Training is vital in enabling agents to continue to add value and develop their profile within your business. Here are five exercises to help them reach their potential.
1. Draw my house
Effective call handling is a matter of getting the facts and knowing what to do with them. With skilled questioning, an agent can grasp a customer’s needs very quickly while also engaging them in a pleasant conversation.
However, many agents fall into the trap of asking a series of ‘closed’ questions (questions with a yes/no answer). This can slow down the interaction and make it feel more like an exam than a conversation.
One way to combat this is to have your agents copy an image of a house – without letting them see the original image. Instead, they’ll need to ask questions about the image and develop their idea of what it looks like from the answers given.
It will quickly become clear that between questions that are too vague (what is the house like?) and questions that are too specific (does the house have three windows?) there is a ‘Goldilocks’ zone of questions that are just right, e.g. how many windows are there?
Set a limit of ten questions and see how close they can get to a perfect copy of the original image. This will help them develop the skill set needed to understand customer queries.
2. Telling tales
Call handlers develop a highly detailed knowledge base and sometimes forget the complexity of the information they need to convey to customers. Most members of the public only have a basic understanding of the topics that agents deal with every day and will need it explained to them in a straightforward way.
Agents can practise this skill by summarising stories that everyone will know – famous movies and fairy tales usually work best. They should be able to get the ‘need to know’ information across in three bullet points. They can then garnish that information with three ‘good to know’ bullet points.
Think about ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Agents should be able to give someone who hasn’t seen the movie a basic idea of the plot in three sentences, and then flesh out some of the detail in three more sentences.
Setting a limit on the number of facts they can give you will make your agents think harder about what information really is vital and which pieces of information they need to address first.
There is no reason that training can’t be fun, and this group exercise on persuasiveness has the added benefit of working as a great team builder or ice breaker.
Ask the agents to imagine that they are shipwrecked on a desert island. Give them a list of survival items that are on the beach (rope, plastic bottles, matches, etc.) and tell them that they have got to choose the five most useful items to save before the rest are washed out to sea.
Give them a few minutes to work individually and then bring them together to agree on a final list. They are likely to have quite different ideas about which items are the most useful and they will need to make the case for their choices.
With an emphasis on communication and persuasiveness, this exercise will give agents valuable practice in defending a position and developing the style of language needed to secure buy-in from others.
4. Catch of the day
To be truly effective in developing key skills, an agent needs to be aware of their progress and have some ability to define their own goals.
Ask staff members to make a note of the three calls from that day which they were happiest with and three calls that they felt could have used some work. Not only will this give you a good idea of what their very best calls sound like, their chosen development calls will gives you an insight into their ability to self-monitor.
Make sure to go through the calls with them, and give them the opportunity to explain their choices; they may miss key development areas or bring you the right calls for the wrong reasons.
5. Agents calling in as customers
The more experience an agent has, the less frequently they will take a call that catches them off-guard. Familiarity with in-house processes is great but it can also lead to disengagement, with staff going into ‘autopilot’. So, why not turn the situation on its head and have your agents phone in to live the customer experience?
Prepare a brief that includes a typical enquiry and the fairly limited information a customer is likely to have access to, then see how well your agents do in getting the query resolved. This will help them understand some of the issues facing customers as well as giving them an insight into how they guide their calls.
You can even set up a trainee agent on the other side of the call to create a safe training environment, benefiting two agents at the same time.
What have you tried to tune up your agents’ skill sets?
With thanks to Jack Barton, a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper.