Resolve to Bring Your Call Center's Training into the 21st Century
January 03, 2013
At the beginning of a new year, Americans everywhere make resolutions to do a lot of things: lose weight, exercise more, quit bad habits and improve themselves. It’s a pity that the resolutions practice is generally confined to people: there are a lot of companies that could use some fresh resolutions.
The area of call center training is one such area in need of improvement for most companies. Many call centers train new agents in the same manner they did years or even decades ago. In the meantime, however, the call center landscape has changed radically thanks to expanding media options, mobile customer service, social media and home-based or distributed agents. Given the displeasure a majority of Americans express with the customer service they receive, using old training methods to meet the needs of a 21st century contact center isn’t working very well.
In fact, a recent American Express survey of Americans’ attitudes toward customer service is rather alarming: more than nine out of 10 Americans surveyed (93 percent) said that companies fail to exceed their service expectations. Even scarier, more than half of respondents (55 percent) claimed they have walked away from an intended purchase in the past year because of a poor customer service experience.
Unless you are L.L. Bean or another regularly top-ranked call center operation, chances are, you could use some improvement. While technology is important, it’s very probable that most call centers could brush up on their training and take it to the next level.
It’s not only to service customers better. An improved training program can reduce agent turnover, improve agents’ attitudes toward their work, make managers’ and supervisors’ jobs easier and their time more productive, and boost revenue through increased cross-selling and upselling.
To create in-depth, customized training, many companies are turning to virtual training for agents, according to insideARM’s Kevin Cline. These training tools can be deployed across the entire contact center enterprise, whether the agents work in a call center or in an at-home environment. Companies can customize the training programs to their specific needs, and make adjustments as necessary.
“Virtual training models…involve no central physical meeting space, and may not even be bound to specific meeting times,” writes Cline. “Training is done via computer portals, with instructors interfacing with trainees remotely. Sometimes, the interaction is live, and sometimes it is not. A blended model, as the name suggests, blends these approaches and provides limited in-person training, while focusing on virtual interaction and opportunities when trainees are not in the same physical location.”
As more companies find their call center agents scattered through multiple facilities, partner companies and even across agents working from home, it has become clear that the classroom training model simply isn’t suiting many companies anymore. Classroom training can teach soft skills such as how to deal with an irate customer, but its lack of hands-on activity means its information retention levels are low with agents. It’s also not very good for helping agents attain the technological fluency that is so important today. While 25 years ago, most agents used only a telephone, headset and one or two computer applications, today agents are often juggling phone calls, e-mails, Web interaction, scheduling software, recording solutions, internal and external chat, CRM solutions, inventory, notification and alert windows, accounting applications and more. By some estimates, the average agent juggles a dozen or more applications on his or her desktop during an average day.
Perhaps it’s time to make a New Year’s training resolution for your call center. Think of it as weight loss: by eliminating the processes that are outdated or simply not working for you anymore and bringing new procedures that meet the 21st century needs of your business, you can lose what you don’t need and gain customer and employee satisfaction.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman