Call Center Training – What Do Agents Need?

Guest Blogger: Mark Pereira

When I started training over a decade ago, we had these colossal training binders filled with tons of technical material, most of which we didn’t even need to know, and several pages discussed features that our project didn’t even have. Trainees would come in, and after a few days, a class of eight or ten would turn into a class of two. And after a week or two, those trainees disappeared into thin air.

I took it on as a goal to not lose a single trainee during class – either through dropouts or failing the final exam.

I knew to stop overwhelming trainees before class could start, we had to put these training binders on an aggressive dose of Hydroxycut to get them lean.

My manager was very understanding. She gave me time off the phones to remove the 86-page user manual on our customer relationship management (CRM) system and convert it into a 40-slide instructional PowerPoint presentation. The presentation listed out the steps which trainees could use to make or change plan enrollments and, lastly, document calls.

The next thing was condensing the 30 to 40-page sections on the company’s history and health insurance. To this day, I’ve never had a caller ask an agent about the history of health insurance, so the module on the history of health insurance was reduced to two slides and the history of the company to three slides.

Further, instead of having lengthy manuals that discussed each program, we had four. I converted these into PowerPoint slides – providing the class precisely what they needed to be successful on the calls. Removing information that spoke about the history of the program, demographics, and so on, emphasizing details such as eligibility criteria, time durations for enrollments, health plan choices, etc.

Next question, was it worth it? Yes, I achieved my goal of successfully reducing the size of the training binder and engaging the class to the point that they were able to transition successfully onto the calls. I created several job aids and quick reference guides (QRGs), such as guidelines to ensure Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) practices were followed on every call before protected health information (PHI) or personal identifiable information (PII) could be released. By simplifying instructions, agents clearly understand the call center’s expectations, and we were, in turn, able to reduce HIPAA violations by 80%.

The time spent covering these lengthy manuals into PowerPoint slides, QRGs, and jobs was invested into practice sessions, role-playing, and mentoring, the elements that help to value a training class.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before practicing a lean mindset while reviewing training:

  • What do we do in our call center? And do we need this?
  • Is this something that the trainee needs to know to understand what we do?
  • Is this understandable and as simple as it can get for the trainee to transfer to their job?
  • Can I make it even simpler for my class by adding examples or stories?

Suppose you have a hard time answering the above questions. Take a moment to get onto the call center floor, ask your agents and trainees questions such as the common types of calls you receive, etc. Identify how agents assist callers, what resources they find helpful, and what struggles they will face, and so on.

Call center training can sometimes be filled with information that we would like the class to know, but I’ve noticed that it should be retained or retained in small quantities only if it adds value to the educational objectives and ensures a smooth transition to what they need to know in order to be successful taking calls. 

The main goal to call center training is easy transferability from what is taught in the classroom to the agent being able to use the information on the phones. Further, introduce and educate agents on tools they can use to assist caller’s inquiries such as job aids, presentation slides, QRGs, intranet, chat, and so on. All of these steps and resources will help to reduce average handle time (AHT), hold time, agent frustration, and in turn, turnover.

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