Published: February 15, 2018 | Comments
You’ve just hired a full class of agents who carry with them the promise to provide memorable service at your contact center. But how do you accomplish this goal? The process of going from new hire to delivering exceptional service can be a daunting task — all the more when given a tight timeline for training. It’s critical that you design new hire training for the way your agents learn.
My solution: accelerated learning! It’s a research-backed teaching and learning method that speeds up and enhances both the design and the learning process. What makes accelerated learning so effective is that it's based on the way we all naturally learn. It has one purpose: to produce results that positively impact an organization. Don’t just take it from me. Donald Schuster, Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University, reports that:
“Accelerated learning is neither a myth nor a passing fad. It has been known to improve the effectiveness of learning by up to 300%!”
How do we build new hire training around accelerated learning? Great question. Here are five tips to ensure that accelerated learning delivers on its promise.
Tip 1: Immediately help learners build connections.
Accelerated learning begins with connections. It’s about connecting the learner to the facilitator, the content, and other learners. Begin with a soft opener--a fun, interactive activity that relates to the learning and gets everyone interacting. This creates connections which ignite the learner’s curiosity, generates positive emotions, and increases their commitment to the learning experience. The Center for Accelerated Learning reports that positive emotions significantly improve and accelerate learning. On the flipside, negative feelings and emotions substantially inhibit the ability to learn. It goes without saying that feelings determine both the quality and quantity of one's learning.
Pro tip: Not sure how to create a connection with the agents? Share a Pecha Kucha! Also, find some fantastic connection activities in Sharon Bowman’s The Ten Minute Trainer.
Tip 2: Build activities that require movement.
The last thing you want to do to your learners is to plop them down in a chair for hours on end— unless you either want them to sleep, or learn nothing, or both. It’s important to get your learners up and moving around. Dave Meier of The Center for Accelerated Learning reports learning is not all conscious, rational, left-brained, and verbal but involves the whole body/mind with all its emotions, senses, and receptors. In Using Brain Science to make Training Stick, Sharon Bowman says that movement enhances cognition, boosts memory, keeps learner awake, and increases energy. Accelerated learning requires movement!
Pro tip: Stock your training rooms with oversized sticky post-it notes and create activities that require agents to walk around the room. Bob Pike’s Gallery Walk is a great activity to try.
Tip 3: Get the sage off of the stage and allow learners to create knowledge.
Learning is creation, NOT consumption; and your role is to facilitate that! In his groundbreaking book, The Accelerated Learning Handbook, Dave Meier writes that knowledge is not something a learner absorbs, but something a learner creates. Learning is a matter of creating new meanings, neural networks, and patterns of electrochemical interactions within one's total brain/body system.
This can be a difficult one for some trainers because it means letting go of the antiquated notion that agents must be taught before they can attempt a new skill. Instead allow them to try a new skill, getting their hands on the tools, and solving real problems. A well-structured debrief will ensure new knowledge is created.
Enhance these activities by having learners collaborate in teams or with partners. Where a spirit of competition or isolation slows learning, cooperation among agents speeds it up, building those critical connections between peers.
Pro tip: Pair agents together to solve problems. Build teamwork and accelerate learning in one activity.
Tip 4: Allow your learners to jump in and try things
Learning comes from doing the work itself with guidance, and people learn best in context. That’s why it is a great idea to let your new hires experience what it’s like out on the floor. New information can be challenging to remember and almost impossible to apply when learned in isolation. After all, we learned to ride a bike by riding a bike (typically with training wheels).
Furthermore, the days of memorizing call scripts are long gone. In the article, Make It Stick, The Science of Successful Learning, the authors discuss the concept of interleaving which requires the brain to focus on searching for different solutions continuously. The process can improve an agent’s ability to learn critical features of skills and concepts, which better enables them to select and execute the correct response as they serve customers. This will prepare your learners to solve complex problems once they hit the production floor.
Pro tip: Provide new hires with a quality form and them to shadow agents, listening to calls. They can use the form to conduct a mock QA. Debrief when the agents return to the classroom. On day two or three, allow them to drive while listening to the call, and by day five offer them an opportunity to answer contacts with real-time coaching.
Tip 5: Use visual design strategies to increase the power of your message.
The image brain absorbs information instantly and automatically. According to the research compiled by 3M, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, which means you can paint a picture for your audience much faster with an actual picture. Use compelling images in your presentations and handouts to speed up learning, engage learners, and create an emotional experience.
Pro tip: Use powerful images in your slide decks and keep any text to a minimum. Most text belongs in your speaker’s notes.
In conclusion, the goals of an effective new hire training program are to: reduce the time for new call center representatives to reach competency levels, increase revenue, decrease attrition, increase customer satisfaction, and increase first-time call resolution. Designing new hire training with accelerated learning techniques ensures that you reach your goals within timeline and budget and your customers will keep coming back.