How to Improve Your Remote Contact Centre Learning Strategy


A photo of an online learning session

Dave Salisbury shares some advice for improving the training strategy and models within your remote contact centre.

Where Are Most Call Centre Training Programmes Currently?

One classic model for improving contact centre performance is known as “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. But the changes in the modern workplace have left Bloom’s Taxonomy unable to cope technologically speaking.

The default training model revolves around the following four-step approach:

  • Step 1 – Gather Information
  • Step 2 – Design
  • Step 3 – Build Content
  • Step 4 – Evaluate

Yet when applying this model to Learning and Development (L&D) in the contact centre, many have come up short.

Why? Because of the changing nature of the contact centre environment.

Bloom’s Taxonomy cannot adapt to personnel, process, and technology changes, frequent across our industry.

The model relies solely upon the training programme designer getting everything right every time.

Worse, the model relies solely upon the training programme designer getting everything right every time, which is fundamentally impossible.

We need a flexible system that is easy to modify, instead of repeating the whole cycle once a need for change arises within your training programme.

Also, we want to create a programme that is just as successful when advisors change from training group to training group, or from face-to-face modality to remote training delivery, without having to reinvent the training materials.

A Different Strategy

Some call centres will find success using Merrill’s Principles of Instruction. Merrill’s Principles are a five-step process highlighted below:

  • Step 1 – Task-Centred
  • Step 2 – Activation
  • Step 3 – Demonstration
  • Step 4 – Application
  • Step 5 – Integration

Merrill’s Principles of Instruction can be a good strategy when you wish to isolate customer service areas and tackle them one by one or if the agents’ training is solely task-centred.

Because Merrill’s Principles are task-centred exclusively, they are particularly good for induction training, whether you are looking to:

  • Teach the new hire how to give a bill credit
  • Teach the new hire how to speak softly during confrontational situations
  • Teach the new hire how to re-approach a customer to sell upgrades, new services, or plan improvements.

Just Be Careful to Avoid These Mistakes

It is essential to consider and always understand that, no matter which strategy you use, training programmes are often undermined by:

  1. Failing to decide what type of company is desired.
  2. Failing to set high standards for learners.
  3. Failing to understand adult education.

For contact centre leaders, you aim to design and create engaging learning content. To achieve this, you must be wary of these traps.

Coach Your Coaches

The first practical thing that you can do is to help improve who coaches and how they coach.

The success of advisor training programmes will include the environment the learning was delivered in, include feelings and emotions, and will be understood through the lens of earlier experiences.

There’s no doubt a lot to consider. But the first practical thing that you can do is to help improve who coaches and how they coach.

Consider:

  • How are your trainers and mentors trained?
  • What are their standards of performance?
  • Who trained them?
  • Who set the standards for the trainers to meet?
  • Where can an aspiring trainer find the standards to be met to earn the title “trainer” or “mentor?”

Once each of these questions has been addressed, you can coach your coaches to follow “Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction.”

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction is another training model that can help coaches, mentors, and trainers meet the needs of an always-changing training environment.

The nine “events” – which have been adapted for remote learning – are as follows:

  1. Gain Attention
  2. Inform Objectives
  3. Stimulate Recall
  4. Present New Materials
  5. Provide Guidance
  6. Elicit Performance
  7. Provide Feedback
  8. Assess Performance
  9. Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction will help you define your desired standards, detail how those standards are met, and frame how the adoption of high standards can be evaluated.

Evaluation will ideally be multifaceted but should reflect the changing behaviours, attitudes, and mental functioning of the individuals receiving training.

Applying Gagné’s Nine Events to Remote Learning

Let’s take a look at each of Gagné’s Nine Events for remote learning and break them down into specific actions a trainer uses to plan and execute training in call centres.

1. Gain Attention

Trainer and advisor should be present physically and mentally.

  1. Gaining attention is not a game, nor is it an activity. Gaining attention means to tell the introduction to a story.
  2. State a real-world example problem statement.
  3. Gaining attention represents a crucial moment in new training to capture the cognition of the advisors. Get them to have a stake in solving the problem.
  4. Tell them WHY this class is important to them personally and professionally.
  5. Encourage the advisor to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!

2. Inform Objectives

Set high standards, train to meet those high standards, and watch the advisor perform!

  1. Restate the WHY
  2. Detail the WHAT
  3. Examples of HOW
  4. Focusing on these three items in the objectives will advance attention, building trust between the instructor and the materials.
  5. Encourage the advisor to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!

3. Stimulate Recall

  1. What do they already know? Ask! Go around the room and get 100% participation, including the trainer.
  2. How do they use the materials or topic of the class currently?
  3. Ask the advisors to declare WHY they are interested.
  4. Get the advisor looking for WHEN and WHERE they should be using the materials being discussed. Anticipation for application is crucial to attention!

