April 8, 2020

Coaching Call Center Agents – How to Create Effective Training

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Coaching call center agents might not be at the top of your priority list at the moment, with the continuation of other functions taking precedence. If recent developments have forced your company’s contact center to suddenly shift to a primarily work-from-home set-up, you might be tempted to go into survival mode. That’s understandable.

However, we’re here to tell you that ensuring that you’re investing in your most vital asset – your people – has never been more important. And, contact center coaching can be done in a way that integrates seamlessly into and purposely drives the core processes and workflows of your operation.

Here’s the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of delivering effective training to your new at-home workforce.

The importance of investing time in agent training and coaching

When there are so many other fires to put out (and new ones seeming to flare up every day), why invest time and effort into training now?

New circumstances require new skills, support, and coaching

As your agents are becoming operational and adjusting to their new work-from-home environment, you may encounter teething problems and behavior changes. But that doesn’t mean that you can allow quality and compliance standards to slip.

Whether you’re voice-only or a fully-fledged omnichannel operation, a robust quality management process that covers all interactions is going to be vital to keep an eye on performance and compliance. And, if you actually want to do something about any problematic trends that you encounter, then training and coaching are going to be an integral part of this process.

What’s more, managing a ‘virtual’ contact center is not the same as running a physical one. It’s inevitable that new corporate processes and workflows will need to be implemented to ensure that your operation still runs smoothly and meets performance, compliance, and quality standards.

The suddenness of recent events means you may not have had the opportunity to prepare and train your agents for these new processes. In fact, you might be creating them as you go, in real-time. Therefore, it’s vital that you are able to provide that onboarding remotely.

This is exactly the time your agents need to feel most empowered

A rapid change to a work-from-home arrangement, while clearly very challenging for your business, could be putting many of your agents out of their comfort zone. For them to carry out their jobs effectively, and deliver an excellent customer experience, they need to feel confident and empowered.

Training and coaching can play a key role in instilling this confidence in your workforce both from a practical standpoint of onboarding new skills, but also in terms of agents feeling supported in their new circumstances.

Better training creates stronger customer experiences

From a customer experience standpoint, there’s never been a stronger business case for investing in call center coaching than right now. In a landscape where same-day delivery and 24/7 support come standard, customers demand exceptional service.

A robust and strategically structured training program equips agents with the skills they need to reach satisfactory resolutions–not just when they’re dealing with routine calls and staying on script, but when they’re faced with nonstandard issues that require them to use their best judgment. Training builds the confidence agents need to improvise successfully. 

Agent coaching sessions improve key performance indicators

Did your key performance indicators take a hit when you moved to a remote work model? You’re not alone. Some growing pains are to be expected, but you don’t have to sit back and accept poorer performance as the new normal. 

Targeted coaching is a surefire way to improve nudge KPIs like average handle time and first call resolutions in a positive direction. Stronger customer experience analytics not only means that more calls are being handled, but they’re being handled with greater effectiveness. All of it comes back to strengthening your bottom line.

How to keep your call center running smoothly

Coaching call center agents supports two key aspects of smooth, continuous operations: retaining existing talent and attracting new talent. 

Giving your agents a path forward is key to holding on to them

Industry average agent turnover is 44% with a lack of training and development often cited as a key reason for leaving.

Unless contact centers can meet the training and development expectations of their staff, this percentage is only likely to get worse – 42% of Millennials say they would likely leave a role in which they felt they were not learning fast enough.

No one knows when things will get back to ‘normal’, but in the context of remote working, it’s likely that from a work-from-home perspective they never fully will. Once we’ve all been forced to prove it works in the coming months, the demands and expectations for people to be able to work remotely are not going to go away.

Being able to deliver training and coaching remotely is going to be key to holding on to your best people, now and in the future.

Coaching call center agents is key to staying competitive

Proper training helps you stay competitive

To deliver a customer experience that differentiates you from your competitors, you have to take a serious approach to staff training and development.

According to a Salesforce study, 77% of service decision-makers are making significant investments in agent training and 63% say that improving workforce skills is a high priority in the next two years.

Industry leaders are not going to give up on their commitment to training and development because of the current circumstances, and neither should you.

And it’s not just about competing in the customer marketplace; you’re also competing to attract top talent. To hire, and hold on to, the best people, you need to arm new hires with the skills and tools they need to succeed and support their growth on an ongoing basis. 

Ongoing employee development is a key component of a strong employer brand, and whether or not a company offers it is something top candidates weigh heavily when deciding where to work. If you want to win the hiring game over your biggest market challengers, you can’t afford to skimp on agent coaching. 

Keep team spirit alive

Any successful business can point to a strong sense of team spirit and togetherness as major contributors to their achievements. Happy, motivated, and supported people make for high-performing staff.

So many of these factors are developed by sharing a location together, with colleagues easily able to support, encourage, assist and congratulate one another.

It’s vital that you take steps to ensure you don’t lose hold of this powerful yet delicate attribute now that you have switched to a dispersed workforce.

Capabilities like agent-to-agent chat, video conferencing, etc. are a good start, but training, and how you provide it, can make a real difference, ensuring that agents feel supported and valued. And its not just about agents. A well-implemented remote training process will also allow managers and supervisors to feel engaged and in touch with their team, when in-person coaching and support isn’t an option.

Create a culture of feedback

It’s impossible for agents to succeed when they don’t know exactly what’s expected of them. That’s an obvious conclusion, and yet ambiguity over goals and expectations is one of the biggest roadblocks to enhancing performance in the call center. 

According to a Gallup poll, only about half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. That means the other half is out there doing their jobs with some degree of aimlessness. It’s troubling, to say the least. 

