Training Aligned
Illustration by Wilson Joseph

It’s an unfortunate reality in many companies that staff development becomes an easy target anytime the budget needs to be tightened. Once training resources are cut, they’re often among the last to recover. Does that mean that you have to deny your staff the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge for the foreseeable future? Absolutely not. By connecting contact center training goals to organizational objectives, you can demonstrate the impact that learning and development delivers, and make it easier for your senior execs to view training as a solid investment.

Ask yourself: Are your training programs keeping pace with changes in the business environment? For instance, are you simply providing off-the-shelf, generic customer service skills training, or are you looking to provide professional development programs designed to help agents thrive in today’s fast-paced business environment of rapid change, continuous improvement, instant access to information, multiple communication channels and Internet-savvy, knowledgeable customers?

Training hasn’t changed that much over the years, says industry analyst Dick Bucci of Pelorus Associates. “We’re seeing more emphasis on sales skills than we would have five or 10 years ago, but most of the training currently taking place is process-driven—how to handle difficult customers, how to speak clearly and concisely, how to collect and enter information, how to compose emails and how to control the conversation,” he says. “That’s essential, it always will be. But the real contribution of the contact center is achieving revenue growth from strengthening product loyalty so that the customer retention rate increases, and by selling more product to new and existing customers.”

Ask yourself: Are agents empowered and trained to improve first-contact resolution? Frontline training should emphasize problem-solving and information-gathering techniques, Bucci says. Providing agents with the skills and authority to resolve issues on the first contact will enhance the customer experience and will translate into a healthier bottom line in terms of increased customer satisfaction and revenue, and lower operational costs.

Ask yourself: Is your training model expanding to include new contact channels? Training staff to handle new forms of communication effectively should also be on the training radar. As more customers turn to social media to get their issues resolved, contact centers will need to include social skills in their hiring profiles and/or training programs.

Practical Pointer: Incorporating social media into team-based learning activities is a cost-effective way to familiarize your staff with using these types of tools before going live with customers. “Some call centers have done a great job of integrating social media channels such as Twitter into their training,” says Mike Aoki, president of training firm Reflective Keynotes. For example, “they allow home-based agents to use Twitter to make real-time comments during web broadcast training sessions.”