SMART Training – Changing the Perception of Contact Centre Coaching


Dave Salisbury introduces SMART training for the contact centre whilst giving you pointers on how to save money in the process.

Corporate training continues to be a difficult topic to describe, mainly because everyone seems to “know” what training is but cannot understand what it is not, even when receiving inferior corporate training.  As an adult educator, schooled and experienced in corporate training, I’d like to discuss corporate training, the principles, the need, and the student.

One aspect of organisational development needs to be considered at the outset, the difference between active and reflective listening.

In active listening, the person not currently speaking pays attention to content and intent, engages in emotional meaning, focuses on removing barriers, and remains non-judgemental and empathetic.

In reflective listening, the speaker and the listener take active listening and employ two-directional messaging to ensure mutual understanding.  The central aim in reflective listening will always be the desire to achieve mutual understanding in communication.

The importance of understanding listening in training remains the utmost concern as the process of engaged, reflective listening produces the environment for the most positive potential training results.

The needed 360-degree or two-directional communication to operate safely and more efficiently is critical in training and necessary in communication.  Trainers must be able to gather anecdotal evidence and hard data to check for validity and veracity in training operations.

Without a quality control mechanism that includes open and honest feedback, the trainer is operating in a vacuum and wasting corporate resources.

The Untruths that Negatively Influence Training

The majority of adult educators in the US today, and possibly throughout much of the world, have become convinced of several untruths because the colleges teaching adult education seem fixated on teaching misleading concepts that ultimately do more harm than good.

For example, as a methodology tool used to govern training, ADDIE is useless without a quality control and a return-and-report function. Both the quality control and a return-and-report function must be added to the basic ADDIE model, thus changing the design and interposing more personal opinion and bias into what became, with the addition of quality control and two-directional communication, an untested model.

Colleges continue to press the ADDIE methodology as the only proper method for instructing adults, without changing or testing the basic model.

Other untruths include Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs“, which has been researched and found to be not entirely accurate; nor does it explain the natural needs and the current model of the world, thus it remains just Maslow’s opinion.

Having been taught these untruths, our adult educators go forth professionally to train other adults, using the same untruths, thus fulfilling the axiom of GIGO, a programmer’s aphorism meaning, “Garbage In results in Garbage Out.”

Hence, the untruths are disseminated into future classrooms, and the company and the adult students lack proper training, resources are wasted, and the potential in training is lost.

The Value of Training

Putting the value of training in dollars and cents is difficult, but the following will give an idea of the problem.  Two kinds of money govern business, blue and green.

Blue money is all about the potential for good or ill to the bottom line of an action, process, tool, employee, etc. Green money is cold, hard, cash, and the food of bottom-line health. But what is the potential of cross-training employees?

If done properly, incalculable positive results and consequences are forthcoming.  If done incorrectly, immeasurable adverse effects and consequences will abound. This leads to a stunning observation: if enough blue money is burned, green money evaporates, and the business leaders have no idea how or why the bottom line is vanishing and market share is shrinking.

Since training is all about increasing an employee’s potential and runs the risk of the employee leaving the company, the potential costs and benefits remain difficult to quantify in dollars and cents.

As a newly hired operations manager, I made three expensive assumptions:

1.  All the production employees were cross-trained.
2.  The machine maintenance had been done properly, and the production machines were in top order.
3.  The production employees knew the jobs they were being paid to accomplish.

These assumptions cost a lot of blue and green money until rectified. This cost the contact centre valuable production time, temporary staff increased costs and the need to perform the production floor manager’s position. As well as this, the operations manager’s role became increasingly difficult until these three assumptions were corrected.

Total cost from my hire date until this was resolved, 3 months of 50-hour weeks, and more than triple my annual salary in green money. With the total savings from the higher potential after addressing the deficiencies, the annual salary of every employee in the contact centre would have been multiplied by five.

So, I have been thinking about how to increase potential, decrease blue money evaporation, and develop SMART Training. In doing so, I have found the following ideas helpful to consider in creating hybrid solutions:

Ideas to Develop SMART Training and Save Money

1. Quantify and Qualify Blue Money Loss

This sounds technical but is quite easy to implement. I suggest the following principles to review and apply:

a. Respect Those Around You as Potential Superstars

Respecting includes employees or customers, vendors or shareholders, often deemed less useful.  Respect first, last, and always.  People will always rise to the level of respect shown.

b. Change Your Perception

How valuable or costly is a hammer when directly proportionate to the amount of training in the hands of the operator?  If you, as the business leader, are not willing to change how you see the hammer, then it will be impossible to see the worker differently.

c. Focus on People

Processes are how work is accomplished.  Products and services support the company, but the people remain the variable requiring attention.  Get out of the office, get onto the production floor, interact, ask questions, and know people.

d. Freedom to Act Is a Blue-Money-Saving Principle

If the actions taken by individuals are rigidly controlled, the customer is not served, problems multiply, and the result is wasted potential.  Remember, for every dollar in potential money spent, five dollars in cash evaporates.

2. Believe in Cross-Training

It is said that soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines love to train.  They might grumble, moan, and complain, but the training helps lift morale, empowers the individual, and enhances individual self-image and self-worth.  The same is true in business and every other human endeavour: embrace a love for training.

