The Importance of Training Reinforcement

It’s a known fact that a well-trained employee makes a difference it the customer careindustry.

How your consultants resolve customer issues, deal with potentially volatile situations, and up-sell or cross-sell your products and services, makes or breaks your business.

It shouldn’t come as a mystery that when you invest in employee training programs, your agents come out motivated and equipped with a more versatile toolkit to use on customers.

However, as with all things, the enthusiasm starts to fade and the recently acquired skills deteriorate, which leaves you with mostly the same issues you dealt with prior to training.

Follow the steps below to amp-up your training sessions and make them stick.

 

How to make it stick?

The first step is up to you, don’t get frustrated with your employees “training amnesia,” instead evaluate your training service’s reinforcement methodology.

Do you incorporate follow-up programs?

It’s been proven that over the course of six months, trainees will lose up to 75%  of knowledge gained through training if there are no reinforcement and follow-up solutions introduced. Similarly, less than a 50% of skills gained during training sessions will carry over to the job if there’s no failsafe in the form of training reinforcement implemented.

Customer care training is essential; empower your employees by providing them with the proper “tools of the trade” as well as incorporating a well functioning follow-up methodology.

 

Summarizing & handouts

Don’t count on your employees having a photographic memory, quite a lot of important information will slip by them over the course of training sessions.

Compile handouts (or create a handy PDF document) that will highlight key points raised during customer service training, use diagrams and images but keep it short – make sure that the handout is short as possible (no more than 2 pages) and lists only relevant critical information.

Encourage consultants to use these handouts as a miniature knowledge base.

 

The art of coaching

Good training sessions are a mix of theory, spliced with examples of a real-life application of our newly acquired skills and a dash of role-playing. Theory will most likely stick with your employees, it’s the real-life application part you need to reinforce:

  • observe
  • correct
  • demonstrate
  • reevaluate

Coaching sessions solidify newly acquired knowledge, especially if conducted right after customer service training. Demonstrating the correct approach is essential, reinforce their efforts through praise and feedback.

 

Debriefing

Tie-in reinforcement session during staff meetings, it’s a wonderful opportunity to review key concepts and training in general. Discuss how are they incorporating their new skill-set into their daily routine, how are they helping them and most importantly ask which skills seem to be the most problematic when applying to practical situations.  Periodical debriefing is a powerful reinforcement tool it allows your employees to work through any potential issues they might be having as they start “getting their hands dirty”.

 

Take it from the top

Leading by example has to be one of the best ways to reinforce training lessons, if you really think your employees don’t mimic your behaviour, think again. Monitor yourself, consistently apply training session knowledge in customer and coworker relations – bring those training lessons to life, prove that you “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”

 

It doesn’t end in the classroom

Customer service training doesn’t have to end the moment your employees get back to their workspace. Follow our tips and get the most out of your training investment, maximise gains by reinforcing and coaching your customer service agents.

You’re the deciding factor on what they retain from training sessions.

 

Custom Built Agent Team

The perfect customer care agent is high-performing and engaged, at least according to managers but how does this fare against reality?

However, in reality, we’re capable of observing multiple ranges of performances from low, to average and finally high. Agents are doing the same job, but their performance varies so much simply because they’re all different people and we’re evaluating them with the same metrics. It’s natural that some will lag behind while others will excel above their peers.

Considering that everyone is different and has a plethora of experiences and expectations maybe the managers themselves should opt in for a unique personalised approach – recognise all these differences and accept them. Focus agent development and training around those, this will help tremendously with performance.

Personalise agents coaching sessions, adjust them to their needs and performance level.

In order to reach peak performance use these 5 steps.

 

Job description

Everyone has a job description but most of the time those are ignored or even forgotten about completely. Someone once told me “My job description is like a fairy tale; In a filing cabinet far, far away”. Dust the job description off, it is the most common denominator of your agents. It’s the best starting point, in won’t help you with performance issues but will let you learn what expectations your team has.

Put that knowledge to good use.

 

Expectations

Make sure all the agents in your contact centre are on the same page when it comes to performance expectations. The job description is a great starting point, but each team member can understand it in a totally different way and that is the way their performance will vary.

