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Contact Centre Technology

How to Build a Contact Centre Staff Training Programme

9 min read
Author Business Systems UK
Date Nov 18, 2014
Category Contact Centre Optimisation

CONTACT CENTRE GUIDE BLOG: 9/9 recently published ‘The Contact Centre Guide’ which was sponsored by Business Systems. For those short on time, we created a series of blogs covering the highlights from each chapter.
Please find the 9th in the series below.
With thanks to Wendy Brooks from Hemsley Fraser who provided the original article.
Since customer contact centres were first established in the 1990s, staff ‘training’ has followed a familiar pattern. At the heart of most contact centre staff training programmes, you’ll find a focus on processes, generic tips and scripted customer interactions. This creates two problems.
Firstly, despite the prescriptive nature of the training, it breeds inconsistency for the customer because individuals apply the formula without having the freedom to connect it to the customer’s unique set of circumstances.
Secondly, it often leads to stilted customer conversations which lacks any emotional or personal connection. In simple terms, this approach to ‘training’ is at odds with the kind of interactions that most customers value – so no wonder repeated investment in the latest customer service training programme either fails to make the change or, at best, leads to short term improvements.

The challenge for every contact centre is to provide a service and experience that is consistently positive for the customer. The key behind this according to Wendy is to define how you want staff to think and behave when they are engaging with customers. When an agent interacts with customers the nuances of their behaviour can make the biggest possible difference to how the conversation goes. At the heart of contact centre training there should be an emphasis on embedding the beliefs and attitudes towards customers which translate into real behaviours in the moment.
When it comes down to competing products and services, how your staff engage and interact on the phone can prove a major source of differentiation directly impacting the bottom line and offering a competitive advantage.

So what makes for a successful learning programme?

  • Bring the voice of the customer into the centre of the learning: This can be achieved through techniques such as live vignettes or Vox Pop comments from real customers. These can be used to create powerful connections to the real world of customers and to begin the awareness of just how much difference an individual in a contact centre can make.
  • Show how the key behaviours can make a difference: This is about making the practical connection through helping staff to understand ‘what good looks like’ from a customer perspective. At the same time, it is important to make things manageable by focusing on the many small things, which cumulatively, make a huge difference for customers.
  • Design specific activities into the learning which help people to understand what it feels like to be a customer. For example, a ‘service hunt’ where employees reflect on how they were treated in a number of contexts in the preceding week is a good way to raise awareness of how they would like to be treated. Once staff are really sensitised to how they would like to be treated, it becomes a powerful guiding framework for them when dealing with their own customers.
  • Pay attention to tone: In general, there is a move away from corporate-speak to a more friendly and personal tone. In some cases, the tone used with customers has even shifted to quirky and humorous but, whatever tone of voice, make it sound human and real.
  • Share stories of excellence and examples of good practice. It helps get the idea embedded that is ‘just the way we do business around here’.
  • Support team leaders and managers: The team leader’s role is central to creating and sustaining behavioural change. Through role modelling, recognising good behaviour and coaching, team leaders can make the biggest, fastest and longer-term difference.
  • Integrate a measurement strategy at the beginning of the design process: Traditional efficiency measures like call duration and call volumes are being replaced in some instances by quality of the customer interaction and call resolution measures and in more developed cases, links to customer retention and advocacy. The most integrated measurement links employee measures (like turnover, sickness, morale) to leader engagement. The most effective learning designs tap into these linkages at the beginning of the process, so the ability to communicate results is as an integral part of the training and a powerful mechanism for supporting long term change.

The real message here is to inspire customer teams to understand that, at the moment when they interact with the customer, their behaviour can make a huge difference. This is particularly true if the customer is making an important decision or facing a personal, possibly life changing challenge, where they are very dependent on the support they receive. Learning interventions can make the same difference for employees in contact centres as they, themselves, can make for their customers.