Rachel has just finished
your agent orientation program and is ready to hit the phones. She's
passed the product knowledge test with flying colors and seems to have
better than average communications skills. She's actively using the new
soft-skills she learned in the final phase of orientation and you're
sure she's going to be one of your stars.
But you have this
nagging feeling that you've forgotten to teach her something. And you
ask yourself, "Is there anything else Rachel should know before she
begins her "tour of duty?" Is there any other training she needs that
will make her more effective in handling customer contacts, as well as
be a more satisfied call center employee?
The answer is "yes".
There's one more piece. The missing link here is to equip Rachel with
knowledge about the unique call center environment and how it operates.
Let's face it – she's had to learn a lot in the last few weeks. And part
of that training should have been an operational overview so Rachel can
better understand the context in which she plays such an important role.
The Call Center School
So what exactly do new
employees need to learn about the call center? We asked agents and
supervisors alike what the missing pieces were and below is their "Top
5" list. How many of these areas are you covering in your own training
and the Industry
How many of your staff understand the world of call centers? It's
important for them to understand the vital role your own call center
plays in the organization, as well as the bigger picture of call centers
everywhere. Rachel should understand that this is more than "just
answering the phones", but a mission-critical part of businesses
everywhere – a bona fide profession, not just an in-between stop on the
way to a "real" job.
about industry demographics (types and sizes of centers, as well as the
numbers of folks that work in the profession). And make them aware of
the career opportunities and professional development options available
to them in this industry. This type of awareness will help your
retention efforts in the long run, as well as increase job satisfaction
in the short term.
Do your staff understand what you're measuring every day in terms of the
call center's overall performance as well as individual performance?
It's useful for them to understand what the call center's performance
goals are in terms of service and efficiency (and perhaps revenue) in
support of the company's overall objectives. Perhaps the center gathers
marketing data and focuses on customer input for future product and
service offerings. Rachel should understand how these call center
operational goals then translate down into measures of her own
Include training on
performance measures, with particular emphasis on all the items an agent
will be measured on and why. Every person should understand how his/her
performance will be evaluated and understand what they can do to affect
those numbers and scores.
Do your staff understand why management is so obsessed with everyone
being in their seat and adhering to their work schedule? It's critical
for them to understand the basics of the workforce management process
and the impact on service and cost of getting the "just right" number of
people in place to handle the calls. Rachel should understand the effect
on service she has if she's not available when scheduled and what that
also means in terms of how busy her co-workers will be.
Include training on how
the forecasting and scheduling process works in your center. Every
person should understand how workforce schedules are created, and the
impact that just one person can make on service and cost.
Do your staff understand how the calls they're taking right now arrived
at their desktop and what the customer has experienced to the point at
which live conversation begins? It's helpful for them to understand the
overall concept of how a call or contact arrives at their workstation,
as well as what technologies enable them to handle calls more
effectively once they arrive. Rachel should understand what her customer
has experienced in terms of IVR self-service or sitting in the ACD queue
before she picked up the call. She should also fully understand the
capabilities of all the technology at her disposal in terms of terms of
handling each call (such as CTI or contact management systems).
Include training on how
a contact gets from the customer to the desktop, and what the
communications process is like for customers. Every person should
understand what technologies are available to them in handling the call
more efficiently, as well as have a basic understanding of the other
technologies at work "behind the scenes" in the call center in terms of
workforce management system, quality monitoring, workflow management,
Do your staff understand the value of each and every customer call?
While we're not suggesting they whip out a calculator on every call, it
is important for front-line staff to understand the concept of lifetime
customer value so the proper emphasis on service is placed. Rachel
should understand that while one single call might not seem that
important, when the average value is multiplied over a "lifetime" of
calls, every interaction can be significant in customer retention.
Include training on
lifetime customer value and the critical role that each agent plays in
customer retention and the bottom line. And if you have a CRM strategy
and CRM technologies in place, it's important to help the front line
staff understand how that strategy affects them in handling contacts.
Will they follow different scripts for a "high value" customer, or will
performance measures change as more focus is placed on the quality of
the call handling process versus traditional efficiency measures such as
speed of answer and average handle time.
Including these five
components in your front-line staff's orientation program will go a long
way in equipping them with the knowledge to better understand the
context in which their role is performed. Without this background, staff
like Rachel may never perform up to their potential.
As a Founding Partner of The Call Center School (TCCS), Penny Reynolds
heads up curriculum development and teaches courses on a wide variety of
call center topics. She is a popular speaker at industry conferences and
writes frequently for call center publications with articles recently
appearing in Customer Interaction Solutions, Customer Interface, Contact
Professional, and Connections magazines. She has recently authored the
book Call Center Staffing – The Complete, Practical Guide to Workforce
Management, as well as co-authored the five textbooks in the University
of Phoenix's call center management curriculum.
About The Call
Center School (TCSS)
The Call Center School is a Nashville, Tennessee based consulting and
education company. The company provides a wide range of educational
offerings for call center professionals, including traditional classroom
courses, web-based seminars, and self-paced e-learning programs.