Communication is the basis of an effective team.

 

Diagnose performance

Agents need consistent metrics and performance evaluation methods those won’t substitute day-to-day coaching and performance management but will let you benchmark current performance and competency levels for each individual. You simply need to know what to tune up.

Pick the best tool to gauge their abilities and be aware of potential risks involved with each method.

 

Devise a plan

After carefully analysing each agent’s strengths and improvement opportunities, create a tune up plan. Create a custom made plan of action for each agent, do not generalise but make it relevant and specific to each person. The plan needs to be practical, be sure to include activities, online learning and company training.

Whatever you plan for your agents make sure it all ties down directly to the evaluation.

 

Implement the plan

Now the tune-up begins. The plan itself is a great topic for discussion between agents and managers, it will fuel their thirst for knowledge. No more wasted training and resources.

Your team is ready to reach its peak performance.

 

The cost associated with the aforementioned custom tune up is low while it provides great value. Tune up your staff and see them soar.

Put The Right People in The Right Job

Recruiting right people for the right job has never been more important.

Providing great customer experience is the quintessential for contact centres and the biggest hurdle in achieving this goal is employee attrition. But how should managers and supervisors filter out applicants?

Want to know if your future employee has what it takes to make it in the multilingual environment of a multichannel contact centre?

Use these pointers:

 

Watch out for these essential skills

  • Call control and the ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Communicating clearly and confidently, also grammar and spelling
  • Ability to follow through from the initial call to any follow-up correspondence
  • Ability to handle delicate situations and attention to detail

 

Ability to remain calm under pressure

It’s one of the key attributes you should look out for when recruiting contact centre agents. Clear communications skills, remaining calm under pressure, confidence and expert knowledge are essential.

 

Competence-based interview

Be sure to test skills and competencies of an agent with live role play action. Make the scenario as close to the actual contact centre environment as possible, it will contribute to the recruitment process tremendously and also make it as interactive as possible. Also, request for real-life examples when the candidate is speaking about previous experience, this will serve as great insight as to what should you look out for during the role play stage.

 

Recruit in numbers

Try to always recruit groups of five to eight future contact centre agents, and possibly avoid recruiting one agent at a time. Small groups will allow your future employees to learn from one another during the training process. This will also strengthen their self-esteem, especially in newbies that are entering the industry for the first time since they are not alone. Make sure that agents are aware that “there are no silly questions” during the training process, make them feel comfortable while asking even the most obvious ones.

 

Clear expectations

Be clear on what is expected of a particular project or a team. Be precise when explaining about company culture and policies. Honesty during the interview really helps, if an agent finds something uncomfortable after becoming an employee he’ll be more likely to quit, or won’t be as efficient as you expected him to be from the information gathered during the recruitment process. Be honest – it’s that simple.

 

Training

With attrition rates for contact and call centres, especially in the multilingual environment are on an all time high – the average turnover rates are higher than any other industry. You can tone those rates down easily, invest in training and coaching. Prepare your new agents, show them what to expect and playback some difficult calls that ended in a successful resolution. Five to three days of training is money well spent.

 

Be on the lookout for candidates that can work under pressure, can communicate clearly and at the same time can deal with a plethora of new and exciting situations. At the same time provide great training and self-development opportunities, those will ensure company loyalty.

In the long run, these basic pointers will be your “secret weapon” in the war on staff attrition.

Reducing Costs While Maintaining Efficiency & Versatility

When operating a multilingual contact centre, customer service costs can add up fast, and over a short period of time they will quickly add up to A LOT.

If you are looking to improve your business’s bottom line, or provide better customer service, you need to implement these methods to reduce customer service costs without sacrificing the support part, and still providing exceptional customer experience.

Equipment

Re-evaluate your equip­ment, it could be cost­ing you more money than you think.  For example, automat­ing your contact centre’s tele­phone sys­tem for the less used cus­tomer ser­vice func­tions could potentially save time and reduce cost on pay­roll and train­ing. Cloud-based technology can also centralise your whole contact centre into one consolidated customer service centre.

