Published: January 20, 2015 | Comments
Contact centers face constant pressure to reduce new hire ramp up time.
It’s a task that seems impossible. There’s already too much to train and not enough time to train it. Agents often need additional nesting time after training to get fully up and running.
Here’s the story of how one contact center rebuilt their new hire training program from the ground up. They abandoned traditional contact center training techniques that were ineffective and employed proven adult learning principles.
The result was a 50 percent reduction in new hire training time. Better yet, the new training program delivered significantly better results than the old one.
Here are three techniques they used along with tips for using them in your own contact center.
Set Learning Objectives
The contact center’s old program made it hard to determine if a new hire was fully trained. The best they could do was sit the new person next to an experienced agent and ask, “How are they doing?”
Setting specific learning objectives fixed this problem.
- They could clearly measure whether a new hire had been trained.
- The training curriculum can be focused on achieving that goal.
They soon discovered their old program included a lot of content that wasn’t vital. Stripping out this unnecessary content saved a lot of time.
The contact center created their learning objectives using the A-B-C-D model:
A = Audience. Define who is being trained.
B = Behavior. Identify the behavior you want to see.
C = Conditions. Determine the conditions under which the behavior must be performed.
D = Degree. Establish the degree of accuracy needed to pass.
Here’s an example of one of their learning objectives:
Customer service representatives will achieve a 90% or higher quality monitoring score on five consecutive live calls taken under the supervision of a trainer.
Setting learning objectives gives new hire training a clear goal. You can download this learning objectives worksheet to help you set your own objectives.
Focus on Performance
The contact center’s old training program focused a lot on memorization.
Unfortunately, memorization slows down the learning process. It takes a a lot of repetition for information to become lodged into our long-term memory. In the meantime, cognitive performance slows down as we struggle to recall new knowledge.
Focusing on performance instead of knowledge is a faster way to train new hires. Give them the skills needed to do their jobs and show them where to find knowledge without memorizing it.
The contact center realized most of the information their agents needed to help customers was contained on their intranet. The new training program showed agents how to find it.
Instead of quizzing agents on memorized information, the new program focused on performance by seeing how quickly agents could give the correct answer.
You can do the same thing with your agents. Identify knowledge bases, wikis, and website FAQs where key knowledge already exists. Build your training program around helping agents quickly access this information.
The contact center’s old training program was based on what’s called the building block approach.
Most contact centers use this technique. You focus on one skill or knowledge area at a time. Once that’s perfected, you move on to the next one and so on until you finally put all the blocks together.
This is a very inefficient way to train.
That’s because agents use the skills at the same time, not separately. Putting all of these blocks together causes many agents to experience a mental “vapor lock” due to cognitive overload. It’s not a fun experience.
The contact center improved new hire training by switching to a scenario-based approach.
This technique trains agents on various skills through progressively more difficult scenarios. Each scenario is designed to replicate an actual contact the agent would handle, such as a billing inquiry or fixing technical problem. This approach naturally introduces a high degree of repetition (good for learning) while showing agents how to simultaneously use all of the skills required for a successful contact.
You can read a recent case study from another contact center that used scenario-based training to reduce new hire training time by 50 percent.
Reducing agent ramp-up time isn’t impossible, but new techniques are required. Here are a few additional resources that can help you.