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Three Agent Training Mistakes You Must Avoid

Training contact center employees can be a challenge.

It’s difficult to find the time. Quality can be compromised by a constant pressure to train faster. It’s logistically difficult to pull agents for training while maintaining coverage.

This leaves little room for error when you do get a chance to train.

Below are three common mistakes that contact center trainers make. These errors slow training down, make it less effective, and can even cause training to fail completely.

On the other hand, avoiding these mistakes can help your training programs deliver amazing results.

Mistake #1: No Analysis

The first step for any training program should be to analyze the situation to identify your agents’ specific training needs.

Let’s say you wanted to put together a training program on handling upset customers. What would you do?

  • Google “How to handle angry customers?”
  • Look for a training video on YouTube?
  • Create a PowerPoint based on your extensive knowledge on the subject?

None of those steps would be a good idea without first analyzing the situation to identify the real problem you are trying to solve.

For a course on handling angry customers you might ask these key questions:

  • What makes customers angry?
  • What are agents doing now?
  • What specifically do agents need to do better?

Without the answers to those questions, your training program will be generic and ineffective. On the other hand, answering these questions can help you focus the training on helping your agents serve their customers better.

Mistake #2: No Goal

We measure everything else in the contact center, so why not training?

Training can fail if we don’t clearly define our intended outcomes and measure our success. We need to be able to definitively answer the question, “How do we know if someone is trained?”

Unfortunately, many contact center training programs are evaluated with some pretty squishy statements. Here are some real examples:

  • “They seem to be doing well.”
  •  “They aren’t asking too many questions.”
  • “We’ve covered all the content.”

None of those statements give any real indication of whether a person has been fully trained.

A better approach is to create a clear, measurable goal that’s based on agent performance. For example, you might use this goal for training agents to respond to emails:

Customer service representatives will craft responses to five simulated emails with 100% adherence to email quality guidelines.

(If you’d like more help creating powerful training objectives, you can use my worksheet.)

Mistake #3: Training for Knowledge

A lot of training programs focus on filling participants brains with information. Unfortunately, this is a slow and ineffective way to train.

It takes a lot of time and effort to acquire new knowledge. And, contact center information can change rapidly which requires us to start the process all over again.

A faster and more effective way to train is to focus on performance.

Let’s say you wanted to provide your agents with product knowledge training. Think about what you’d want them to do with that knowledge. For example, your goal might be to have agents quickly provide the correct answer to product questions.

A medical device manufacturer cut the new hire training time by 50 percent for their contact center agents by taking a performance-based approach to this challenge. They showed agents how to quickly access product information in a knowledge base. This avoided a lot of time-consuming memorization and allowed employees to stay updated when product information changed.

There are many tools in the contact center that can help your agents focus on performance instead of memorizing information. These include knowledge bases, screen pops, job aids, and customer-facing websites.

Additional Resources

Contact center training represents a major investment in time and money. Here are some additional resources to help you maximize the effectiveness of your programs: