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6 call center training tips for building an exceptional team of agents

By Liz Bauer

Published May 18, 2020
Last modified June 16, 2020

More often than not, shoppers’ impressions of companies are based on interactions with support agents. After all, customers rarely interact directly with businesses outside of support calls—especially if the company is online-based.

Your agents need the proper training and tools to handle those calls in a way that makes the customer feel heard and appreciated. Below are six call center training tips to ensure your agents can deliver a positive, helpful customer experience.

1. Teach proper call center etiquette

When you work in the same industry for a long time, certain aspects of the job become second nature. And as managers, we sometimes forget that second-nature skills like proper phone etiquette aren’t inherent to everyone.

Never take for granted the importance of educating agents on how to treat customers in a respectful, friendly manner over the phone. As a call center agent, small nuances can have a big impact on the customer support experience. For example:

  • Communicating wait times.

    If your agents must put a customer on hold, make sure they know the importance of communicating expected wait times. If a customer has no idea when the agent will return, they might begin feeling antsy and frustrated or even hang up.

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  • Letting customers know the call may be recorded for training purposes.

    Customers often have no problem with the recording, but would prefer to be aware of it happening.

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  • Pausing call recordings while taking credit card information.

    This is a common safety precaution most agents take. Letting your customers know how you’re keeping their information secure will put them at ease and help establish trust.

When you train your agents in proper call center etiquette, you give them the tools they need to make every customer feel valued, respected, and safe.

2. Provide technical onboarding

Make sure your agents are 100% confident and adept at using your call center software and technology. Otherwise, a technical snag might lead to unnecessary hold times.

Help agents become familiar with your tools by providing clear guidance on:

  • Answering calls using your call center software.

    New hires may have only used phones to handle customer calls in the past.

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  • Transferring calls between departments.

    Teach agents how to use hold and transfer functions to properly route customer calls to other agents and departments.

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  • Muting and unmuting the speaker while talking to customers.

    Agents commonly use this function when they ask another teammate for help with a customer’s question. Mute can be a good alternative to hold, as it allows an agent to quietly complete a task while still being able to hear the customer on the other end.

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  • Adding other people to the call via your call center software.

    An agent might need to loop their manager into a call if they need help with a ticket, for example, or if the customer specifically asks to speak to a manager.

Call center software is a valuable tool for organizing and managing customer calls. But without the proper technical training, these tools can become a burden to your agents. Proper technical onboarding will ensure your tools help, rather than hinder, your agents’ ability to deliver a positive customer experience.

3. Implement a shadowing program

Sometimes the most effective way to train an agent is by example. With a shadowing program, new hires can be paired with seasoned call center agents to experience first-hand how the pros handle a typical customer call.

This call center training tip can be implemented in a few ways. One method is to invite new hires to listen in on live customer calls. New hires can observe in real-time how expert agents adapt to different customers and situations. Shadowing programs also allow agents to demonstrate how they utilize call center tools and software to improve the quality and efficiency of their support.

A less involved way to implement a shadowing program is to have new hires listen to past call records that exemplify a positive customer service experience. With recordings, you can choose calls that demonstrate how to handle particular situations and problems. This allows you to target your call center training to help agents address any key weaknesses they might have.

4. Provide knowledge management tools

Make it easy for your agents to find answers to the product questions they don’t know when they’re on calls. Internal knowledge management tools like Zendesk Guide help agents quickly search for—and find—answers to common support questions.

Think of it as a comprehensive, searchable database of guides and how-tos that agents can access digitally. Rather than ask another team member for help answering a customer inquiry, agents can simply look up the answer themselves by searching for it in their knowledge management database.

And with a knowledge management tool like Zendesk Guide, agents can add additional resources to the database on the fly. This gives seasoned agents the ability to create quick how-to articles they can share with new hires struggling with specific tasks or processes.

Knowledge management tools are also helpful for support team members to connect with other areas of the company. For example, product managers may use the tool to share the latest product releases and updates with support agents so they’re ready to answer customers’ questions about new offerings.

By providing educational resources to support agents, you make it possible for them to build their knowledge and offer informed, helpful service to customers.

5. Set clear objectives

Without goals to work toward, employees can end up feeling stuck in their job with no place to go. Set clear objectives, and agents will likely feel more motivated to grow in their role.

Not sure which objectives to set? Common customer support goals revolve around the following metrics:

  • Average wait time. Remember, customers expect their calls to be picked up in five minutes or less.
  • Resolution time. This refers to how long it takes an agent to solve an open ticket.
  • Calls missed. New hires may struggle at first to navigate a busy inbound call center. Setting attainable objectives for total missed calls motivates your agents to improve their multitasking and organizational skills.

Whatever objectives you decide to set, make sure they’re attainable and measurable. For example, a goal of 0 missed calls per week is not realistic for a brand new call center agent. Unattainable objectives set new hires up for failure, which can quickly lead to decreased employee happiness and churn.

6. Give feedback

Agents won’t know if they’re on track to meet their goals unless you provide input. To offer constructive feedback, you need to understand where your agents are struggling and how they could improve. Observing calls is a great way to build these insights. Review call recordings to assess agents’ etiquette and identify strengths and weaknesses. Some call center managers create Q&A scorecards to formally evaluate agents’ calls.

Once you’ve shared areas of improvement with agents, help them grow by sharing relevant articles and educational resources to sharpen those skills. These types of resources help turn feedback into actionable advice and allow agents to hone their knowledge outside of the office.

Drive customer loyalty with these 6 call center training tips

When it comes to customer service, every detail counts—and support calls are no exception. Use the call center training tips above to teach agents the nuances of running a helpful, friendly phone conversation with customers. You’ll help agents build the skills and tools they need to make every support interaction positive — and ultimately increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

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