3. Follow SMART and Make Sure Training Is Valuable

In accordance with item 2 above, make sure that the training is valuable and SMART. Relevant training is a knowledge object that can be used immediately, often, and is easily recognised by other employees as something to aspire to.

SMART training is:


If the employee is to be a cashier, do not include forklift training with cashier training.


Can the employee feel they learned a job-ready skill?


Attainable training is training that can be achieved.  For example, not everyone needs to be a nuclear physicist to perform well in customer interactions.  Scale the training to meet the tasks at hand.  Yes, training should be tough, but attainable.


Realistic training is directly applicable to daily tasks, not trying to cover 20 years of hypothetical nuance, but realistic to daily production goals.


Timely training means training the employee to the job standard, as it is designed currently, not 5–10 months down the road.

4. Remember that Training Has a Shelf-Life

Training has a shelf-life; thus training must adapt and change as the business changes. Allow training to live and die as needed to meet business needs.

This also requires cognisant and purposeful planning for strategic and tactical goal realisation.  Nothing is worse than receiving training in a classroom then needing to receive different training on the floor because the trainers do not know current operations.

5. Address Organisational Design

This topic seems peculiar to mention in an article on training, but please note, many times, the disconnect between training and operations is not the training or operations, but how the organisation is designed.

During a project recently concluded, I saw this principle first hand: a common theme on the production floor was a feeling of disconnect between higher-level leadership (e.g. director level and up) and senior manager-level direction. Because of the perceived disconnect, e.g. frontline employees thinking and feeling the higher-level leaders were not interested and engaged, and the real disconnect, e.g. the leaders changing methods of work without understanding the processes, procedures, and technology in the work performed, many problems on the floor were never discussed and resolved.

This led to simple Band-Aid solutions being applied in the hope that the core problem would go away, while complaining that the leaders did not have a clue.

Use the following to improve organisational design concerns:

a. Problems in organisational design are easy to spot and discern during process reviews. This is a valuable time, so use it well. Thus, never let a process age beyond 18 months and always ensure each process has a single individual responsible for its shelf-life.

b. Use the quarterly, semi-annual, and annual employee events to listen to employees, talk with staff, and take these thoughts back to strategic and tactical planning meetings to direct resources to qualify and quantify the comments from employees, then act promptly, and keep the employees in the communication loop.

c. Stop the Band-Aid solutions. If the problem needs a Band-Aid, the problem is bad enough to invest actual time and resources in fixing properly. Communicate using reflective listening to achieve two-directional communication with mutual understanding.

6. View Training as an Ongoing Topic

The student in corporate training can be the customer, a shareholder, a vendor, another employee, etc. Training should be an ongoing topic looked forward to as an enabling event.

Want to quickly see if the training is SMART?  Listen to the comments made by employees when annual compliance training is announced.  If there remains a monumental lack of enthusiasm, training is not SMART, not valuable, and blue money firepits are raging, burning potential directly and green money by remote.

Hence, the following tips should help in understanding the student more completely:

a. Regardless of mode, make sure the student is known before training occurs. Knowing the student ensures the proper language is employed in offering training, and the trainer and the student can relate to each other and the topic under discussion.

b. Know what the student expects to receive from the training and then adapt the training to meet the expectation. Even if the student does not know what they desire from training, allow the student to vocalise and establish expectations.

c. Confidence in training comes from trainers knowing who they are and what they offer. If teachers are not confident, students will never be confident and will have been taught how not to be confident in acting upon the training principles.

d. “Enthusiasm,” per Henry Chester, “is the greatest asset in the world”. Enthusiasm “beats money, power, and influence”.  Enthusiasm is sourced in confidence and trust.  Faith in the topic is acquired by being trained and trusting in the application and organisational design to support the issue being taught.  Enthusiasm is easily taught; teach by example and others will follow!

7. Employ Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) Surveys

Make a team of highly professional, and soon to be promoted to team leader, employees and have them administer the VoC programme.

Employ the VoC as a tool to improve the business processes, procedures, and organisational design.

Possessing inputs for training topics, directing customer interaction resources for marketing, and understanding the role of potential (blue money) inherent in the business products and services, as well as the employees delivering on the company promise for customer interaction, improves the business processes, procedures, and organisational design.

Employing seasoned employees to do this means that the VoC becomes an organisational tool worthy of the customer and the cost of collecting the customer’s input.


There remains a great need in business for SMART training, which includes realising the potential in people and processes to influence for good or ill.

Dave Salisbury

Too often the problem in lost bottom line or dropping market share is not found in green money costs but in blue money waste.  When costs need cutting, always look first for lost potential and save the potential first.

If the potential waste is not stopped first, the blue money will continue to burn and will morph into different budget areas because the potential lost is a raging forest fire untended and burning green money.

Would you use SMART training in your contact centre?

Please leave your responses, as well as any other thoughts, in an email to Call Centre Helper.

Author: Dave Salisbury
Reviewed by: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 17th Apr 2017 - Last modified: 16th May 2024
Read more about - Skills, , ,

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