coaching session is, "What have I done wrong now?"
There are a few keys to balanced feedback:
- Be specific and relevant about employee accomplishments and areas for improvement. When you recognize specific behavior—for good or bad—your agent is encouraged to strive for strong performance.
- Share feedback promptly, instead of months after the fact, so it feels authentic.
- Remember that feedback comes in many forms. You can recognize employees via more than words with bonuses, raises, gifts, etc.
- Find little accomplishments to highlight, especially if negative feedback has been raining down.
Connect your feedback to the bigger picture so that your agents understand how their work impacts the company.
Tip 12: Ask Agents to Select Their Own Calls for Feedback
According to a Gallup State of the Local Workplace study, actively engaging your employees is key to productivity. To engage your agents, they need to feel like they are valuable members of your call center team. That means you need to give them ways to participate in the decision-making and training processes.
Ask agents to submit their own good and bad calls for assessment. Lessons will resonate quicker on their own calls, and you'll be amazed at the honesty of agents in both knowledge gaps and problem identification.
Self-scoring is also a less threatening way for agents to scrutinize their customer interactions and identify areas for improvement. It empowers your agents to invest in their own careers. Just make sure you set clear quality guidelines before you allow agents to self-score so that the results match your goals.
Tip 13: Schedule Regular 1-to-1s
Your agents are individuals. This means that they need individual training to match their personal and professional backgrounds and needs. Regular one-on-one meetings are really important for call center staff to feel appreciated, connected, and cared for. These individual sessions will also help you develop personal, practical, and effective training protocols.
“One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager,” writes Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching and Training. “They are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.”
The truth is that call center agents deal with customers all day every day. It can be a tiring, draining, and thankless job. Regular one-to-ones create a more informal environment that focuses on relationships. This is how you foster trust among your team.
Tip 14: Personal and Professional Development
Agents are humans with lives outside of the contact center and with career aspirations. In fact, 54% of employees would spend more time learning if they had specific course recommendations to help them reach their career goals. Personal development is crucial for nurturing any employees.
The reality is that only a small percentage of agents in your call center want to remain as agents in the long term. When the right learning content is delivered to agents in the right way and at the right time, they’re more likely to be engaged in your training and spend more time learning.
Try linking training and performance metrics to promotions, increased salary, and opportunities to work in other areas of the business they are interested in.
Tip 15: Use an LMS to Help with Call Center Training
60% of agents agree that their company doesn’t always provide the technology they need. A learning management system (LMS) is one of those essential tools when it comes to call center training. And it’s especially valuable in a world where 57% of learning and development professionals are spending more time online learning than they did three years ago.
An LMS works as a centralized, all-in-one training solution so you can more easily manage, track, and achieve your learning goals. It simplifies how you deliver training anywhere and at any time through course management and a blended learning experience. Through its on-demand and dynamic platform, LMS can help you:
- Identify games in training and learning.
- Create, manage, and deliver education courses and training programs.
- Automate and scale to meet your training needs
- Track, document, and report on training effectiveness.
Tip 16: Adjust Training Tips for Remote Agents
Remote call centers aren’t just a new idea for the pandemic. Working remotely has been a trend for a while, and for good reason. According to Snapcomms, “It’s estimated that every staff member who works from home saves the employer $25,000.”
The key is training your remote agents so they provide the same high-quality customer service as in the office, while improving your ROI. To do this, there are seven critical tips for training remote agents:
- Create a learning and development strategy
- Build trust with your remote agents
- Hold one-on-one video calls
- Conduct virtual classroom sessions
- Create eLearning content
- Institute remote training tools
- Hire the right remote agents
Tracking the Success of Your Call Center Training
Okay, let’s say you’ve implemented all of the call center training tips we’ve outlined above. How do you know if it’s working? You need a tool that tells you how well your agents are handling every customer interaction, and if they are meeting your performance expectations.
Scorebuddy is an all-in-one call center monitoring platform that is customizable to your specific needs. You can set it up to track processes, compliance, and how well you’re meeting desired outcomes. You can evaluate calls, review emails, monitor chat, check social media, and more. Scorebuddy even helps you dig deep to identify training gaps, carry out root-cause analysis, and reveal agent successes.
And with Scorebuddy’s new LMS alongside our rich library of curated content inside the Scorebuddy Academy, call center training has never been easier. It is the first of its kind, fully integrated contact center quality, customer sentiment, and learning & development suite.