  • Phone Sys­tem: Find an appropriate calling system that will streamline the process. An automated attendant or system that reroutes calls to correct contact centre agents quickly can be a life saver, especially during customer service peaks
  • Soft­ware: Is your CRM software integrated with your calling and scheduling systems? If not, make it your top priority.
  • Stor­age: Most on-site systems can be moved to the cloud, especially if they take up valuable space and resources. Evaluate if doing so will help you save on utility costs.

Multi-Channel

Embracing the multi-channel approach, implementing it and then aligning all your communication channels is what all contact centres should aim to achieve in 2015.

It’s not only about the technology, it’s about the people. Your contact centre is as strong as its core employees – the front line grunts, contact centre agents.

Make sure that your teams can handle multiple communication channels, be it email, phone call, live web chat or social media. Assigning two people per campaign to each communication channel might seem a reasonable choice, but in the end, it might cost you more.

Remember about attrition and turnover rates, which despite the efforts of contact centre managers still plague the industry to this day. Train each representative, they need to provide exceptional customer service on each communication channel – versatility is essential.

Also in the case of returning customers, if the same agent handles the quarry throughout all communication channels, it adds a new depth of personalisation thus creating a compelling experience for the customer resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

Cutting customer service costs is not about blindly “swingin’ the ole axe”  and reducing budgets, it’s about making your business more efficient.

Upgrading software, as well as hardware, will lead to increase in employee efficiency while embracing the multi-channel approach and centralising all communication channels will lead to increase in customer satisfaction, both of which will in the long-term lead to better customer retention.

Evaluate budgets, look for ways to increase efficiency, and only then cut costs.

 

The Real Value of First Contact Resolution

The more satisfied customers are, the more loyal they’ll become – embrace customer centricity.

It’s not a mystery that first contact resolution is one of the main drivers for customer satisfaction.

Even the smallest improvements to first contact resolution (FCR) have an impact on increasing customer satisfaction, at an astonishing rate of 1:1, which quite frankly is huge.

 

Cost Effective

First Contact resolution not only increases customer satisfaction but improving FCR in your contact centre should be the top priority, simply because it greatly reduces costs.

So there is without a shadow of a doubt a business case for improving first contact resolution, as a result, many companies are investing heavily in customer service training and analytics tools, to measure and improve this voluble metric.

But is focusing mainly on FCR sufficient in order to maintain customer loyalty?
Most certainly not.

 

Keep It Balanced

There are many vital aspects that correspond and impact customer satisfaction thus shaping customer loyalty, these “what-if’s” are:

  • What if; you encountered a poorly trained contact centre agent?
  • What if; the representative didn’t have sufficient product knowledge?
  • What if; you had to be kept on hold for 20 minutes while listening to some ungodly music track?
  • What if; the issue was resolved but the agent was rude and interrupted the conversation numerous times?

 

Diversify

Overly focusing on one metric is a sign of bad management. Embrace the balanced scorecard tactic and evaluate your employees and customer service process’s using these criteria:

  • First Contact Resolution
  • Post contact IVR survey, ask the customer how would they rate the experience
  • Customer retention metric to evaluate the likelihood of a customer leaving within 4 weeks
  • Include Average Handle Time; despite all the hate it gets if you wish you could keep it hidden from the contact centre agents
  • Cross-selling abilities
  • Average time spent on hold; waiting on hold is despised by the customers
  • Number of appropriate escalations
  • Employee satisfaction; happy staff = happy customers

 

First contact resolution is a vital metric which greatly impacts customer satisfaction and helps reducing costs, but focusing on FCR alone is simply not enough.

Take all variables into consideration when trying to increase customer loyalty and act accordingly, ask the customers what parts of the customer experience you provide do they cherish and which ones do they despise, and get to work.

Tech Plays a Key Role in Training Reinforcement

Train­ing is an invest­ment, a long-term behav­ioral change, and will not be suc­cess­ful with­out proper rein­force­ment;  follow-up sessions conducted by contact centre super­vi­sors and man­agers.

Thanks to new solutions provided by technology: video, email and social media, these reinforcement sessions become easy to conduct and are cost effective.

Every type of training is suited for technology based reinforcement, whether you’re reinforcing a strategic skill change or improving soft skills, technology will help. It proves to be a valuable “ally” during training as well as post-training activities as is after ensures the change in behaviour sticks.

