Call Center Training: Best Practices for Training Support Agents

Call Center Training: Best Practices for Training Support Agents

Call center training best practices will allow you to ensure your support agents have the proper knowledge to help customers.
by
Nicholas Price

Most people tend to think of training as a “one-and-done” experience. For support agent training, that’s simply not enough training to really become experts in their field.

In a nutshell, call center training is the time that your company spends teaching call center representatives how to use communication techniques, digital tools, and workflows to ensure a good customer experience with every call. Call center training encompasses many different areas.

 Here are some of the common ones: 

  • Product knowledge
  • Resolving complaints
  • Answering sales or support questions
  • Providing support after a sale 
  • Upselling and cross-selling 
  • How to make recommendations
  • Effective ways to communicate
  • Using multiple communication channels
  • How to use software programs to effectively meet team or personal goals
  • When to transfer calls and how to do it
  • How to lead with empathy
  • When to ask for help

It’s important to note that while every call center representative uses the same software and equipment, each one has a different personality and different skills. The best call center training programs reflect a customized approach that helps each individual improve their skills. 

There’s no doubt that your company will be continually introducing new products or services that will require additional training for sales and support teams. Call center training should be an ongoing process that provides multiple opportunities for regular refresher courses. 

Call Center Training For Your Support Agents

Your support agents are on the front line, and they have a greater impact on the customer experience than any other part of your business. 

Most people wouldn’t have to think too long or hard to remember the worst customer agent performance experience they’ve ever had. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

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  • Long wait times
  • Dropped calls
  • Not getting the right answer to your question
  • Not getting a call back 
  • Robocalling

If people were given enough time, they might be able to remember some of the better customer experiences they’ve had. You have to admit, bad customer experiences tend to be more memorable than good ones. 

Poor customer experiences are a poor reflection of your brand, and it’s something that can seriously impact your bottom line. 

If we turn things around a bit, it’s easy to see the benefits your company receives when training your support agents well: 

  • Resolve issues on the first call
  • Keep call center agents motivated and engaged
  • Improve retention rates for support agents
  • Reduce absenteeism of call center agents
  • Get higher scores on customer satisfaction surveys
  • Achieve greater alignment between marketing, sales, and support departments

The Importance of Onboarding for New Support Agents

When a new call center representative answers their very first call, you want them to be able to speak confidently and respond appropriately to the caller’s questions and requests. They’re bound to make a few mistakes in the beginning, but the right onboarding will reduce the impact of any initial mistakes. Right from the start, they’ll become a productive member of your contact center, and they’ll be eager and happy to get started. As they learn and grow in their position, they’ll be less afraid to ask questions. Over time, they’ll be in a position to mentor others. 

A good onboarding program welcomes new call center agents onto your team and demonstrates that you’re committed to helping them succeed. The initial training process provides an opportunity to enmesh your support agents into the company’s culture. That’s important because they’ll need to represent the company culture and their interactions with your customers.

A standardized onboarding process nurtures new call center agents and tells them that they can count on getting proper training throughout their employment. A solid start to their employment as a call center representative can make a huge difference as to how they perform in the coming days, months, or years. 

Building Your Call Center Training Program

As you begin building your call center training program, the list of topics that you can use to train your call center representatives will surely grow.

It’s always best to begin with the basics and build on them in the future. Here are some training topics and activities to get you started:

  • The history of your company
  • How to greet customers and end calls
  • How to transfer calls, who to transfer them to, and the circumstances that signal the time to transfer a call
  • Practice reciting scripts out loud in a natural way so they don’t sound rehearsed
  • Practice with digital tools such as pulling up CRM information and other customer account data
  • How to use an internal knowledge base to answer customers’ questions 
  • Training on soft skills such as empathy, etiquette, and not leaving customers on hold for too long
  • Training on how to bring another employee onto the call to help her solve a problem
  • Time for role-playing to learn more about common types of calls and practice using call center software in a hands-on way
  • Time to listen to call recordings, including good and bad examples of how to address calls 
  • Training on the importance of the customer experience and how their role impacts the company’s bottom line 
  • Time for listening to top-performing agents to motivate and inspire them 

Once new call center agents have a chance to get their feet wet in the call center, you can schedule additional time for training on specific scenarios and helping them improve their skills.

