Contact Center Training Isn’t Buddy-Buddy
By Colin Taylor
A lack of agent training is a sure-fire way of ensuring customers are disappointed. Learning a new skill or capability provide both enjoyment and a break from the mundane, and brings with it the opportunity to increase earnings. But to be effective, organizations need to ensure that they take a measured and consistent approach. Leaving staff to learn on the job or “wing-it” may work for a while, but, to quote Humphrey Bogart, “you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life”. Sooner or later this lack of training, knowledge, or experience will adversely impact a customer.
Now, let’s be clear: no one sits down and says, “let’s design a really lousy training program”. Instead, expediency is most commonly the culprit. The desire to move quickly is motivated by a worthwhile goal of getting trained staff in place quickly to help customers. That said, the quick or expedient approach isn’t always the best approach. In fact, it rarely is.
The small center desiring to get staff trained and on the phone, often “buddies” the new recruit with the veteran agent for training. On the surface, this may sound like a reasonable approach; and it can work, at least for a while. The aim here is for the rookie to watch what the veteran does and learn from it. The rookie can then take calls and interactions while the veteran metaphorically looks over their shoulder. As mentioned above this seems like a reasonable approach, but if we look closer we can see a I would few problems with this approach.
First, if the center employs a number of veteran agents in this “buddy system” approach, each veteran will provide slightly different approaches, topics covered and processes worked. This will result in no single one way of training, resulting in inconsistency in processes and procedures.
Second, even veteran agents can have bad habits or continue to employ older processes even after new, better ones have been implemented. The bad habits and processes are then propagated to new agents with each training completed.
Third, this approach cannot scale, and the center is stuck employing one veteran staff member to train one new staff member. During the training both the veteran and the rookie will see low productivity numbers, more errors and re-work, and a lower First Contact Resolution (FCR), thereby driving in more calls.
Dedicated trainers and training sessions can address the weaknesses in the buddy system. Each training will cover the same topics in the same way. There will be only one right or best way of doing anything. No bad habits will be embedded into the center. This will improve the consistency of the service being delivered by the front-line staff over time. The use of dedicated trainers also frees up veteran agents to do what they do best: assisting customers.
While some centers will cite the cost of dedicated trainers and the associated processes as too expensive, they are not looking at the full picture. Bad habits, incorrect processes, low-resolution rates, more errors and rework — plus staff working at a fraction of desired productivity — all equals higher costs and lower productivity. Customer satisfaction and customer experience also suffers with this approach. In our experience, the buddy system approach to training is an example of being “penny wise and pound foolish”. A detailed analysis will confirm that a structured training process will produce more effective agents, more consistently and at a lower cost than the buddy system approach to training.
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