Published: July 22, 2019 | Comments
If you’ve ever baked a pie, scrambled eggs, or cooked steak, you know that
the slightest tweak in your method (or ingredients) can produce
dramatically better results. Well, Stephanie––a Training Manager at a call
center––recently discovered the same is true for training new agents. By
making just two modifications, her new call center agents were able to
confidently do their new jobs in a fraction of the time it normally took.
Traditional Training = Reasonable Results
Last year, Stephanie’s training curriculum consisted of two weeks in the
classroom and one week on the floor with close supervision. Stephanie
noticed that even after three weeks of training, her new agents were still
very timid when it came to helping customers over the phone.
Right out of training, new agents followed the same pattern for each call
they picked up:
Put the customer on hold
Look for somebody close by who wasn’t busy
Ask that person what to do
If that person didn’t know, the agent looked for somebody else
Stephanie observed that, while the three weeks of classroom training was
helping new agents feel comfortable with the systems, the
classroom training didn’t help new agents become proficient at responding
to customers. It seemed to take another 45 days of “on-the-job training” to
reach an ideal level of proficiency.
While that isn’t very long when compared to industry standards, Stephanie
decided to tweak the training curriculum so that new agents were proficient
Here’s how she did it.
Two Changes to the Curriculum
Since new agents learned the most during “on-the-job training,” Stephanie
rewrote the classroom training curriculum to include scenarios that agents
would experience while on the floor. To do this effectively, she focused on
doing two things.
1: Building the right support materials
Stephanie is a realist. She knows that even if the new training curriculum
included dozens of realistic scenarios, the new agents could never remember
everything they practiced. So, her first effort was to redo the
documentation so that new agents would have something they could reference after classroom training was over.
Stephanie used ScreenSteps to
re-write and reformat her call flows, if/then decision trees, and
step-by-step instructions. Her changes to the documentation made it easier for agents to scan by gradually revealing pertinent information as call agents
needed it. Her formatting allowed for the documentation to be
comprehensive, yet simple to reference during a call.
Below is an example of what that kind of documentation might look like.
With good documentation, the agents didn’t have to memorize
everything. They just needed to remember how to find (and use) the call
flows, if/then decision trees, and step-by-step instructions.
2: Improving training activities
Instead of extending her three-week training program, Stephanie focused on
changing what the new agents did during the two-week classroom time
On the first day, Stephanie gave them an overview of the contact center’s
systems. Then, beginning on day two, she focused purely on running the new
agents through dozens of questions and scenarios while teaching them how to
use her ScreenSteps documentation
For example, she would ask them to “find an Opportunity in Salesforce.” If
they didn’t know how to do that, she showed them how to find the help
article that explained how. Gradually, Stephanie’s scenarios got more
challenging and more involved. Each time, the new agents were expected to
search ScreenSteps for the answer and read the article. They would then
talk about the procedure as a class to make sure everyone was on the same
Stephanie’s classroom training replicated what happened when new agents hit
the floor, and she taught them how to use her documentation to respond.
Then, on week three, the new agents were on the phones with a supervisor
close by. Each time they received a question or a request, they would
search the ScreenSteps knowledge base to find the appropriate answer.
By the end of week three, new agents had gone through dozens of scenarios
and learned how to use the documentation to respond while on a call with a
Ramp-up Time Was Cut By 75%
After Stephanie improved the resources that call agents would use after training and included more “on-the-job” experiences during
the classroom training, her newly hired agents started their jobs with more
confidence and a higher level of proficiency. Stephanie’s boss said that
the most recent class to graduate from her training curriculum had the
“BEST performance that this call center has seen from any new hire training
class in the last year.”
And the metrics backed that up. Stephanie reports:
“New agents were able to handle any type of call right out of training. After about 30 days, they were
pretty much experts. Handle time is down, talk time is down, hold time is
down––the metrics across the board are a lot better than they were
previously. It’s been a fantastic experience.”
After only 15 days of being hired, new agents were able to handle any call. Before Stephanie made the changes, new agents were
shuddering when they received complex phone calls even after 60 days of
being on the job.
All in all, Stephanie’s new curriculum reduced the average agent’s
time-to-complete-proficiency by 75%. Not only did that decrease the number
of interruptions created by new agents during the day, but it reduced the
stress new agents felt as they started answering phone calls.
It’s Time to Change Your New-Hire Training
For years, several instructional designers have been promoting the approach
Stephanie implemented to train her new agents. Her experience proved that
the approach actually works!
Dr. Robert O. Brinkerhoff did a study in 2006 (included in
) that demonstrated the tremendous impact of developing post-training
support materials. And Cathy Moore recently
published a book
that goes into great detail on why you should (and how you can) incorporate
scenario-based activities into training sessions.
If you’re struggling to get new hires to a high level of proficiency in a
shorter amount of time, it’s time for you to revisit your training
curriculum. Studies have shown, and Stephanie’s experience has
demonstrated, that a few small tweaks can lead to dramatically better