Question: We all know that call centre work can be monotonous. What I’m interested to know is how I can go about giving refresher training to customer service representatives who are starting to get bored and to hate their job? Can you recommend a style or approach that will help re-engage them? And what is the best way for me to deliver such a refresher programme?
Courtesy of Sally Earnshaw, head of learning solutions at Calcom Group
The role of an advisor can be repetitive and, certainly, one way to energise and engage agents is through a programme of training. This is usually part of a bigger solution that will not only engage your people, but can play a vital role in locking them in to the organisation through long-term development plans and career pathways.
The first step on the road to agent engagement is to look at the role itself and ask how it could be made more interesting. Many organisations are looking at multi-skilling agents to provide a much broader range of activity and responsibility. This not only improves morale, but also has a positive effect on customer satisfaction through customer queries being resolved more often at first point of contact.
In the longer term it is important to look at the end-to-end journey an agent goes through and the development activities that take place along the way. Most organisations ensure that agents go through a thorough induction process to be sure they are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to deliver in their role. But what happens then?
The reality is that call centres known for best practice give agents a clearly defined path of development.
These agents tend to stay with the organisation and demonstrate much higher levels of engagement and satisfaction. A carefully structured career pathway should include opportunities to gain the skills required to move both sideways and upwards, and also the personal development to grow and learn.
It’s probably wise at this point to encourage you to seek professional help in firstly researching and identifying the skills needed to close any existing skills gaps and to improve performance within your organisation, and secondly, how to develop a robust development programme, or career framework, that you can implement to best effect.
There are a number of ways to deliver regular sessions to your agents to keep them educated and motivated. As products and processes change, there is always a need to keep agents up to date so they deliver the correct information to the customer. Regular ‘buzz sessions’ that are short and snappy can be used for this type of training. Why not get different members of the team to deliver these sessions, thereby also providing a platform for personal development?
From a skills perspective, creating and delivering short ‘skill pills’ to develop agent skills – in particular areas such as impact, call control, sales and so on – adds another dimension to agent development.
If you are trying to encourage personal development, it would certainly be worth investigating any resources you could access to provide books/audios/e-learning tools in areas such as personal finance and self-help. This might help engage your agents in undertaking self-study in their breaks or down time.
You could also appoint ‘knowledge coaches’ that are responsible for updating agents on particular products, process and systems, and who are also trained and skilled in coaching other agents in these areas. This provides an aspirational role for agents that have a longer length of service and who are usually becoming disengaged.
Finally, also think about creating ‘process improvement teams’ to engage in activities that could improve the customer experience. It’s worth remembering that your agents often have untapped knowledge of the business and its processes, and have valuable first-hand access to customer feedback.
By including your agents in the improvement of processes and business performance, you encourage buy-in and loyalty to not only their jobs but to the organisation as a whole.
Courtesy of Nigel Webb, head of consultancy at Procter
Your opener is already ringing alarm bells. Call centre work? Monotonous? We’d challenge that strongly. There are some fabulous examples of thriving and exciting workplaces out there. Why not start by looking closely at your people’s roles? Are they multi-skilled? Have they job and career growth structures in place? Are they going places? We all have routine tasks to fulfil. However, singling out contact centre work as monotonous feels dated.Bigger picture questions aside, you’ve rightly identified you have a more immediate need to turn round your current situation. Firstly, can we ask what’s made you sure that refresher training is the answer? You may be spot on, however you will need to be confident you’re pushing the right buttons if you’re going to have an impact on engagement. Using refresher training to re-engage your people when what they really need is rearranged shift patterns, for example, might end up counterproductive.If you haven’t done so already, therefore, it’s important you get a clear idea of what life is really like for your CSRs and gain clarity around the reason for any disengagement. Why is it that they’re starting to hate their jobs? Focus groups, online questionnaires and external benchmarking have all worked for us in the past.Once you’ve got a handle on root causes and you’re confident refresher training will fill the gap, you need to design a delivery strategy that will maximise on opportunities to engage. It’s here that we would recommend a departure from normal training practice. We would suggest engaging support of the most influential people in your CSRs’ environment – their line managers.Fifteen-minute training sessions (we call them ‘buzz sessions’) run by team leaders on the contact centre floor have proved to be valuable re-engagement tools. By delivering business-focused sessions on a variety of topics two or three times a week, team leaders have an excellent opportunity to help their teams engage with the business. Engaging at team leader level has the advantage of putting the solution at the heart of the CSR’s life rather than letting it get ‘siloed’ in to training activity.
Of course, your team leaders will have to step up and be counted and there may well be a development gap you need to consider. How good are your team leaders’ engagement skills right now? Are they confident presenters? Are they the best placed to motivate? This is where you can make a real difference. As a trainer, you can give line managers the development they need.