4. Present New Materials

  1. Encourage the advisor to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
  2. Advisors can instruct.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Go around the class to involve everyone.
  5. Debate.
  6. Use conflict as a positive force to stimulate new thinking on current topics with new materials.
  7. Supply a “Parking Lot” for topics not specifically on-topic but that are questions from the advisors at the moment.

5. Provide Guidance

  1. In face-to-face delivery, this means answering questions.
  2. In eLearning, this means answering questions, but employing technology appropriately to meet the advisor’s needs.
  3. Be honest! Expect honesty.
  4. Be forthright. Anticipate forthrightness.
  5. Declare what is known and not known. It is okay not to know an answer, but it is not okay to not find the answer and report back to the questioner.
  6. Timely responses are critical to setting up the elements of trust needed to achieve the remaining events successfully.

6. Elicit Performance

  1. Encourage the advisor to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
  2. Regardless of delivery, get the advisor practising what is being taught.
  3. Role-play.
  4. Using the software specific to the role, search for data, doing the duties of the position.
  5. Start as soon as practical and continue in ever-increasing levels of difficulty.
  6. Emulate real-life scenarios!

7. Provide Feedback

  1. Ensure feedback is not seen as criticism. The second the trainer becomes critical is when trust is destroyed, and the advisor stops progressing on the nine events of instruction.
  2. Feedback is positive, truth-filled, and delivered best in a neutral tone.
  3. Honesty is everything!
  4. Compliment what is being done well. Offer opportunities for improvement (NOT criticism) — compliment other strengths— the sandwich method of providing feedback.
  5. Be open to receiving feedback.
  6. Encourage the advisor to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!

8. Assess Performance

  1. Formal exams
  2. Informal scenarios where the advisor talks the trainer through what they would do.
  3. Advisor-led instruction on a topic.
  4. Advisor-led assessments of other advisors.
  5. Keep event seven clearly in mind when designing performance assessments.

9. Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job

  1. How does an advisor contact the trainer after the class concludes?
  2. How does an advisor know they have successfully learned the materials?
  3. Consider: is the “Parking Lot” empty?
  4. Gauge the enthusiasm of individuals to do what they are doing in class for real.

3 Tips to Running a Great Remote Training Programme

Here are a few quick tips to improve your remote training programme.

1. The Coach Should Know What a “Trained Advisor” Looks Like

Does the trainer know what a successfully trained candidate looks like?

When designing a training programme, remote or otherwise, it is important to consider: does the trainer know what a successfully trained candidate looks like, and are they sharing this image with the training team and organizational leadership?

If the answer is no, how can you – the contact centre manager – be sure that your remote training programme will be successful?

How can the call centre trainer justify training expenses when they cannot identify what a trained agent does, how they act, and what behaviours will help that agent create success?

2. Make “Exciting for the Advisor” a Key Aim for Remote Training

“Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world; it beats money, power, and influence; it is nothing more than faith in action.” – Henry Chester.

Faith in action involves trust and reflects confidence in the trainer by the learner.

Is the team excited to put their new learnings into practice? If so, the trainer has achieved success.

Is the team excited to put their new learnings into practice? If so, the trainer has achieved success. If there are reservations, address them on an individual advisor level. If there are hesitations, assure the advisor that the trainer is still there to encourage.

Experience will be the new instructor, and the trainer will now be a mentor and advocate.  Do your trainers know and understand the difference in roles as the agent advances?

3. Understand How to Evaluate the Success of Your Remote Training Programme

Think of why you evaluate the success of your training programme. Maybe it’s to justify costs, improve the design of training, or improve the selection of training methods. It’s important.

When evaluating, there are five perspectives that you may want to consider:

  1. Emotions – Are we training advisors to evoke certain emotions from customers?
  2. Learning – Which new or improved skills are we targeting?
  3. Application – Which behaviour changes can be observed?
  4. Business Results – Are these behaviour changes leading to improved results?
  5. Return on Investment (ROI) – Are these business results creating a monetary return?

Never forget, even without formal training, improvements can occur in behaviour and performance.

Be careful when evaluating your training programmes and consider what else could have contributed to a change in performance levels – i.e., changes to the knowledge base, reduced service level etc.

Key Takeaways

Here are three key takeaways from this article:

A thumbnail photo of Dave Salisbury

Dave Salisbury

  • Understand Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction, which helps to take strategic goals and tactical actions blended into training events, to influence, through training, how the agents will act.
  • Remember, if the trainer is not exemplifying a successfully trained person’s behaviours, how can advisors be held accountable for not learning?
  • Create a training programme in which it is easy to evaluate its success – in terms of business results.

Thanks to Dave Salisbury, an I/O Psychologist and customer relations specialist, for his help in putting together this article.

For more great articles on improving your contact centre’s remote strategy, check out the following stories:

Published On: 17th Feb 2021 - Last modified: 19th Feb 2021
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , ,



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