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Opposing Viewpoints: The Helpdesk and Service Team Take On Training

A note from the editor: The helpdesk and support team play very different roles within the contact center. As such, they approach and see things differently.  We want to explore those differences in a featured article each month.  This month, Brooks and Jeremiah share their thoughts on learning and development.

ICMI: What tools and technologies do you use to monitor your teams for QA?

Jeremiah: We record all calls and log all chat transcripts and email conversations so that we can perform QA. It is fairly easy to download an mp3 of a call for review or pull up an archived chat or email. Due to the highly specialized nature of my team’s work, I actually perform QA myself whereas we have a QA department who evaluates other Support interactions. We even set up an internal ‘hotline’ that second-level agents can call for assistance. Since a large part of my team’s job is to act as a point of assistance for other agents, I find it very useful to be able to listen to and QA these calls as well.

Brooks: Premier Support’s QA is handled by our QA staff.  I’m only heavily involved if coaching is needed as a result of the QA score.  However, our QA team utilizes call recording technology, chat transcripts, and email history to review interactions.  Within our CRM, they’ve created a checklist associated with a series of points.  Based on the key points that are missed, points will be deducted from total score.

ICMI: Tell me a little about your training process for new employees/team members.

Jeremiah: Our training process is very hands-on and team-based. The typical new hire is someone who has already worked in the Support department for a year or more so we assume a strong level of familiarity with our application and the operations of the department. Thus, although getting the new hire up to speed on the new skills they will need is important, it’s even more critical to get them used to operating in a less structured, more collaborative small team environment. I find the best way to do this is by having them nest with the team and letting the team be responsible for getting the new person up to speed.

Brooks: Each new hire in Premier Support goes through 2 weeks of classroom training with our Learning and Development team.  Training days typically consist of 6 hrs of training and 2 hrs of shadowing agents on the floor.  This gives the agent time to see the material put into practice. Following the two weeks of training, the agent goes through a nesting period in which they do a little bit of everything (phone, chat, and email).  During that time, they have a tenured agent close by to assist them with any questions they might have.

ICMI: Do you offer continuing learning opportunities?  What type of programs do you have in place?

Jeremiah: We  are more informal in this regard, and to a large extent, I expect my team to take initiative in determining their own training needs. We do have a large online, interactive curriculum covering different technologies and skills so if a team member expresses interest in a particular area, I will often point them towards a particular course. These are generally 3-4 hours in length and can be completed in multiple sessions.

Brooks: I like to provide additional training opportunities to those who are interested.  If someone wants to take their career in a certain direction, I’ll recommend or assign additional training to help them get there.  The training typically includes online tutorials, recommended readings, and/or interactive courses via our L&D Portal.

ICMI: What advice would you offer for training tenured agents on new technology and techniques?

Jeremiah: Joining my team comes with the expectation that the agent will become the expert on any new attributes of our application or new techniques we are emphasizing. If working with a tenured agent who may be more reticent to embrace new technology, I would ensure that that person gets consistent exposure to that technology. In that sense, working in a call center has its benefits since an agent will rarely have the option to try and avoid change. If they are on a call with a customer asking about a new issue, they are expected to be able to answer that call.

Brooks: It needs to be hands on and interactive.  Tenured agents know as much as they know because they’ve been doing it for so long.  Watching a webinar or a presentation isn’t going to cut it. 

ICMI: How has new technology changed the training process for contact center professionals?  What do you see as the challenges and benefits?

Jeremiah: We increasingly rely on recorded video and online interactive courses for training purposes. The benefits are that it allows you to work at your own pace. Especially with recorded video, it can also be used for customers when appropriate. I feel as long new technology isn’t being implemented only for the sake of using new technology, then benefits will accrue. Challenges could occur if an agent is required to go out of their comfort zone for the purposes of training, but if that is the case, the problem might be with the training rather than the technology.

Brooks: Interactive online courses that are available 24/7 have had a huge impact.  Agents can review the training material one at a time during different intervals throughout the day/week.  This means taking fewer agents off of the phones at any given time, which results in better service levels and a better customer experience.  While this is a benefit for the customer’s sake, there is something to be said about classroom training.  In the classroom, agents are more engaged with one another and they get to hear the thoughts and questions of their peers.

ICMI: It’s becoming increasingly popular to use gamifying methods for training—especially to motivate millennial—what, if any, gamifying techniques have you used?

Jeremiah: I haven’t really used any gamifying methods in my training, although I am certainly intrigued by the idea. We generally use quizzes and tests as our means of monitoring training progress, along with general monitoring and QA.

Brooks: We have interactive course work via our L&D portal, but I wouldn’t say the courses are using gamifying techniques.  Most interactive course work that I’ve experienced has been fairly outdated.  I would love to see the new trends in this field, and I’m sure it would have a huge impact on the new generation that’s coming into the call center industry.