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5 Big Mistakes Trainers Make When Onboarding New Reps

impact on transfer of training Training new contact center agents is challenging. You have a large collection of knowledge that you need to teach them and only so much time to do it. And you need your contact center reps to be experts by the end of training.

With that pressure, contact center trainers have the tendency to take everything upon themselves — but that isn’t the right approach. Training is a team effort between trainers, supervisors, phone coaches, and the new agents.

Create a more effective contact center training program by avoiding these five common onboarding mistakes.

Mistake #1: Not coordinating what supervisors need with the training curriculum

Once training is over, reps become the responsibility of a supervisor, team lead, or manager. Sometimes, trainers and supervisors are not on the same page. Trainers put together a training plan that includes dozens of topics that reps must “know.” But, when reps leave training and hit the floor, they aren’t able to actually handle calls on their own and they end up asking supervisors tons of questions.

This can cause a bit of frustration and tension between trainers and supervisors. When reps make mistakes or ask questions, supervisors ask, “Did you cover ______ during training?” and it becomes a bit of a blame game.

Reps also become frustrated because they don’t like being so dependent on another person to do their job. It can feel like they need to ask a question for every call they receive.

Trainers should be asking supervisors, “What do you need reps to be able to do when they come out of training?” From that, they should get a very specific list of the types of questions and requests reps need to be able to resolve.

Mistake #2: Focusing on what reps should “know”

It’s very common in the world of learning and development to put together training curriculums that cover objectives such as “Understand topic C” and “Know about subject D,” but reps need to do more than just understand things. They need to be able to handle calls about very specific questions or requests.

While it will always be true that reps need to “know” things, a more accurate statement is that they need to be able to apply their knowledge to resolve calls. Start with figuring out those situations where they need to apply knowledge, and then work backward to identify what knowledge they actually need.

Instead of focusing on what reps should “know,” identify the tasks that reps need to be able to do (see mistake #1) and then create learning activities that recreate scenarios where reps can practice doing those tasks.

Mistake #3: Including details in PowerPoint slides

Trainers often put screenshots and other details in PowerPoint slides. The expectation is that if reps have seen it during a presentation, they’ll remember it. That never happens. And reps will never open up your PowerPoint slides and scroll down to slide 95 to find your detailed steps.

Instead, create job aids that include the screenshots and details so that reps can use them after training is over.

Mistake #4: Training and coaching don’t align

If your contact center has 10 ways to do the same thing, your new reps are going to be confused.

During training, they’ll develop confidence in handling calls one way (the way you taught them). Then, if your phone coaches start giving them different advice, your reps will lose confidence and begin performing poorly. Your contact center needs one official way to handle situations and everyone needs to be in sync.

Mistake #5: Not teaching reps how to be self-sufficient learners

In the ideal training situation, for each topic reps are learning about, you would do a short presentation (or a mini-course with videos and written tutorials) that covers the basic information so that reps have some context.

For example, if you were a bank, a topic might be checking accounts. You would have a short presentation that explains the basics of checking accounts.

Then, you would jump into realistic scenarios that are related to that topic. Continuing the example of checking accounts, you would do scenarios such as, “Maria calls in asking for more checks,” “Ted calls in asking what the fees are for the basic checking account,” “Sam calls in requesting to cancel his checking account.”

Instead of jumping in and telling reps exactly what to do, you would let your reps figure out how to respond to those calls using your internal procedure documents. Reps will have to actually navigate through your shared drive/intranet/knowledge base (whatever you’re using) to find the correct policy, procedure, or job aid and follow it to respond to the call.

Note: If you don’t have good SOPs, this can be a big challenge, so you may need to evaluate those.

After practicing dozens (or hundreds) of realistic scenarios using procedures, reps would be familiar with the situations they’ll experience and they’ll know how to find answers on their own.

Good training doesn’t just happen. It takes conscious thought and planning to ensure that your new trainees can hit the ground running.