Implement an Agent Development Program
September 7, 2016
Call center agents, your public-facing staff, are key to your call center’s effectiveness and fuel the success of the overall organization. Successful agent development starts on their first day of employment and continues every day after that. This begins with their initial training, continues with ongoing training, moves into possible promotion, and culminates in defining a realistic career path.
Initial Training: The primary focus of the agent onboarding process is their initial training. This starts with how to use the computers and associated software, apps, resources, and websites. It addresses basic customer service skills and instructs them how to effectively talk with callers. Some of this education is classroom based, other aspects are one on one, and some is self-paced, online instruction. Training also provides ample time to practice these basic skills, engage in group discussions, and roleplay. When agents finish their initial training, their learning is not complete. In fact, it has merely started. Next is ongoing training.
Ongoing Training: Once agents complete their basic training, they do not graduate; they merely shift into ongoing training, which should occur to some extent every day they work as an agent. This can take the form of advance skills training, call evaluation, corrective action, and new instruction to learn the latest equipment, software, and client processes.
Some instruction bears repeating. Other times new skills will mean nothing until agents can first comprehend and apply the basics. And occasionally remedial lessons are warranted. Depending on the situation, this ongoing training can be in groups or one on one, in public or private, and scheduled or as warranted. The point is to never assume agent training is finished.
Promotional Preparation: Some agents desire to advance in the call center. While this isn’t practical for every agent, it bears noting that most non-agent call center positions are staffed by former agents. These positions include lead agents, shift leaders, supervisors, trainers, schedulers, programmers, quality assurance advisors, assistant managers, managers, COOs (chief operations officers), and even call center directors.
However, just because an employee is a great agent, he or she will not automatically function with distinction in another position. Additional training is needed first. Moving a successful agent prematurely into another call center position without adequate training will merely remove a great agent and make an ineffective staffer in another position.
Preparation is key, and agents must have patience while waiting for openings to occur.
Career Path: Beyond the call center other positions in the organization beckon. These may be in sales and marketing, accounting, or technical areas. While few agents arrive possessing the skills to assume these positions, their educational pursuits may point them in that direction. Hiring a freshman accounting major may provide an agent for several years and later a person for your accounting department after graduation. Look for these opportunities and groom agents for advancement whenever possible.
Agents need training, ongoing feedback, and regular encouragement to develop into valued employees, be it as agents, in the call center, or as part of the greater organization.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of staff in the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at email@example.com or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.
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