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Broader Trends in Contact Center Agent Training Effectiveness


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December 23, 2013

Broader Trends in Contact Center Agent Training Effectiveness

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

How’s your contact center training program? Is it adequate? Is it serving the needs of employees and customers, or is it serving the needs of the organization? Are agents well prepared when they first hit the phones? Or are they expected to do on-the-job training at the customers’ expense?

From contact center to contact center, agent training programs vary wildly, so it’s worth examining the broader trends and determining what works and what doesn’t. Until recently, there haven’t been many large scale studies that revealed the effectiveness of contact center training across the broader industry. A new study from BenchmarkPortal (News - Alert), however, interviewed 5,000 contact center agents in North America to determine their own take on the quality of their training.

The good news was the study found that 92.9 percent of agents gave high marks to their new hire training program. The downside is that only 60.8 percent said their transition from training to the contact center floor was adequately supported. While classroom training can go a long way toward building both hard and soft skills, the phones are no place for continuing to learn the basics, according to a recent article by Customer Think’s Jeff Toister.

“Call center agents must simultaneously use a wide variety of skills to do their jobs,” said Toister. “This may include recalling product knowledge, navigating a variety of software programs, and interacting with the customer in an appropriate way. Many call centers train their new hires on one skill at a time, which makes them easier to learn.”

It may make the skills easier to learn, but it also means that by the time that agents start on the phone, their knowledge is very lopsided. They may have great skills on the contact center systems, but be seriously lacking on products and services.

Another issue that the study raises is the way that contact centers are often marginalized by the wider organization, their importance not recognized by the executive level. According to the study, only 56 percent of agents said they trust the messages from senior management; only 39.1 percent felt their leaders exhibited effective listening skills and only 45.7 felt their opinion was valued.

When the contact center is isolated from the broader customer-facing organization, opportunities for two-way learning are lost: the company is failing to gain knowledge from the experience of the front-line call center agents, and the agents are failing to feel valued for the critical job they do for the company.

The message is that contact center training can’t happen in a vacuum. It must be crafted carefully to ensure that employees are strong on all the skills they require BEFORE they begin handling calls from the most valuable customers. They must be supported within the contact center and within the rest of the organization, with knowledge shared back and forth to ensure that valuable information is put to the best possible use. Engaged employees are effective employees and lead to engaged customers. Companies that aren’t treating contact center agents like one of their most valuable assets are missing the boat. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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