These are the top techniques we at OpsTalent use:

 E-mail; bi-weekly emails with rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion which can be applied to daily tasks.

  1. A consistent and descriptive title is crucial, reference the training session the follow-up relates to so that the participants open the email ASAP.
  2. If the email contains video content make sure that the text part of the message is clear and to the point, don’t waste the contact centre agents time on reading, point them to the video straight away.
  3. Avoid graphics, emails containing these are often blocked by email client app’s, thus mistaken as spam and deleted straight away. Also, graphic content is not mobile friendly so keep that in mind.
  4. Plan no more than one training email per training hour, schedule these to be sent out over a course of 4 weeks. This is crucial since it will not overwhelm agents and at the same time will be more than enough to bring permanent change in behaviour.
  5. Send the e-mails to managers, don’t leave them out of the loop, the content can be easily reused during team meetings.

Video; create engaging videos that will aid employee knowledge retention.

  1. Create videos that last up to 3 minutes, that will keep agents engaged and interested until the very end.
  2. Be detailed regarding the most valued tip from the training session, expand on it and end the video with an easy to follow call-to-action.
  3. Follow-up videos don’t need to be made by professionals, but they need to look professional. Dress code, the tone of voice and a steady camera are vital when it comes to creating engaging content.
  4. Post videos in-house or on a private channel on YouTube or Vimeo. Streamed video is the safest and best option.

Other; pri­vate social media groups are ideal for sharing content and reinforcing training.

  1. Brainshark is great when resources are limited or creating video content is simply not an option. Creating PowerPoint presentations with audio is an amazing substitute for video content, but it has potential to be much more than just a substitute.
  2. Create private groups in LinkedIn where contact centre staff can share successes stories or ask relevant questions.

Technology can play a key role in reinforcing employee training and in long-term behav­ioral change, especially in crucial business areas such as;  intro­duc­ing new pro­ce­dures, improv­ing exist­ing skills sets, or engag­ing new employ­ees. It’s up to you to incorporate it!

Achieve Excellence Through Active Listening

Turn your representatives into virtual guides for your customers; provide tips and insights and capitalise on delivering customer experience excellence.

Often times we focus too much on the task, while completely ignoring the human aspect of it, and thus fail to actively listen to the customer.

Unfortunately, this is a surefire way to ruin customer experience as the act of not listening or even worse, not comprehending is perceived a cardinal sin in customer centric landscape the contact centre industry has become.

Become customer-centric

Contact centre managers and agents need to understand that in order to provide excellent customer service your business needs to become customer-centric. Giving customers your undivided attention is the first step in achieving this goal.

Customer service training should include visualisation methods which enforce eye contact and role play – as if customers were sitting just across from your staff. This will encourage them to actively listen to what is being said and agents will pay more attention to fine details such as: tone, vocabulary and voice volume.

Pinpoint key information

When it comes to delivering great customer care the ability to identify key information quickly is essential and active listening techniques are what your agents need to easily pinpoint customer needs, desires and problems, thus reducing the AHT (Average Handle Time) and bumping customer satisfaction up a notch.

The ability to pinpoint problems faster will lead to an increase in first-contact resolution as well as enable your agents to handle more customer queries per day.

Show empathy

Paying attention to customer feelings provides valuable information on how to handle each query, which leads to successful problem resolution and happy customers.

A customer who’s obviously in a hurry? Provide him with an approximate time to complete the task or order.

Another common example: if the customer is clearly upset, show empathy and use it as an edge during the communication process.

Personalised customer service is a small, but often well appreciated touch.

Paraphrase to clarify

The final step of successful active listening is clarification of understanding. In order pinpoint customer needs or to be able to diagnose what problems he experiences we need to reassure him by paraphrasing his own explanation back to him and ask for confirmation. This method will reassure the customer that they have been heard and their query will be taken care of.

Active listening teaches your representatives to focus on the customer by showing empathy, while simultaneously filtering and paraphrasing key information conveyed during the conversation in order to clarify their understanding of the topic, therefore reassuring them that everything is going to be alright.

Delivering customer care excellence has never been easier, and it’s all thanks to active listening.