How to Ensure an Effective Call Center Training Program

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that you have an effective call center training program. Take some time to get prepared, set your expectations, and start building rapport with new call center representatives. 

Preparing for Your Call Center Training Program

As a first step, it pays to do a little research about what does and doesn’t work well for call center support agent training. Spend a little time searching for media articles and blogs that describe problems and solutions for call center training.

Typically, new call center representatives expect to begin the onboarding process on the first day of their employment, but it often works best to start the process sooner. As soon as you’ve reached an employment agreement, it’s a nice gesture to reach out to new team members to ensure that they have contact information and links for information on the company’s guidelines and your expectations. New hires will also appreciate receiving an outline of what they can expect on their first day of employment. 

When it’s time to begin the onboarding, make sure everything is in place so you can start without delay. You’ll also want to set clear guidelines for attendance, adherence to schedules, and appropriate speech and conversation.  

Setting the Expectations for Your Support Agent Training Program

One problem that you’ll definitely want to avoid is not communicating your expectations for your call center representatives’ attire, appearance, and behavior until after they get started. It’s a mistake to assume that your company’s culture and expectations will be anything like those of other companies they’ve worked at. Your company employee handbook should spell out all of your expectations, and it’s best to review the handbook during the onboarding process.

Your employees will appreciate knowing upfront what is expected of them and not having to second-guess your expectations. Spend time helping them understand how you’ll be setting their goals and objectives, what they should do if they have trouble meeting them, and what happens if they don’t meet their goals and objectives. 

The benefit of a cloud-based phone system is that it gives you dashboard analytics that you can use to establish metrics and KPIs to objectively measure a call center agent’s performance. 

Building Rapport with New Call Center Representatives

When you hire a group of new employees and you’re training them all at once, you have to walk the line between addressing them collectively and noting their individual strengths and weaknesses. A personalized welcome email and the benefit of being assigned a mentor go a long way toward building rapport with new employees in their early days of employment.

You might consider asking mentors to attend parts of the training or to socialize with new employees during scheduled breaks. This is a suggestion that will help new employees start to build relationships with each other and with other employees who have been there longer. Take advantage of opportunities to get to know new employees better by asking about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and families.

Be sure to let them know that you’re open to their feedback and that they can expect additional training as time goes on. 

What Type of Training Programs Should You Invest In?   

Occasionally, you may incorporate online training programs. Topics could include leading conversations with empathy or how to improve the customer experience. If you’re using a cloud-based phone system, along with other software applications, you already have the tools you need to develop a comprehensive call center training program for your support agents.

For example, a cloud-based phone system with a robust set of features can be used to set up opportunities for role-play and discussion. Call recordings give new call center representatives a better feel for the types of conversations that commonly come into the call center. 

You could also use your cloud-based phone system to demonstrate how to tag calls, update customer accounts via insight cards, and transfer calls between parties.

Using call center software, it’s easy to demonstrate how new call center agents can use multiple communication channels to communicate internally and externally. It’s also a great way to demonstrate features like power dialing and click-to-dial for outbound calling purposes. 

Another one of the benefits of using a cloud-based phone system is the call whispering feature, which allows you to whisper a short instruction to a call center agent while they’re on the line without the customer being aware of it. You might also tell them that supervisors will be listening in on some of the calls for training purposes. This allows a supervisor to step in on a call if things get too difficult for the agent.

How Strong Call Center Training Increases Support Agent Performance

You may be tempted to skimp on call center representatives’ onboarding, but it’s not in your best interest or theirs. Overall, call center representative onboarding is a worthwhile investment, one that will positively impact your return on investment. 

Here are some of the ways that call center training increases support agent performance:

  • Makes call center representatives’ performance stronger
  • Improves employee satisfaction and morale 
  • Identifies their weaknesses early on so you have the chance to offer assistance
  • Ensures that they’re performing consistently with their peers
  • Increases their efficiency and productivity, giving them a sense of accomplishment
  • Helps them build their skills and experience, and that also increases retention 
  • Enhances your company’s reputation as an employer

With Aircall, all the tools that you need to train your call center agents are right at your fingertips. Features like call recording, call routing, call whispering, and power dialer allow for hands-on training for your new hires. Aircall works seamlessly with software integrations from the App Marketplace, many of which you may already be using for sales, support, or other practical applications. An Aircall cloud phone system is the perfect complement to your call center training program. 

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