Successful business performance relies on knowledgeable, confident people.
For a contact center, customer experience is everything—and you depend on knowledgeable, confident people to create that experience. A large contributor is effective employee training and coaching: not just a fast, impactful onboarding experience, but also a constant, ongoing learning and coaching process that develops stronger agents. The result is consistent quality customer service, improved first-call resolution and reduced appeasements—all of which directly impact your business performance. Without this, you can run some pretty significant risks: from lost customers to reputation damage or errors that could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Current Training Methods Fall Short
If you’re like most contact centers, your current training methods may not be as effective as you’d like. Here’s why:
- New-hire training is expensive and can take weeks or even months, forcing many contact centers to rush through initial training to get new recruits on the phones faster. But new recruits might not learn enough, which puts them at a higher risk of making costly errors. And for many contact centers, this can be a major driver of employee turnover and customer dissatisfaction.
- It’s difficult to take productive agents off the job for additional training. For most contact centers, the length of traditional training sessions—and even refresher sessions—makes it difficult to justify the costs of taking people off the phone for training. This means agents and support teams end up with not enough ongoing learning, which has a detrimental effect on performance and morale.
- People forget what they learned. When people attend training sessions or participate in an eLearning session, the knowledge they gain is already degrading as they leave the session—by as much as 90% within a month. Without regular reinforcement or use, people will forget most of what they’ve learned, rendering much of your formal training lost.
- Training is seen as something to be endured, not enjoyed. With multiple generations—including millennials—in the contact center, training reactions can range from bored or impatient to overwhelmed. Training courses must be recreated to appeal to audiences of all ages and to actively engage employees in the success of their own learning.
Employee Knowledge Solutions Offer New Approach
With the right employee knowledge solution in place, contact centers can, not only mitigate risk, but see concrete improvements to the bottom line. Based on the latest technology and brain science research, an employee knowledge solution will allow you to improve the effectiveness of your training. It can:
- Reduce risks associated with low knowledge or confidence.
- Improve the effectiveness of new-hire training and shorten all training sessions.
- Improve service levels, including first call-resolution.
- Reduce attrition rates by offering employees learning and growth opportunities.
- Improve customer satisfaction scores through knowledgeable and confident employees.
9 Key Elements a Knowledge Solution Should Provide
MCAP—one of Canada’s largest independent mortgage financing companies—is one example of an organization that was looking for an effective way to improve employee knowledge in its contact centers.
The company wanted to ensure that agents retained the information they received during the onboarding process, while continuing to build their expertise through additional training on new offerings as well as refresher training on information they learned previously. MCAP also wanted to find a fun way to encourage agents to participate in learning and keep them engaged. And, like most contact centers, the company wanted a solution that didn’t take people off the phones for extended periods of time.
MCAP invested in an innovative SaaS-based Employee Knowledge Platform that allowed agents to weave training into their regular workday, build their individual knowledge continually and apply it effectively on the job. The following are factors that were critical for MCAP, and similar organizations, in choosing the best training solution for their contact centers:
1. Deliver learning in manageable chunks.
One of the biggest problems with training is the need to cram as much as possible into a session to maximize available training time. But, for most people, that leads to overload. They may receive a high test score after the training event, but then they start to forget and only retain a small portion of what they learned.
“Sometimes you may not touch a procedure for a couple of months, and there’s a risk that it could be a little bit grainy when you’re trying to recall it,” says Retention Agent Lisa Iles, Mortgage Solutions, MCAP. “This is a casual, but effective way, to build that learning and build that knowledge without the stress of it being a test.”
Your employee knowledge solution should give you the ability to break learning into short, bite-sized chunks—called microlearning—which helps employees more easily absorb the knowledge, and retain it for longer periods of time.
2. Drive ongoing knowledge-building.
Your employee knowledge solution should also give you a way to create a continuous learning environment, delivering microlearning chunks to agents each and every day, in sessions as short as three to five minutes. Daily microlearning reinforces previous training, builds up knowledge over time, and keeps critical information top of mind, where agents can access it as needed.
