Effective training for remote contact center agents: The ‘why’ and the ‘how’
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.
It would be understandable if investments in training and development for your agents wasn’t top of your priority list at the moment, with the continuation of other functions taking precedence.
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, it 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.
Why invest time and effort into training now
New circumstances require new skills, support, and coaching
And, as your agents are becoming operational and adjusting to their new 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.
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.
To hire, and hold on to, the best people, and 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.
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 much 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.
How to go about training an at-home 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.
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 outcome 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.
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.
LiveVox is a leading provider of enterprise cloud contact center solutions, managing more than 14+ billion interactions a year across a multichannel environment. With over 15 years of pure cloud expertise, we empower contact center leaders to drive effective engagement strategies on the consumer’s channel of choice. Our leading-edge risk mitigation and security capabilities help clients quickly adapt to a changing business environment. With new features released quarterly, LiveVox remains at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. Supported by over 450 employees and rapidly growing, we are headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Atlanta, Denver, Bangalore, and Colombia. To learn more, schedule a demo today.