Note: this post originally appeared on ICMI.com.
New hire training represents a significant investment for many contact centers with typical training times ranging from two to six weeks or even more. Fortunately, there are ways to train new hires faster and improve their on-the-job performance.
I shared one of my biggest secrets in an article I wrote for ICMI in June called “Boost performance with scenario-based training.” Here are five more ways to speed up the training process without compromising results.
#1 Keep a trainee observation log
When I ran a call center training department, my trainers all kept a log of detailed notes on their new hires’ daily in-class performance. When a new hire struggled with a particular concept, the written notes helped the trainer clearly describe the specific challenge. For example, a note describing a new hire having trouble with upselling might read, “John frequently confused features and benefits while role-playing upsell offers.”
The detailed notes made it easy for the trainer to create a strategy to get the learner back on track. John’s trainer might decide to spend a few extra minutes with John reviewing the difference between features and benefits. A little extra practice or instruction was often all that was needed to for the concept to click. Without that extra intervention, many new hires would continue to struggle and fall farther and farther behind.
Keeping a written log of trainee observations had a few additional advantages in my training department. If a trainer called in sick, someone else could easily cover their class by reviewing the log to see where they left off. The log also helped trainers get a second opinion when they faced a particularly challenging situation. I had two shifts of trainers working in two locations, so the trainer could email me the written notes if I wasn’t able to personally observe the class.
#2 Group new hires for live calls
The transition from new hire training to taking live calls can be a challenging one. They know how to do the job, but they may not have the speed, accuracy, or confidence to handle a heavy load of calls without asking a lot of questions.
One way to speed up this transition is to group new hires together and have them take calls under the watchful eye of a dedicated coach. This allows the new hire to be productive by handling contacts from a normal queue while still having instant access to intensive coaching when needed. Generally, a few shifts in the “new hire section” is all that’s needed for an agent to become ready to join their assigned team.
#3 Conduct passport tours
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for new call center agents is that they don’t fully understand their company’s operations. A passport tour is a simple training technique that takes learners to various parts of the company so they can get a first-hand look at how everything fits together. New hires collect a signature on their “passport” for each stop along the tour.
This technique was a huge help when I worked for a catalog company. New hires would tour our merchandising department so they could touch and feel our products. They visited the fulfillment center so they could see how orders were picked, packed, and shipped. They visited the returns department so they could see how and why merchandise came back to us. All of this first-hand knowledge helped new hires quickly grasp how everything fit together.
Some companies have far-flung operations, but you can easily create a virtual passport tour by using a smart phone to shoot short video tours of key operations. You can also use web-conferencing technology like GoTo Meeting or Adobe Connect to have people from remote operations provide your new hires with a guest lecture.
#4 Have new hires score their own calls
Many contact centers use their quality assurance form as a template for new hire training. This makes sense since you want to train agents to the same standards you use to evaluate a successful call.
You can take this a step further by having new hires score their own calls. These could be either live calls or recorded role-plays. Self-scoring invites agents to view their performance more objectively and helps them learn to analyze their own performance so they can quickly make adjustments.
#5 Encourage social learning
Many contact centers have social learning tools such as chat, blogs, and wikis that allow agents to share knowledge with each other. In some contact centers, these tools can mean the difference between solving a problem in five minutes or thirty minutes. Unfortunately, these resources can be underutilized if agents don’t know how to use them or aren’t even aware they exist.
You can encourage the use of social learning by designing training exercises that require new hires to make use of these tools to solve complex problems. They’ll learn the answers to difficult challenges, but more broadly, they’ll understand how to use those tools to quickly solve similar problems in the future.