Practice what you teach ....

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Sales Trainer


Practice what you teach ....
Do trainers/consultants go on the phone to practice what they teach?

I recently worked at a call centre where some of the trainer’s had an attitude of ‘I am employed to train, not go on the phone and take/make calls’. However, how can new programmes be developed if a trainer in not in touch with what the advisors are coming into contact with on a daily basis?

I am very keen to hear others views and thoughts on this.



Learning is what matters

I always use the opportunity to demonstrate 'how it should be done' mostly becasue my training style is one of self deprecation and letting the joke be on me. Its not always a good idea though and some delegates may feel inferior.
The notion that you cant train unless you 'practice what you preach' is misplaced as training theory and practice dictates. Learning occurs in many situations and it is widely accepted that instructional learning is not the most apporpriate training method for call centres, relying as it does on repetition, demonstration, process, rigid adherence and regulation.
The main reasons some trainers 'hit the phones' imay be to gain authority/respect within the classroom, most training thoery dictates that you can gain this power by being a good trainer rather than being good on the phone.
We all know of managers who are great on the phone but cant manage teams. The same can also be true of trainers.
Having answered your question somehwat verbosely, trainers do need to 'be in touch with what advisors are coming into contact with' but trainers are meant to train and transfer knowledge, demonstration is only one if the methods they can employ, its certainly not the best or most apporpriate. Observation is not the best or only way to learn. if all you are doing is showing how good you are as a trainer at making calls are your trainees really learning anything or simply observing an ego?

Trainer / Webmaster

Volvo Action Service

Ivory tower ?

A very valid point... showing off is definately not what you want to do. Most of the time, the new recruit gets his first impression from a company from the trainer. He/She is the one who will show him/her the ropes and showing off would indeed give an unwanted effect.

Here at Volvo Action Service, we have an somewhat different policy. I combine my trainer job with the actual business on the floor. And this has - in my opinion - a couple of advantages. First of all, you have the day to day background of what you're teaching, it gives a more open style of training because you access daily examples and it sure helps to put things in a more "practical" way.

CC Operations Design Specialist

Financial Services

Training & mentoring
>>>>>>>>the trainer’s had an attitude of ‘I am employed to train, not go on the phone and take/make calls’

This sounds like a different issue - clearly going on the phones here was not percieved as training related activity. If the requirement to get on the phones was part of a TNA for the centre (right or wrong), then the trainers should not have had an issue as this is clearly part of the role.

My experience of when trainers are asked to hit the phones is that it is driven by resource issues and they are put on the phones to improve service levels.
If this is the case, then the trainers are absolutely right. Training, monitoring, coaching, and quality tend to be the first things dropped during high call volumes in under resourced centres. The problem with this approach is that the quality goes down therefore rework and complaints increase, so the call position cannot improve. It is far better to take a short term hit than to create a perpetual loop resulting in a downward spiral of quality and customer experience.

If the aim of going on the phones is to understand the customer contacts better, then I would suggest this is far more effective if done from recorded calls. That way the 'real' customer and agent experience is captured, rather than one biased by the trainers involvement. Recorded listening also allows more time for judgement decisions. A trainer cannot be effectively analysing calls and experience while at the same time providing a high level of customer service. If your trainers own the training programme, then they should identify whether or not a practice has any value; if they own the practice / procedure than they are more likely to buy into it.

>>>>>>>>> I combine my trainer job with the actual business on the floor
not sure if this statement is being applied to contact centre environment...?

If this is in the context of a 'typical' non-customer facing role then provided the training is still structured and contains measurable objectives on the job training can be effective.
In the customer services environment I do not believe this is appropriate. I believe there is great value in mentoring employees, but I would not suggest that this role be performed by the trainer, nor that this be used in isolation. Firstly, there is a minimum competency requirement for any role, before the employee is let loose on the live environment. Secondly, the purpose of a mentor is to show how the training is applied in the 'real world' and to provide support through their own experience of fulfilling the role.

Lean Process Consultant

Worth Solutions Limited

Walk the flow
The question was about consultants as well as trainers.

In my own case, when I get to a client I will always "walk the flow" with a client. If that is a call centre that will mean listening in to calls for a couple of days with members of the team listening in too. This is essential, because even though I have the client's staff come up with all the improvement strategies, I have to have a good idea of the demand into the centre and of the work they do. I don't think I could help if I didn't know what they do!!


Dechaine Consulting Inc

I agree with trainer somewhat
A possible bad attitude withstanding I agree with the trainer.

I have been a manager in call centres for sometime and developed alot of training material. While in some of the projects that I was an agent in I would feel comfortable taking a call I do not NEED to know how to take a call to properly coach and develop a person.

Management and Training skills are different than one's required to take a call. I do not like even seeing our QA people online.

Customer service I may have in ace's but I would get blown away in my current project if I tried to take a call. I do not have the tool knowledge I would require.

And it's really a lose/lose situation as kinda mentioned.

Either you do amazing and make people feel incompotent.

Or you really bomb on the phones and they lose complete faith in you.

It is very hard to be in the middleground in that situation. Different people will have different expectations of you.

I observed several times where we had the trainers in one centre on the phones and nearly everyone around lost faith. Not to mention they would throw off our SLs and the next day all the agents made fun (mostly in jest) about them having the highest AHT.

personal experience
Many of our trainers also develop our training material, meaning there is a lot of opportunity to take ownership of what is taught in the training room. In order to do this effectively, we need to know where the agents’ difficulties lie, what we should concentrate on more in the training room and where the gaps in our material may be (TNA). We can’t do this by simply taking calls – it’s not realistic; as Dylan quite rightly said “A trainer cannot be effectively analysing calls and experience while at the same time providing a high level of customer service.” In addition, unless we were taking calls on a continuous basis (and I doubt many trainers’ schedules allow time for that) we would still not see the job from an agent’s perspective.

In my opinion, it’s not necessary for trainers to go onto the phones in order to be in touch with what the agents are coming into contact with on a daily basis. Observation is a much more effective tool. Listening in to live or recorded calls gives the trainer an overall, unbiased view of what is happening on the floor and on calls.

Of course, should a trainer feel that they wish to take calls for a couple of days purely in order to put themselves ‘in the shoes’ of a first-time agent so that they can improve the quality of their own training, that trainer can only be applauded for taking a personal interest in the learning experience of his/her agents.

I read, in your question, the sub-question “Is it acceptable to expect your agents to do something you can't do?” Well, I know how to make a good call; the problem is I’m simply not much good at it! I can demonstrate all parts of a call, separately, very well in a mock-call situation in a training room environment, but to demonstrate a whole, live, successful call whilst also continuing to be aware of, and in control of, the agents’ learning experience is an almost impossible task, and I defy any trainer who says it isn’t!

However, I don’t completely agree with Justin when he says “I do not NEED to know how to take a call to properly coach and develop a person. Management and Training skills are different than one's required to take a call.” Although training skills ARE very different from those required to take a call, this does not mean that a trainer should not ensure that they have acquired the skill they are to train, before they begin training it. Imagine if a maths teacher couldn’t do mental arithmetic, even though he had an excellent teaching style, do you think he’d be very good at his job? Therefore, process-trainers must know the process thoroughly; customer service trainers must be completely comfortable with all areas of customer service and so on.


Dechaine Consulting Inc

sounds good
Hey Fiona,

I think we are both on the same page albeit you explained it a tad better. You can pretty much replace the statement you don't agree with the fourth paragraph in your statement.

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