Call Center Training: The Complete Guide for 2020 (with Practical Tips)

By Catherine DeStasio | July 8, 2020
Call Center Training

Six Call Center Training Tips & Best Practices for Better Customer Experience

Now more than ever, as we increasingly experience life remotely, the most important— sometimes only—interactions we have with brands are through call centers. Call center agents have become the clear frontline for customer service and brand reputation.

Delivering customer experience that improves customer satisfaction and builds lasting, revenue-generating brand loyalty requires more than quick issue resolution. It’s now about creating superior experiences with every customer interaction. To do that effectively takes well-trained agents and ongoing, consistent agent training programs—from onboarding and beyond.

Contact center supervisors must be equipped to better identify and tailor training programs to each agent’s skill gaps and training needs. The goal is to stay ahead of shifting customer expectations by empowering agents to meet or exceed expectations in all interactions.

6 Steps and Best Practices for Your Best Call Center Staff Training Program

It’s no longer about simply training agents to work faster with the singular goal of reducing contact resolution metrics. Contact centers must train agents to work smarter and more effectively.

Here are five ways to get smart with training to improve agent performance and boost long-term customer experience.

1. Embrace continuous training

The most successful contact centers are abandoning point-in-time, one-size-fits-all training programs. Traditional onetime, classroom-type call center training, delivered to all new agents over the course of one or many days, falls short because most people forget what they’ve learned over time.

Agents must keep pace with new tools, as well as changing customer behaviors and preferences. This makes it essential to continually reinforce training within the context of your contact center and products or services.

When training programs are fluid and include opportunities for online training and self-learning, agents learn better and retain more from training courses. Ultimately, your contact center will operate to its full potential.

2. Leverage technology to make customer interactions valuable training sessions

Incorporate effective continuous training for new hires and call center veterans that  includes:

Guidance through smart bots

Automated bots featuring machine learning can listen in on conversations between agents and customers and give suggestions to agents. Over time, agents learn the best responses for the most common situations.

Scripting to facilitate conversations

Guiding agents through each conversation with real-time scripting helps reduce first-call-resolution times. Plus, as they will with automated bots, your agents pick up best practices over time.

Tracking agent performance with a performance scoreboard

Scoreboards give agents—and supervisors—visibility into how they are tracking to daily goals. Advanced contact center solutions can use the metrics and KPIs to dynamically prescribe tailored training courses and coaching sessions. Plus, with insights into regular metrics, your agents will better understand how to improve their outcomes so they can deliver outstanding customer experiences.

You can pair this with gamification that encourages learning. Using incentives, rewards and commissions aligned with the most meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics, you can encourage agents to change behaviors. Rather than see training as a hassle and waste of time, agents are motivated to engage with highly relevant content.

With continual reinforcement and the use of innovative contact center solutions like CxEngage Scoreboard for performance management, including automated coaching tools, agents learn and retain critical knowledge.

3. Empower agents with customized training

Regardless of their experience level, agents need to quickly master the latest contact center technologies and approaches.

A contact center solution featuring automated workflows and an intuitive UI can help. Plus, it can help agents develop necessary skills by automatically generating coaching sessions triggered by your performance thresholds. These advanced center solutions guide agents with the appropriate script and their next best action—all based on what is happening on the live call.

A cloud contact center like CxEngage QM can record, analyze and score every call, which means supervisors can hone in on areas for improvement, and customize instruction and coaching, with ongoing training refreshers. Armed with these regular insights, your contact center supervisors can customize their coaching and training for greater effectiveness.

Using audio and screen recordings, supervisors can review agent activities between calls for ideas on how to make agents more efficient. They also can share the best practices of high-performing agents across the organization to fully optimize what they learn.

4. Don’t overlook the value of soft skills in an agent’s skill set

Contact centers are often staffed by a mix of seasoned and new agents assigned to different roles requiring specialized knowledge and skill sets, including both direct skills related to product knowledge and tools, but also soft skills like effective communication, collaboration, critical thinking and leadership.

Soft skills are one of the foremost predictors of enterprise call center performance and agent success.  In fact, according to recent research by Harvard University and the Stanford Research Institute, 85% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% relies on technical knowledge.

As the frontlines for customer experience, call center agents are responsible for much more than issue resolution. If an agents leaves a customer with negative impressions of the brand or prove incapable of helping them, the damage can be far-reaching and lasting (think social media and the power of a shared, bad review).

The most skilled agents are equipped with more than a script and access to relevant customer data. They go further to fully satisfy customers, winning them over when they have a problem and building long-term loyalty.

Here are some of necessary soft skills that should be addressed in your contact center’s training programs and why they’re critical to positive customer experience:

Clear communication

Keeping conversations clear and productive helps speed up resolution and save time, but it also reduces frustration because people want to know they are heard and progress is being made. Active listening is an important part of effective communication; It ensures important and helpful details aren’t lost, and gets to the crux of the problem—and the solution.

Critical thinking

When an agent can think critically and not only follow a script, resolution is simpler and less time-consuming. Time isn’t wasted when an agent can quickly consider a problem, evaluate it and solve it. An agent’s ability to act on an issue and offer a solution can be enhanced with increased autonomy earned over time through results. Ultimately, this means more customers are helped, more quickly. It also builds job satisfaction and increases retention rates

Collaboration

Involving your customers in finding solutions gives them a sense of being valued and the feeling they are taken seriously. This additionally has the benefit of customers sharing information beyond just descriptions of specific problems. It provides you with useful information agents can apply to improve future customer interactions.

Soft skills can be taught and should be a consistent part of your training program. The key to soft skills training is consistency and practice. According to an MIT Sloan study, just eight months of soft skills training can yield 250% return on investment through increased productivity, better efficiency and improved employee engagement.

5. Equip managers and supervisors with regular insights on performance

Traditionally, contact center supervisors have reviewed a sampling of customer interactions and provided agents with feedback. This process isn’t ideal because the evaluations are based on a small percentage of interactions.

The most successful contact centers take it further. With advanced tools and features available in a modern cloud contact center solution, call center supervisors can gain cross-channel, cross-agent insights that help optimize performance. With these tools, the supervisors can observe interactions, rapidly pinpoint areas for improvement and provide instant feedback.

Interaction analytics can convert information from phone calls, texts, emails and social media streams into structured data supervisors can search and analyze. Advanced speech and text analytics then make it possible to identify the most relevant interactions, such as emotionally charged ones, when a customer asks to speak to a supervisor or interactions that contain flagged words or phrases.

By combining this with other data—such as which call center agent handled a call or customer details from a CRM system—you can analyze trends and root causes of issues as part of your agent training and improve agent performance. Combined, these insights help train agents to ensure a consistent customer experience across channels.

6. Consider Consumer Trends

It’s important that your training program can accommodate future trends. For instance, as AI and smart bots become more valuable and common, your customers will primarily use these self-service tools for the most common needs and only engage your call center agents for complex issues.

Your contact center needs trained, skilled agents who can adeptly handle these complex issues quickly and effectively. By delivering real-time, custom training methods and automating supervisor activities, you can improve call center operations and cultivate a culture of continuous development. In turn, your agents will deliver more personal, satisfying customer experiences.

Serenova Delivers Innovative Solutions to Empower Call Center Training

Serenova simplifies every aspect of the customer experience to make life easier for contact center leaders their customers and call center staff. To see the power of Serenova for yourself, contact us for a demo.


Catherine DeStasio is Senior Content Marketing Manager, Contact Center Solutions, at Lifesize.