Here’s why call centre training and development matters

What do you need for a world-class call centre? Technology, a cohesive strategy, flexibility, and a deep understanding of the sectors you’re operating in are all important. But to me, most importantly, the strength of a call centre also hinges on the quality of its agents. Which is why call centre training matters.

At CCI South Africa we have unashamedly high standards when we recruit agents. And we commit to a program of consistent and career-strengthening training for all those that make it. So, why does training and develop matter so much when creating the best call centre agents?

Call centre training – from recruitment to ongoing development

Every interaction between call centre agents and customers is important. Each time a CCI South Africa agent picks up the phone or answers an online query, they represent our partner’s brand. And each interaction builds confidence and brand loyalty in the customer.

It’s not enough to have a stellar recruitment strategy – although that is obviously important. Getting the best people on board to start with is essential. But a strong training and development program for them is equally important. We concentrate on not only training our agents but nurturing and developing them into world-class professionals.

Customers have increasingly high expectations from call centres. We live in a time of constant digital transformation and people want answers and assistance 24 hours a day across every platform. And this must be reflected in training and development for agents and managers. Consistently adapting services to meet customer expectations means a rolling program of call centre training to ensure agents are equipped with the knowledge they need, even as it changes.

Today’s call centre agent must be a multi-skilled person who can demonstrate any number of skills during every moment of customer interaction. And while some may come on board with some of this skillset, to keep motivation high and ensure high quality service that customers expect, training and development must be nuanced, carefully considered and long-term.

Design and deliver structured training to agents

We have a specific Learning & Development team that designs and delivers training to develop the talent of our agents. With five separate flagship programs layered from Agent to Leader, the training gives every agent planned career progression at every level. And this is what makes a call centre stand out from the rest – it’s not about basic training to use systems, but about nurturing long-term career paths.

Call centres must also meet the challenge of providing constantly evolving training and development. As digital technology changes, call centres must move beyond legacy technology to include the advanced tech used today. We combat this with a specialist Digital Academy that concentrates on reviewing engagement strategies. Partnering with specific digital engagement experts also ensures we are not left behind. The recent explosion of digital devices used by customers has categorically altered the entire dynamic of customer engagement.

Up to 40% of our contacts already come from smart devices, and this will only continue to increase. It’s vital that agents are properly and fully trained digitally as well as in the more traditional call centre skills. Improving performance management, training, development and best practices is the key to ensuring agents are the best they can be, and to keeping customers happy.

7 tips for call centre training and development

At a basic level, every agent must be fully trained before they pick up the phone to a customer or answer a digital query. Customers expect skilled agents, and statistics show that one of their biggest frustrations is feeling like they’re not getting this. And this is why qualitative training focused on meeting customer expectations is key to a world-class agent.

Whether it’s about a new product, modifications to the system, or to learn a new digital platform, training and development should never stop. Throughout a customer service agent’s career, there will always be another level to aspire to. And it’s up to the organisation to provide this. Here are seven tips for training and sharing best practice that call centres can implement right now.

  1. Empower call centre agents to make decisions

It’s crucial that agents have everything the need, from the right tools and information to the correct training, to make the kinds of decisions that the partner company needs. A well-trained agent with the knowledge required to make decisions will raise customer satisfaction levels and mean a greater likelihood of a resolution within a single interaction. Agents must fully buy in to the call centre service expected by their employer, but also the brand they represent.

  1. Ensure training is engaging

Training must be varied and interesting to drive motivation levels. While the easier option is old-fashioned monotonous training, the better option is interactive, interesting training that will keep agents engaged. If they’re not engaged, they won’t deliver the customer service necessary.

  1. Include real life call listening and handling in early training

At CCI South Africa, our agents are already fully onboarded through our partner company CareerBox. But for call centres starting from scratch, it’s vital to include actual call listening during the earliest stages of training. There is no substitute for the experience and understanding agents accrue by listening to calls straight away.

  1. Give regular, clear and actionable feedback

Agents need feedback they can actively respond to, so all feedback during training or afterwards, must be clear.

  1. Share the bigger strategic picture with agents

By aligning performance management with the wider customer satisfaction strategy and employee engagement program.

  1. Constantly improve knowledge management

The collective brain power of its employees is what gives a call centre a competitive advantage. Ensure that agents have the opportunity to consistently improve their knowledge, learn new things about clients, customers and partners as well as the system.

  1. Create a transparent company culture

An open and transparent company culture will encourage agents to relax into their roles and understand that feedback and training is the norm.