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Call Center Training: 4 Questions You Must Answer

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Brian Cantor

This article is adapted from CCW Digital's Special Report on Agent Performance.  CCW Digital's collection of complimentary in-depth, topic-specific special reports is available here.

In theory, training is the gateway to great performance.  In practice, it is one of the biggest performance bottlenecks.  Organizations are offering agents the wrong training, and the customer experience is suffering as a result.

To revamp their training strategies, organizations should build an agent development model in conjunction with four key questions:

What does it take to be a good contact center agent in today’s environment?

This question considers the notion of connecting with customers without sacrificing efficiency.  It pays attention to ideas like emotional nuance and empathy, devising creative and custom solutions, spotting trends in customer sentiment, considering opportunities for up-sells, and interacting with customers across channels.

What does a good contact center agent need to know about our business?

Core product and procedural knowledge may not be the heart of customer centricity, but it is still a necessary part of the learning process.  The key is to present this information as an “asset” to help fundamentally customer-centric agents feel more comfortable engaging.  It should not be a “script” that mandates exactly what they must say.

This question underscores that dynamic.  It views knowledge as an enhancement, rather than as a substitute, for the agent’s “people skills.”

What does a good contact center agent need to know about our customers?

In a customer contact context, “knowledge” is about more than familiarity with the company and its processes, products and systems.  It is also about a legitimate understanding of its customers.

Great training programs rely on the voice of the customer.  They leverage insight from customer feedback, analytics and buying behavior to ensure agents know who customers are and what they really want.

They also emphasize adaptation.  The agent should be able to detect a specific customer’s demands – and tailor the experience accordingly.

“It comes down to understanding what the customer needs, and making a conscious effort to train our agents to look at an issue as a customer on the other side versus just a ticket,” said Jon Smith of MailChimp during CCW Online this year.

“We have metrics that we ask our agents to adhere to, but we also allow them to utilize their experience to determine when a quick call is needed and when it isn’t,” added Kelly Callahan Cruise of The United Way of South Carolina in a recent interview with CCW Digital.

She noted that United Way agents are trained to “move through transactional calls in a nimble way to [answer the questions] and get the customer off the phone in a quick manner.”

With other calls, agents know to “put the brakes on -- this is a crisis call, this is something that is going to take a while.”

Can we automate re-training?

Customer demands, customer profiles, products, engagement platforms and brand missions all change over time.  As the ultimate ambassadors for businesses, agents must constantly adapt.

The problem is that classroom re-training is the enemy of productivity.

Organizations must therefore ponder efficient, if not completely automated options for re-training.