Prioritizing agent coaching creates a culture of feedback in which agents consistently know where they stand and what’s expected of them to improve upon.

How to train a remote workforce

Use quality resources (and they don’t have to come at a premium)

To deliver quality training and e-learning you need quality resources. However, purchasing these from specialist third parties can be very expensive, and not bespoke to your needs.

Don’t worry, the resources you need might be closer at hand than you think.

According to Deloitte, the idea that learning content should be provided by learning and development specialists is fast becoming, if not already, outdated. The growing trend is that learning content is provided by everyone in the organization, and curated by employees as well as managers and HR.

Think about what systems and processes you have in place that will enable you to leverage internal expertise and assets as training resources.

Can you drill down into performance data and identify high-performing agents who can then help pass on their skills and knowledge to others?

Can you easily identify and leverage exemplary call recordings as training resources? Are these available with synchronized screen recordings to give a more vivid demonstration of what high-performance looks like?

These are important questions, because if you can do these things, then not only will you save a lot of money on training resources, you will also have learning materials that are bespoke to your operation.

You are probably already carrying out at least some form of call monitoring as part of your ongoing quality management program, so adding a step to identify calls that could work well as learning resources (good or bad) should be an easy addition to that process.

Here are a few areas to consider as you create your own e-learning resources:

  • Technical skills. For the most productive agent experiences, agents should be well-versed in the full range of functions your call center software offers. 
  • Soft skills. It’s hard to think of an industry where soft skills like interpersonal communication and conflict resolution are more necessary than in the contact center. 
  • Products. Agents can’t be expected to provide exceptional support–not to mention cross-selling and up-sellng–if they don’t know the product or service inside and out. 
  • Frequently asked questions. Flashcard-style training works great for helping agents internalize key scripting to use when dealing with the most common support requests. 
  • Compliance. It’s one of the densest areas to learn, but also one of the most important in terms of the livelihood of the company. 

Distribute resources and assign tasks effectively

Having resources is one thing, but you need to be able to effectively distribute them to your at-home agents when gathering in a classroom is not an option. Sending training out via email attachments very quickly gets messy, complicated, and almost impossible to track.

Think about adopting a system that will allow you to easily distribute relevant resources to your team, and then track acknowledgment, progress, completion, assessment scores, and more.

The best solutions also include a built-in discussion forum so that agents and supervisors can provide feedback and engage in a dialogue about the work set and the learnings that come out of it.  This kind of engagement helps clarify the material and builds confidence in the process and expectations in the minds of your agents.

And, if you are using your own interaction recordings as resources, think about how your training system integrates with your contact center platform. If you are looking to avoid lengthy manual compilation and distribution processes that involve decrypting and encrypting call data, then a training system that is fully unified with your contact center platform may be the best option.

Be smart with targeted coaching

The best training and support is targeted, addressing the specific needs of individual agents. But that’s easier said than done.

The first challenge is in identifying which agents need improvement and in what specific areas.

Having easy access to intuitive actionable data is the key here. Having a business intelligence tool that is integrated into your contact center platform will be a big plus, as it will allow you to avoid the lengthy processes associated with compiling and analyzing reports. 

Also, consider whether you are able to access data beyond standard contact center agent KPIs, overlaying business outcomes and operational data for more holistic perspectives.

This will allow you to gain real insight into individual agent performance and see how it is affecting multiple different aspects of your operation and, ultimately, your bottom line.

Consider a tool like wallboards, which act like a giant, interactive scorecard. These virtual, fully configurable displays show key performance data at a glance so managers can instantly assess real-time and long-term performance and adjust their coaching accordingly. With wallboards’ easily accessible up-to-the-minute data, managers can stay abreast of KPIs for every agent and team even when they’re not in the same physical location.   

Once you’ve identified something, you can do something about it. Here’s where you can leverage other agents’ expertise and call recordings – when their strengths correspond with coworkers’ weaknesses.

Know that your efforts are worth it

We’ve already covered having a training system that allows you to easily track completion and scores, but that’s only half the battle.

It’s all very well and good if agents are completing coaching tasks and scoring highly in your assessments, but if these learnings are not being reflected in the actual operations of your contact center, then it is a waste of everyone’s time.

Again, it comes down to having access to business insights. You need to be able to access data about your business’s performance from top to bottom and bottom to top. That means being able to track individual agent performance over time, as well as being able to see the overall team’s performance, quality, and compliance trends that will spell success or failure for your operation.

1:1 coaching is still important

Hopefully, this was helpful and we’ve got you on board as to the importance of continuous training and development for your agents, even in difficult times. The good news is that there are many tools and strategies out there all ready to help you.

And remember, digital training can only get you so far. 1:1 coaching and support is still going to be vital. So get ready for lots of video calls (though you are probably already getting very used to doing these with friends and family.

Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does coaching mean in a call center?

Coaching is a term for the systematic training and ongoing development of call center agents. Coaching call center agents contributes to higher agent engagement, stronger call center metrics and a more positive customer experience. 

Why coaching is important in call center?

Coaching is essential to empower agents with the technical skills they need to do their jobs and the confidence required to navigate complex service requests with ease.

How can I coach a call center agent?

Leaders can coach call center agents by turning real customer interactions into training materials. With automatic call and screen recording, calls from high-performing agents can be translated into powerful, highly targeted training resources that can be viewed in perpetuity.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion omnichannel interactions a year. By seamlessly unifying blended omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WEM capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers exceptional agent and customer experiences, while helping to mitigate compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 650 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit livevox.com.

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit www.livevox.com or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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