Agent Insight #2: Agent Training and Knowledge Transfer

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Every outsourcing partnership must effectively manage the “hand-off.” At the beginning of the relationship, and as the partnership grows and evolves, the call center outsourcer must implement methods and processes that allows them to function as an extension of your operating team. That means adopting your agent training curriculum, implementing new processes, managing change control, and providing front line customer feedback to the brand. The moment of truth comes when the agent or customer service rep answers your customer’s call. This precious moment is supported by the training the agent has received to prepare them for commonly asked questions, issue resolution processes, how to escalate cases, and much more.

To gain deeper insights on this topic, we interviewed Jacques and Claude, two seasoned Blue Ocean agents, who provided a unique perspective on the two-way relationship between the frontline and the contact center client. These insights can help buyers of outsourced customer care services to create a smooth transition to the outsourcer’s agent workforce.

Focus Agent Training on the Most Common Scenarios
It may sound obvious, but initial training does not need to encompass every possible scenario an agent may be faced with. In fact, training for 100% of possibilities can detract from an agent’s ability to handle the most common scenarios.

Our agent Claude works on an automotive campaign with complicated steps and processes to resolve customer issues, he suggests, “Apply the 80/20 rule. For instance, prepare agents to be rock solid on the top 20 calls (80%) they will receive. Perfecting those interactions in training before experiencing the real thing on the production floor will improve the customer experience.” Confidence and capability will come when an agent can confidently take care of the 80%. Then when they do encounter the 20%, they can call on coaches and experienced agents to help them through – learning in a supported hands-on environment.

Claude also stated, “Focus the initial training intensely on the ‘hard skills’ like escalation procedures or troubleshooting processes while weaving in the ‘soft skills.’” A good call center outsourcer will pre-screen agents on their soft skills during the recruiting and selection phases. Selecting agents with a natural preference for empathy, for instance, will likely mean quicker uptake on soft skills training, allowing greater opportunity to focus on mandatory processes like escalations.

Clearly Define Agent Processes and Goals during Agent Training
One clear challenge for agents is following loosely defined processes. When multiple ‘if’ statements are involved, it can be a dizzying array of possible dispositions and outcomes. Which protocols and processes are key to achieving your customer service outcomes? Identify them, clarify them, and communicate them to the frontline. People who are successful in a contact center setting tend to be “process people” who are good at adhering to step-by-step procedures and following rules. The better your process is defined, the easier it is for agents to adhere to it.

Share the goals that you’ve established with other partners or your internal customer service teams. Clearly state the mission – both big picture goals and daily performance indicators. For example, Zappos’ mission is to provide the best customer service possible. To achieve that, agents know that handle time is not a KPI, but making a personal emotional connection is critical . On our home front, we are big believers in transparency. Understanding the client’s corporate vision and the “why” of the work they are engaged in – along with transparency into their own performance – is particularly helpful in managing a predominantly Millennial workforce. Our promise to our employees about their performance is: “You can see what we see” and we have built our agent desktop to reflect that.

Minimize the Knowledge Transfer Gap
Jacques was quick to point that when there is a gap between the knowledge bank possessed by the agents and that of the client or internal customer service team, it can lead to inconsistent customer experiences. Jacques explained one scenario: “When an internal policy changed, there was a divide between what the client wanted and what agents were saying. It took time to get agents on the same page as the client.” Minimize the knowledge transfer gap, and the customer experience will be more consistent. If your business is subject to frequent policy change, you might want to measure a potential vendor’s ability to act and react quickly. When you’re constructing your RFP, consider asking potential vendors about their approach to change control management. If you’re outsourcing for the first time, take a good look.

Experience a Successful Transition
Keep these agent insights in mind next time you start up a new training class with your outsourced contact center partner. It’s impossible to train agents on every conceivable scenario they will encounter. Your outsourcing partner is there to help this process and communicate the best ways to train their agent workforce and minimize the knowledge gap. Click here to talk with us about more about ways to improve the agent training and knowledge transfer process.

Patty Isnor
Patty is a member of the senior management team, responsible for strategic direction and planning. With a strong emphasis on the development of human resource strategies; management of human resource and personnel functions for company, Patty also manages all aspects of the contact center facilities including all negotiations and management of various offices.

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