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How to Help New Contact Center Agents Succeed

good timesA month ago, I called up my insurance company trying to find out why my premiums went up. This was after replacing my old car with the new one - both are of the same year, but the new car had better safety ratings and lesser miles. The agent answered my call, but a few minutes into the conversation I had a strong feeling that she was new. Since we all need time to learn, I was patient and understanding.

All and all, I was on the phone with the agent for over 47 minutes and wasn’t getting much information about the reason for my call; instead, I was on hold a lot and given a lot of incorrect information. The agent first said that my new car was considered a luxury car and that was the reason for the increase, or my previous car had a better safety rating. Every time I got placed on hold, the reason kept changing.

Then, another agent picked up. I was a bit surprised and asked what happened to the previous agent? This agent apologized that the other agent didn’t say that she was transferring me to the next tier level for assistance. In just a few minutes, this next agent was able to look at my account, return to the line, and assure me that my premiums stayed the same.

We all need to learn, and sometimes the learning curve can vary from agent to agent, but it’s important to make sure to facilitate a smooth transition from the classroom to the contact center floor. Here are suggestions as to how to do that:

Boost organizational skills

Trainees who understand what is most important and write it down or place the material in an eyeshot distance usually have a higher level of success during the transition. I recall a few years ago a trainee who struggled with calls because she wasn’t sure where her training material was located in her binder, and she didn’t recall how to use the contact center’s knowledge management system (KMS). The trainee placed callers on extended holds even if the caller was calling for a simple inquiry. She lasted two days after moving from the classroom to the floor.

From this experience, I placed important quick reference guides and job aids in the front sleeve of the training binder, and also emailed these documents when agents transitioned to the call center floor. Further, during review sessions, we reviewed these guides and conducted scavenger hunts and knowledge checks for trainees to get familiar with these key documents.

Practice resourcefulness

You can learn as much as you can about a certain line or service, but there’s always that one question that throws you off your game. What the agent does to locate the information during these moments is important. During training, it’s important to make trainees aware of the resources available, and to give them practice to use these resources.

Gaining confidence

A 2017 Yale study found that a person’s tone of voice conveys several emotions - such as trust, distrust, happiness - more than their words might. Confidence matters in everything, including customer service. When one of our team lacks confidence in their tone, the caller may call back to verify if he or she was given the correct information.

During our customer service session, we provide tips to assist on challenging calls, and bring in seasoned agents to provide class tips, common call types, and resources. This helps new recruits to build confidence, since it gives them an idea of what to expect when they start taking calls.

Roleplaying and practice sessions also help trainees gain confidence before they move to the mentoring or shadowing stage. Another confidence booster is continued support from friendly and experienced peer mentors also helps the new team members to gradually transition to taking calls on their own.

Breaking it up

If a trainee is fed too much information at a single stretch, the brain decides to tap out. To prevent this, scatter breaks throughout a presentation, and add short videos, learning checks, and practice sessions. Also, adding whiteboard review sessions helps to summarize what was discussed a previous day or week, and reintroduces training material to the class in a different format. I’m a believer in the Latin saying that repetition is the mother of all learning.

Each skill in a contact center requires practice to master, but if you can start them on the right path, then they will gain the confidence to grow into their roles.