Challenging Circumstances, New Approaches

Challenging Circumstances, New Approaches

Challenging Circumstances, New Approaches

Listening, focus on retention, new training methods, engagement key.

We can all agree that a lot has changed in a few years. While some of us have tried to hold on to what normal used to look like, others have embraced the new normal of either hybrid work or continuing the status quo of fully remote.

Like most of you out there, we have experienced a few challenges within a short period and had to be flexible to meet whatever gets thrown at us.

We’ve had agents leave the call center, and it’s a bit challenging to get qualified agents to fill openings. I’ve noticed that doing our best to prevent agents from leaving is key versus going through the process of hiring new agents and rolling the dice to see if they would work out in the long run.

Connecting with the Agents

Being remote currently does have its challenges, so I need to connect with each agent and identify what is going on in their lives.

I recall one agent who told me that she had to miss a day of work because she had to drive over 120 miles one way to take care of her ailing mother.

  • Another agent mentioned her car got stolen.
  • Another agent found out that her daughter was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
  • And another agent told me that she was excited about her trip to Cancun.

Each of these situations requires a different approach, and each time, we at Briljent try to do our best by providing resources that can help with the circumstances.

...we have experienced a few challenges within a short period and had to be flexible to meet whatever gets thrown at us.

Sometimes we may send a card or package to let them know that we care. Sometimes we celebrate in their excitement of taking time for themselves to get away and relax.

In an article I wrote for Contact Center Pipeline, I mentioned doing a survey every year or so, sometimes sooner than a year, to learn more about our agents. Below are the questions I send to them using MS Forms:

  1. Do you have a hobby or hobbies, and what is it?
  2. What is your favorite part of your job?
  3. Is there anything about your job that you don’t like?
  4. What are some personal goals for this year?
  5. What would you like to learn about this year (work/personal)?
  6. What is your favorite restaurant?

What I find out, I use to offer personalized rewards.

For example, a few days ago, Tasha went above and beyond to assist me with mentoring a class, so I got food delivered to her from her favorite restaurant. This year it’s Portillo’s, the last year, she liked Jaggers.

And LaToya mentioned that she would like to learn another phone line, so I spoke to the call center’s manager about including her in the next training class.

Keeping the Door Open

Now, yes, turnover does occur for many reasons, such as attendance, better prospects, the list goes on.

When I find out that the call center is hiring, I send out an email that includes the possible start of the training class, a direct link to the job posting, and details about the employee referral program.

I’ve also heard that some hiring managers join call center groups on social media and post positions. Sometimes they get a lot of interest but if the company had a negative reputation, it usually didn’t go well, where the post would be brought down within a day or two.

Some hiring managers also pay for advertisements in the form of Pay Per Clicks (PPC) or Pay Per Impressions (PPI), which targets specific audiences based on location, interest, and jobs, to name a few.

These methods can work. I’ve used PPC and PPI successfully when I had my own company in India to rank my site and content, as well as get my adverts in front of people with similar interests.

Another thing that has helped me is if an agent leaves the call center, I try my best to make sure it’s on good terms, but it’s not always the case.

However, when a good agent leaves, I always create a way for them to return and to reach out to me when they decide to do so.

So far, I’ve had two agents who left either for another job or for health reasons, but they returned and are doing amazingly well.

I remember one agent who left for more pay and also because the other position was closer to home.

As soon as she realized that the other job wasn’t what she thought it would be, she sent me a text message, so I moved heaven and earth for her to return to the call center as soon as possible. She appreciates being part of the call center and helping people.

Training Remotely

I feel the remote setting has helped us cast a wider net by allowing agents far away from the call center to apply, take part in training, and eventually assist with taking calls.

I recall doing two or three training classes a few months ago, where the agents were fully remote and from different states.

We had a sudden uptick in call volume, which wasn’t predicted, so we brought on several agents to assist with this increase.

It was a challenge to train these folks as we had to find scenarios that clicked with their life experiences, such as referencing things that were relevant to their geographical location or previous work.

Yet once these agents got onto the calls, callers were being taken care of in a timely manner and there was a considerable reduction in our dropped calls.

When they got on to the calls, they did have a lot of questions, which is understandable. But the leadership team, more specifically our call center’s team lead, did a great job of helping them through these unique call scenarios.

However, training and assistance on calls aren’t easy; motivating agents isn’t straightforward either. I’ve always been a big believer that we need to make technology work for us.

So, I create micro-learnings that cover a specific topic that can be covered within two minutes or less, interactive flow charts and images and MS PowerApps for routine processes such as call scripts, to name a few.

Keeping Agents Engaged

With regards to keeping agents engaged, I feel that if an agent is challenged to adhere to a schedule in a remote setting, it usually is the case when they are in the office.

The agent needs to be coached so that these attitudes and behaviors can be corrected and to prevent sending the message that such things are acceptable to your other agents. Remember, you as a leader gets to decide what gets tolerated in your call center.

When it comes to training, we’ve always leaned towards a hybrid approach, where we have some days of training in the office and some remote, but I’ve also taught some classes that were fully remote and entirely on-site.

Whatever the training that is presented to the team, we’ve done our best to adjust, create a curriculum, and be flexible enough whenever necessary, such as the outage of the training website to practice scenarios or moving from MS Teams to Webex to conduct class.

During training, we introduce the class to the different phone lines and recap the information using various forms of media such as video, recorded calls, whiteboard exercises, and infographics, to name a few.

Keep the class fun, add energy to your training, get to know the trainees in your class, and ensure feedback is a two-way street, where you give trainees feedback on their progress and receive feedback to keep improving your training material.

Prepare for your class: and I’m not talking about reviewing your training material before it. Clean the training room and have a backup projector, pens, notebooks, online training platforms, and any other supplies the class may need.

I recall five years ago the overhead projector stopped working, and the troubleshooting steps robbed me too much of precious time away from my class. Once the problem was resolved I was then left with a disengaged class.

...whatever you face, you're not alone...

After the information is provided, we use retention methods in the form of quizzes, games, and so on to help us remember what was taught previously. We also emphasize using the INXIX Call Center Resource site to look for information during, for the quizzes and exams and finally, when they start taking calls.

If we have a remote class, we record the session and send the recording to the trainees if the training material does not involve sensitive information such as client demographics and payment information, to name a few. Our goal is to teach and do it right the first time without violating privacy.

I believe that whatever you face, you’re not alone, ask for feedback from your team, and keep educating yourself on your industry and processes implemented by others; the list is quite extensive.

Find out how you can customize what others have done to your situation and make it work; if it doesn’t, then continuously improve it till it does.

Mark Pereira

Mark Pereira

Mark Pereira is a Trainer and On-Site Supervisor at Briljent LLC. He is a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT), Certified Customer Service Professional (CCSP), and Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT). Mark is a learning leader who applies what he learns to continuously add value to his team while also implementing proven teaching methods to improve retention while taking calls, effective coaching, engaging agents for increased productivity, and leading with empathy. Mark has a bachelor's degree in Commerce (B.Comm.), and currently lives in Indianapolis, Ind.

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