Every contact center leader climbs a steep hill when trying to meet performance goals within budget. It doesn’t help that it’s hard to find, train, and retain qualified agents. Leaders face markets with historically low unemployment and plenty of competition that offers attractive compensation (e.g., Amazon). Even when they get folks to sign on, training takes too long, and time to proficiency can be even longer… if the agents stay long enough to get there! As our latest survey shows, attrition is the #1 challenge contact centers face in 2020.
Unfortunately, the training challenge will only intensify. The nature of the products and services that agents support has become increasingly complex. And, while centers can pat themselves on the back for their success in promoting self-service, mobile apps, websites, and IVR siphon off all the “easy” transitions, leaving agents with the tough stuff. Moreover, we have yet to see the impact of bots, which hold the promise to intercept much more of the contacts than IVRs ever did.
So, with all these odds against you, how do you create the “super agents” you need to handle complexity in a world where even minimally qualified agents may be hard to find?
To create super agents, you need super training – up-front and ongoing. But I’m not talking about using the same old delivery model with longer training periods or more enthusiastic instructors. You need a new approach based on what is possible today. Here are four principles to pursue your quest for super agents:
ONE: Build critical skills right from the onset. You’ll still need to cover the “basics,” particularly if you hire folks who are new to this environment. Good onboarding training covers five foundational areas:
- Corporate and contact center foundation – culture, vision, goals, ecosystem, customer types
- Products, Processes, and Policies – processes/workflows, products/services offered, P&P, et cetera
- Technical Systems – ACD, WFM, QM, communication/collaboration, core systems, KM, CRM, HR applications, etc.
- Contact Center 101 – KPIs, quality processes, coaching processes, individual role in center’s success, etc.
- Contact Handling and Soft Skills – opening, identifying needs, solving problems, closing; active listening, controlling the conversation, empathy and calming/diffusing anger, etc.
Make sure you go beyond the traditional focus on tools and processes. Equip your agents to be good representatives of your company, delivering quality and great experience on every interaction and playing their role in meeting the center’s performance goals.
TWO: Start small and grow. Target the simplest skills first (e.g., informational tasks) and give them the opportunity to master them before moving on to more challenging tasks. Have a clear path mapped out, adding skills and knowledge as agents develop confidence and capabilities. Meanwhile, leverage smart routing to get the right contacts to the right people. Your agents will feel a sense of accomplishment for helping people, and your customers won’t be frustrated by needless transfers.
While you’re at it, don’t force agents to remember every nuance for all the exceptional situations they’ll face. Give them tools, like a better desktop, RPA, KM, and IM to find answers as well as clean paths for handoffs, where necessary. As they gain experience using the tools, they’ll naturally build on their knowledge without facing irate customers or a sense of defeatism.
THREE: Sustain learning. Use targeted coaching and development to help each agent grow and meet all the center’s goals as well as their personal goals. Deliver “bite-sized” learning to the desktop based on identified improvement opportunities. Suggest skill development paths to help them grow in their career and give your center more agility to handle all contact types. They’re more likely to remain loyal when experiencing your investment in their career and seeing growth opportunities.
FOUR: Leverage the power of integrated WFO (aka WEM) to deliver the right training and development at the right time. Identify improvement needs through QM, scorecards, and dashboards. Use WFM to find the right training time based on schedules and real-time volume. Leverage automation to deliver training modules, ensure coaching sessions occur, and assess proficiency.
Everyone has a favorite super hero. If you want to create a whole team of them in your center, follow these principles. Success will breed success for your agents and your customers.