Contact Center Training and Quality – They Belong Together

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This article was originally posted on the FCR blog on December 15, 2017 in partnership with my colleague and training expert, Sheri Kendall-duPont. Click here to read the original.

In contact centers, training and quality are often mutually exclusive functions. Training is responsible for preparing new agents to support customers from the time they begin employment to the moment they hit the production floor. From there, quality takes over and regularly checks to ensure that what was learned in the classroom is put into practice on every customer interaction. Training might occasionally reenter the picture in the event that there’s a new initiative, policy, or procedure that agents need to know about.

So what’s the ongoing role of training in the contact center? Should coaching and development be left exclusively to the quality team, or should training have an ongoing role in this? On the flip side, can the quality team do more to help in the onboarding process? In this article, we explore quality and training in the contact center from both sides with the goal of understanding how they can better work together.

What training needs from quality

In the effort to work together, here are four things that contact center trainers need from the quality team.

  • Scoring isn’t coaching – A quality score, which is the result of many quality processes, doesn’t put learners in the best position to learn. For example, a negative score can cause an emotional response, putting agents in flight, fright, or freeze mode. If learning isn’t taking place in a quality coaching session, behavior doesn’t change, and this has an impact on performance. Don’t just hand agents a quality score, coach and develop them. Also, we so often hear quality coaches talk about giving agents a score. Always remember that you didn’t give anyone anything. They earned it!
  • Real coaching reinforces the learning  Coaching is forward looking and has a plan and feedback is backward looking. When agents learn in the classroom, it’s up to the quality team to ensure the learning is being applied and that goals are set to help learners continue to improve.
  • Keep an eye out for additional training opportunities – A good quality process quantifies the areas where agents are struggling and feeds these insights back to training so they can develop additional training for agents.
  • The trainer needs a seat at the table in quality discussions and calibrations – Since trainers are the ones giving agents everything they need to know before they hit the production floor, they should have a part in developing the quality process and criteria. They’ll know what needs to be monitored and reinforced and will be a valuable resource in those quality calibration sessions where the team works to become more aligned.

What quality needs from training

Now we turn it over to the quality team. Here are four things they want trainers to understand about their needs.

  • Quality teams need to know what is being trained – If the quality team is going to design a quality process to ensure a consistently high level of customer service, they need to know what agents are being trained to do. In fact, it’s probably not a bad idea to involve the quality team when designing the training.
  • Quality needs ongoing cooperation and collaboration with training – On a number of our high performing teams, the trainers are actively involved in the quality process at all levels, especially when new agents hit the floor. They don’t just dump them on the quality team. They roll up their sleeves and take part in listening to and reading interactions and coaching agents right along with the quality team.
  • We want fluid conversations with customers – Poor training can often result in disjointed customer service. New agents need to get to the point where they’re able to have fluid conversations with customers, not move through a checklist of points to cover or items to complete. New hires need to first know what they need to know, then they need to know why it’s important. Once they have basic knowledge and the why behind it, take the time to empower your agents, giving them the freedom to have a conversations with customers. They will thrive when they have your trust and plenty of time to practice.
  • Quality should be introduced in the onboarding process – One of the best ways to get off to a good start with quality is to introduce new agents to the quality process during onboarding. In fact, keep it in mind when developing training and involve quality throughout the process.

One note: Smaller contact center may have one person who wears both the quality and training hats. For those of you in that position, we hope this helps you realize that these two roles can and should fit very well together. As teams grow, however, these functions begin to separate and become their own teams and departments which makes consistent collaboration all the more important.

It’s about lighting up faces

We recently spoke with Haley Cisco, a supervisor in our Roseburg contact center. Haley was talking through the practice on her team where they no longer show agents their quality scores. It was exciting as she enthusiastically described the way her colleagues’ faces light up when she’s able to coach them on ways to improve their performance and connect them with the purpose behind it.

This is where this collaboration between quality and training gets really good. When we’ve focused purely on coaching agents to be the best they can be and helped connect them with the purpose and “why” behind a great customer interaction, faces lighting up is a rather common occurrence. And if their faces light up, imagine the impact to the customers they are serving. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

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