12 May Creating world-class call centre training
Successful companies look after their customers, and that’s why it’s so important to embed a customer-centric philosophy into the heart of all call centre training. Whether your call centre team is in-house or outsourced, the principles are still the same.
We’re now living in an era where digital transformation means even higher customer expectations. Whether they’re buying a product, looking for advice, asking about payments or simply have a question, customers want answers, solutions, and assistance. And they want it to be delivered quickly, professionally, and to be treated as much more than a number or a sales target.
And globally, the call centre sector has come a long way over the last decade. By adapting services to include evolving technology, we can provide automated and self-service responses, AI-enabled chat functions, and technologically superior solutions. But nothing can replace the most important part of any call centre – its agents.
Call centre training and recruitment form the core of company success
Despite the advances in operational efficiency due to technology, it’s a simple fact that people still want to interact with people. Even a quick voice interaction on the phone gives customers the kind of responsiveness and accountability they expect from a brand. Of course, world-class call centre agents don’t just answer the phone. They must also deliver an emotionally rich customer experience, resolve issues, and provide that almost indefinable feeling in a customer that they’re important to the success of a business.
Across many sectors, customer service is the differentiator for businesses that want to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive world. Finding customer service agents that spring fully formed with all of the diverse skills they need isn’t easy. In fact, you could say that excellent customer service agents are not born – they are formed.
What skill sets should call centre agents have?
World-class customer service agents can come from all walks of life, and from all kinds of backgrounds. Creating this level of customer service agent needs training and development on an ongoing basis for team members to constantly demonstrate the following skills.
- Ability to work under pressure – call centres are hectic. It’s in their nature. And being able to remain calm and composed is one of the most vital components in providing a positive customer experience. Team members must develop high-level interpersonal skills and have the flexibility necessary to deal with any kind of problem.
- Reliability – if one team member is not up to standard, it’s felt everywhere. Effective call centre agents understand the importance of teamwork and dependability.
- Empathy – customers can feel empathy in a world-class call centre communication. Agents that can truly connect with callers build brand loyalty like nothing else.
- Critical thinking – the ability to multi-task and solve complex problems while remaining professional and friendly are hugely beneficial in a call centre agent.
- Motivation – research shows that keeping team members motivated in call centres is essential to success. It’s more than hiring someone who is initially motivated, rather it’s about having structured training, engagement and support in place to keep them motivated.
From recruitment to onboarding and career training
At CCI South Africa, we’re all about call centre excellence, providing the best experience for our customers’ customers, with each interaction ingrained into our call centre training and our daily life. And it starts by hiring the right people for the job and then ensuring that their training and development is a priority.
We choose to hire call centre team members from our partner company CareerBox. And for good reason. CareerBox is about far more than recruiting people. By selecting young people who have the determination and drive to succeed, CareerBox shapes their careers by giving them all the training they need to succeed.
Call centre training in Durban South Africa sets the standard
We’re South Africa’s foremost international and domestic contact centre because of our collective desire to go the extra mile. And behind every excellent call centre agent is a strong training initiative that helps them to work strategically, understand their goals, and be more efficient.
Every call centre should have a quality training programme that balances the needs of the agents/team mates with adding to the long-term growth and success of the company. Include the following best practice tips to ensure call centre training is effective:
- Keep call centre training practical
A rundown of company values and service principles is an important part of call centre training. But agents need the practicalities as quickly as possible too. Including practical instructions and advice early on will mean team mates feel much more prepared.
Maintain this practical training protocol by incorporating real call listening and practice early on. Guide them through real-life calls with full assistance and back-up. Teach them directly by example. Alternatives and additions to supervised training calls are simulated calls. This has the added advantage of negating any possible risk of customer perception if any errors happen.
Recorded call analysis is helpful for new recruits, but also for experienced call centre agents. Listening to recorded real-life calls helps team mates to recognise what good or bad responses sound like. Build a ‘good call library’ and use is as a one-stop shop for all good calls. And motivate agents to get their calls recognised by being selected for the library
- Recognise performance and give feedback
Team members that improve over time should be highlighted as great examples to learn from. Excellence in call centre roles shows itself in different ways, from achieving high customer service feedback to improving speed and accuracy. Analyse how high performing call centre team mates are performing and use their behaviours as part of your training for the rest of the team.
Mistakes will be made by agents during training, and the best training policy is to be open with constructive feedback. At the same make sure you provide the solution and best practice for dealing with the situation.
- Use KPIs as a useful self-development tool
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are ideal to help call centre agents understand what a successful performance looks like, and how they can use their own skills to reach their goals. Introduce KPIs as a two-way improvement channel to help team members manage their own advancement. Don’t have lots of targets, keep the key performance indicators (KPIs) simple. And measure just that – the key performance indicators.
- Give an overview of your business goals
Practical skills must sit against a backdrop of understanding the business and its overarching aims. Take a session to explain the business and its context within the industry or sector. As agents progress and begin to understand their role within the business, include more in-depth concepts and procedures that could feasibly worry customer callers. Call centre agents will only benefit from a more in-depth understanding of the nuances of the business sector they represent, and it should form part of the ongoing call centre training as they progress.
- Include emotional competence in the training
Two of the most crucial and difficult skills needed for good call centre agents are the ability to defuse tense conversations and deal with customers who will always be unsatisfied. The most effective way to train call centre agents on emotional competence is by focusing their attention away from the irate customer and back on to themselves and their own reactions.
Clarity and tone are important considerations for every team member dealing with a difficult call. Recorded call analysis is helpful to use for real-world training examples.
- Ensure training focuses on the long-term
Call centre training never stops. And while you have end-goals and a trajectory to reach them, there are many pitstops along the way. Training goes hand-in-hand with an agent’s career path in a contact centre and should focus on consistency above reaching an end point.
- Implement 360-degree feedback
An effective way to encourage continuous positive development is to give agents the tools to give their own feedback on the company and their peers. The insights gained from free-flowing feedback are useful to not only improve performance but also the satisfaction of the agent.
Customer-driven call centre training is clearly the key to success. By training teams to focus on the customer, they will be better equipped to meet the needs of your customers. And, trust me, your customers will feel the difference and the perceived quality of your customer care will increase.
Also on this blog: Why are call centre workers essential?
Mark Chana is an experienced business and call centre leader. He is the Chief Operating Officer of CCI Global and Managing Director of CCI South Africa. At CCI Global, Mark Chana has ultimate responsibility for all group operations, business development, and company performance. He is also the Managing Director of CCI South Africa.