Q&A Session: Call Centre Training
Q – Why is training important to call centres?
Over the last decade or so we have all become used to dealing with call centres and millions have been invested in call centre technology. However, the lasting impression that we take away from any interaction with a call centre is usually mainly about the people we talked to. Did the other person on the end of the phone take the time to understand and meet our needs? Did they explain information in a way that was understandable and helpful? Did they deliver the brand promises made by the company’s advertising campaigns? Did we enjoy the conversation?
Training is important because it provides a way for call centres to equip their staff to deliver a consistent and excellent service experience to customers – in many ways the most important outcome from the transaction.
Working in a call centre doesn’t suit everyone. Many call centres struggle to recruit and then find that they experience high levels of staff attrition amongst their customer-facing staff. In this situation it’s obviously important to invest the time in getting recruitment right, but once new staff join the company training plays a key role in retaining staff in the business. Most call centres provide several weeks of induction training which equips new starters to understand products, use the technology and deliver the customer experience. Without this initial investment in induction training and the subsequent training required to update and refresh key skills, attrition rates would be even higher.
The business benefits of training can therefore also be expressed in terms of the positive impact on recruitment and induction costs.
Q – What are the main challenges in terms of training in call centres?
Every environment has its own challenges, but training in call centres has to be organised to minimise time away from the phones, which could have an adverse effect on key metrics such as customer waiting times. There are also challenges accommodating multiple shifts and locations/cultures.
Q – What is the most economical and effective way of training call centre agents?
In many ways call centres provide a great training environment. Staff are generally based in a relatively small number of locations, closely supervised by a team manager. There is normally good access to on-line information and there are plenty of performance metrics that can be used to track the impact of the training.
In our experience, a blended approach to training works best in this environment. This combines face-to-face learning with a high component of practical work with self-study using on-line materials. Ideally these two methods are supported by sessions in team meetings when team managers run group games or exercises to reinforce and embed key skills or behaviours. In our experience, it’s this mix of learning which delivers the best outcome. The emphasis is not on spending large amounts of money on an expensive, lengthy programme of classroom training, but providing a cost-effective mix of learning materials which are reinforced by day to day coaching and support in the workplace.
Q – What advice would you offer a call centre on how to offer training that is both economical and effective?
To make a training programme fully effective it’s important to look at how it fits into the wider working environment. For example:
- Define what good looks like – for example by specifying the skills and behaviours you expect to see. Make sure that these are aligned with the company’s brand messages or customer experience.
- Make sure that you get it all lined up – and that the skills and behaviours that are important to the business are part of the recruitment process and drive ongoing performance management (such as call monitoring) and reward/recognition as well shaping as the training that’s provided
- Equip team managers to embed the key skills and behaviours, through they way that they manage their staff pre- and post- training. Make sure that they have the skills that they will need to coach and support the key skills and behaviours that are required from their teams.
- Measure progress. Call centres are rich in performance data which makes it easier to track the impact of training and development. This makes it easier to justify the time and cost involved – or to identify any improvements that are required.
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