As a service provider organization, MCAP is required to undergo annual staff certification. The traditional method was to perform manual knowledge assessments, requiring complicated scheduling to book staff off the phone for testing, a painful process for both employees and the company. “With continual microlearning, we’re now able to track employee knowledge on a monthly basis as part of their performance metrics, instead of subjecting them to annual knowledge assessments,” says Contact Center Single Family Operations Director Ian Tarrant.
3. Adapt to individual knowledge levels and learning paces.
Personalization allows you to define specific learning content for each agent based on role, knowledge needed, prior learning, and even methods of learning delivery. Adaptive learning is a sophisticated technology which ensures that agents are always progressing toward subject mastery along their own unique learning paths. It creates an evolving benchmark of an agent’s current knowledge and documented job behaviors, which allows you to deliver learning content that fills knowledge gaps, while eliminating content that the agent already knows or doesn’t need. While making learning sessions much more effective, it also reduces the time needed for new-hire or refresher training.
4. Rate employee knowledge-to-confidence.
There’s nothing more risky than an agent who’s supremely confident in incorrect knowledge. Your employee knowledge solution should give you a way of knowing whether employees are truly confident in what they know, whether they’re overconfident or if they need a confidence boost. This allows you to focus learning efforts on employees who lack confidence or lack knowledge.
“A lack of confidence in a sales person comes through on the phone, and they’re not going to make the sale,” says Shawn Zwaryczuk, MCAP’s manager of Mortgage Solutions. “When I review my agent’s learning confidence ratings, I can adapt my coaching and target any areas where they’re under- or overconfident.”
5. Offer knowledge on demand.
Agents today need far more knowledge than they can retain in their heads. The employee knowledge solution should offer a knowledge-on-demand resource that allows agents to quickly and easily search for short learning chunks on topics of immediate importance, ensuring that they can service customers without lengthy hold times. This gives you the ability to focus ongoing learning on the critical information agents need to have in their heads at all times.
6. Foster engagement and participation.
To improve employees’ engagement and participation in learning, the employee knowledge solution should make learning fun, meet employees’ needs for challenges and socialization, and service employees of all ages. To that end, it should include game interfaces that deliver learning, plus optional incentives such as leaderboards and reward points. It should also offer a collaborative learning environment using social elements such as user-generated and curated content, newsfeeds, team competitions and surveys that solicit employee input.
“We like to tease each other in a positive way here,” says Iles. “Things like, ‘I got this high score. Try and beat that!’ It really suits our culture. And you’re not just about yourself succeeding; you’re also about your peers succeeding. It fosters collaboration because nobody wants to see anybody here fail.”
7. Provide managers with visibility for coaching.
A critical element in many contact centers is the coaching function, which helps keep agents motivated and performing at peak efficiency. Your employee knowledge solution must give coaches and managers information about agent target job behaviors and current knowledge levels, helping them identify specific areas where each individual agent needs additional coaching.
8. Tie learning to behavior on the job.
With so much of your organization’s success resting on your people, it’s critical that learning initiatives directly impact the bottom line. The key to this is behaviors: what employees do each day directly impacts their ability to achieve performance objectives, and what they know directly impacts what they do. An effective employee knowledge solution should offer a way to link employee knowledge directly to on-the-job performance. It must allow you to observe and document job behaviors, link those behaviors to knowledge levels, and identify gaps in knowledge and behavior that need to be filled for improved performance.
9. Link training efforts to results.
In almost all industries, Learning & Development is increasingly challenged to demonstrate its contribution to the success of the business. Your employee knowledge solution must allow you to generate data that can directly correlate to metrics on business performance, allowing you to link learning initiatives to critical key performance indicators such as service level, first-call resolution, customer satisfaction scores, handle time and schedule adherence.
There’s no question that contact center leaders recognize the value of highly skilled employees. The key to developing knowledgeable and confident employees that contribute positively to the business is an employee knowledge solution that gives them the tools to do the job properly. As Zwaryczuk points out, “You can’t hold someone accountable if you’re not going to give them the support and training they need—because learning never stops.”