7 Contact Centre Agent Training Nightmares


Kat Worman of Calabrio discusses seven contact centre agent training problems that are keeping managers up at night.

When it comes to delivering a superior customer experience, superior agent training is key. Without it, companies suffer from disempowered or disengaged agents, an inflated number of call escalations, distracted supervisors – and the resulting unhappy customers.

As a call centre manager, getting and keeping your agents up to speed should always be top of mind. According to the International Customer Management Institute, call centres reported a 33 percent employee turnover rate in 2017. This high rate of attrition drives a correspondingly high rate of new hires to backfill those empty positions, all of whom must be properly onboarded and trained.

Once new agents are onboarded, however, that doesn’t mean that the need for training goes away. Not only do you have to be constantly looking for ways to help agents improve their performance, you also need to keep them up to date on new products and procedures within the organisation.

We recently queried call centre managers to find out exactly what it was about agent training that haunted them in their dreams. Here’s what they said.

Nightmare #1: Coordinating and delivering consistent training sessions for all agents at all locations

For organisations spread out across different time zones, countries or even continents, uniform training can be hard to come by.  Says John Weippert, technical operations manager for Cummins, Inc., “My agents are 24×7 and are all remote, so we have to coordinate several training sessions to accommodate all of the different shifts and times of the day. It makes it hard to deliver a consistent message to everyone and impossible to do so simultaneously.”

Some call centres, on the other hand, prefer to train all agents simultaneously, regardless of time zone differences. This adds an additional layer of stress because it means trusting their training to a virtual meeting or video conferencing technology, expecting it to deliver a high-quality presentation as in-person training would, and ensuring all attendees know how to properly utilise the technology. These hurdles can be challenging to overcome.

Nightmare #2: Keeping training materials up to date during times of organisational change

It seems the only constant in today’s large corporations is continual change. With competitive and economic pressures compelling them to – for instance– merge with or acquire other companies, downsize, or roll out new products, training materials can quickly and easily become rendered useless.

Concerted ongoing efforts should be made to update materials and keep them relevant, regardless of the changes swirling around them.

Nightmare #3: Getting caught in the “Can I speak to a manager?” trap

As a call centre manager, this can be a tough situation to get through. When a high number of calls in your contact centre are escalated to managers for handling, it likely means that there’s a need for training. After all, when agents can’t handle calls themselves or have a hard time maintaining control during challenging and emotional calls, the customer experience is put at risk.

When call centre managers have to step in to help with customer issues, it essentially takes their focus away from other important contact centre business, including finding the time to better train agents on how to de-escalate calls while maintaining high customer satisfaction.

Nightmare #4: Expecting agents to remember and follow one-off processes

When training a population like call centre agents that’s prone to high turnover, systematic processes are critical. These processes need to be logical, consistent and automated as much as possible. Most, if not all, call centre managers agree with this philosophy, yet many organisations still implement one-off processes that make it difficult for all agents to adhere to in an identical manner.

While one-off processes may be a quick fix and make sense in the short term, call centre efficiency takes a hit when processes lack consistency. 

Nightmare #5: Consistently training different departments

Often, different departments across the company maintain different call centres. In these scenarios, corporate is challenged to systematically train all agents to the same high degree of quality while taking into account the slight variations each department may have regarding how they conduct business and what they evaluate.

Beth Bax, assistant director of quality assurance at Grand Canyon University, explains how they make it work. “We’re really good at keeping the lines of communication open with the various directors. We utilise our calibration meetings to ensure we’re always on the same track.”

By keeping the lines of communication open, call centre managers can ensure that all agents are being trained to the same standards, no matter what department they report to.

Nightmare #6: Managing staffing for constantly changing shift breaks

Whether it’s deciding how to stagger shift breaks to ensure enough agents are online at any given time or what times of day are optimal for breaks based upon changing business needs, break times have always been a challenge for call centre managers. But it’s even worse today. Now, organisations must evolve beyond what’s best for the business when it comes to break times, and take into account agent needs and preferences.

CDS Global’s Department Manager Ramona Moore explains, “We have some agents who need a static lunch break to pick up children or breastfeed.” If you want to retain those agents, it’s important to figure out ways to make unique schedules work. It does, however, add additional pressure on call centre managers, who might have to adapt training around a unique schedule, or individually catch up an agent who missed a critical part.

Nightmare #7: Dealing with non-adherence issues caused by agent refusal to reference dashboard schedules

Organisations that optimise schedules often alter – in near real time – the times of shift breaks to better align with anticipated customer call volumes. Unless agents make it a habit to frequently check the up-to-date schedules available via online dashboards, they’re prone to unintentionally take breaks at the wrong time. This can be frustrating when you’ve spent a significant amount of time altering schedules to keep service levels high – and is a sign that there might be deeper issues that you need to address with the agent.

With the high turnover and fast rate of change in many call centres, agent training is a constant focus for many managers. That doesn’t, however, mean that it’s easy to keep agents ready to provide the high level of service that customers today expect. The need for training will never go away, but when call centre managers are diligent during onboarding, consistent with updating training materials and processes and strive to elevate agent engagement, agents will be prepared deliver the exceptional service your customers expect.

To find out more about training and engaging high-performing agents, read the white paper 5 WEM Strategies to Enhance Agent Engagement.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Calabrio – View the original post

To find out more about Calabrio, visit their website.

About the author

Calabrio Calabrio ONE is a unified suite—including call recording, quality management, workforce management, voice-of-the-customer analytics and advanced reporting—that records, captures and analyses customer interactions to provide a single view of the customer, and improve the overall agent and customer experience.

Read other posts by Calabrio

Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Published On: 16th Nov 2018 - Last modified: 18th Dec 2018
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