Everything You Never Knew About Call Centre Training
Think back on every interaction you’ve ever had with a call centre. Whether someone was guiding you through a tricky customer service problem, registering your charity donation, or taking your order, chances are that some calls stand out from the rest. The very best experiences tend to be characterised by grace, speed, and a genuine sense of human connection which leaves you feeling better than before you picked up the phone. The worst…well, everyone has a call centre horror story, and these days we’re hearing more of them than ever. In a world ruled by social media, a frustrating call can be recorded, uploaded, and turned into a viral sensation in a matter of hours. People respond to these stories because they’re emotive and because they are universal. While the calls may be funny in a cringey way to the millions of people clicking the link, they really aren’t something to laugh about. They represent a betrayal of customer service for the callers, a catastrophic public relations crisis for the companies, and deep personal humiliation for the agents involved. As call centre professionals, one thing is clear: each of these recent examples could have been prevented by comprehensive, effective, and emotionally intelligent training.
“Anyone can answer a phone. It’s not that difficult.”
This is one of the most common myths about call centres, and one of the most damaging. A great call centre operator is a highly skilled professional, working with cutting edge technology in a fast-paced environment. A high level of language skills, reflective listening, negotiation and customer service go into every call, and an agent must be able to relate authentically and consistently with whoever may be at the end of the phone (all while executing complex procedures and scripts which are unique to any one of up to 400 different companies, each with their own brand voice, ethos, and priorities.) On any given day an operator may handle a huge volume of calls, and must have the ability to seamlessly switch contexts and tasks in a matter of seconds. In one call they may be required to log onto a portal to capture customer details, while in the next they’ll need to shift gears and provide an excellent, nuanced sales experience, helping the customer choose the products they want while working to raise the company’s ROI with creative, subtle upsell and cross sell tactics. It’s a demanding career that requires the combined competencies of half a dozen jobs at least. Call centre operators deserve respect for the work they do every day. They also deserve quality training programs that empower them.
At Ansaback, we have a lot to say about investing in people. It’s one of our core values, and we know it returns huge dividends to our employees, our clients, and our company. Our training has been designed to give operators everything they need to offer exceptional customer service to each and every caller, no matter what the situation. A confident, competent operator who knows how to make good decisions quickly and knows they have the support of their superiors is worth their weight in gold. This level of excellence doesn’t happen automatically, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Begin at the beginning, then plan for the future.
There is no average call centre worker. We have hundreds of operators on staff, on retainer and on contract, and each one is different. They range from young people just beginning their career all the way up to retirement age. What they do have in common is an enthusiasm for learning and the sort of soft skills that come along with a warm personality: self confidence, a great attitude, a strong work ethic, an openness to new experiences, and a strong grasp of basic communication skills. Computer literacy gives a new hire a huge leg up as they approach the sophisticated systems they’ll be working with, but as far as specialist knowledge goes, everyone arrives at the call centre as a blank slate, and we offer them total on-the-job training.
The first six months is all about learning. Each agent goes through 32 levels, each dedicated to specific skillsets. As they move through each level, we give them responsibility and experiences suited to what they’ve learned, so that they have opportunities to stretch themselves in a safe and comfortable environment. Calls are prioritised according to the training level of the operator, beginning with simple calls and working all the way up to our most complex and demanding jobs. Learning by doing keeps everyone engaged and challenged, and lets them become experts at a task before moving on. At every turn, we provide new operators with support, feedback, and a chance to review what they know already and what they’re still striving for. It’s a system that works well for everyone, and it’s a joy to watch new agents blossoming as they gain experience and confidence. Crucially, though, the process doesn’t stop there. All of our agents are given on-going training throughout their careers, to keep things fresh, hone their expertise, and ensure that they are briefed on the details and intricacies of each new client’s products, values, goals, and branding strategy.
One recent development that we’re really proud of (and that we’d love to see spread further across the industry) is participation in modern apprenticeship programs, or NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications). Talented and dedicated operators are given the opportunity to enhance their training even further with specialised courses in customer service, resulting in a prestigious, nationally recognised qualification. With a combination of mandatory and self-selected units, operators can build a personalised program of improvement, developing new skills and strengthening old ones. It’s been a hugely rewarding strategy for everyone involved, and we highly recommend it.
We delight in discovering and nurturing fresh talent, and the skills our agents gain over the course of their training will serve them well with us, but also into any future they can imagine. While many of our employees love their work here so much that they stay on for long careers, the competencies they learn with us are eminently transferable. Any future employers should be thrilled to take on someone with the deep understanding of problem solving, communication, customer service, teamwork, sales best practices, and excellent keypad skills possessed by all of our operators.
A priority investment.
If it’s not clear by now, we’re passionate about the difference that quality training makes for any call centre. It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s fanciest offices, the newest and best technology, or even the most motivated staff in the world. If you fall down on training, everything else goes to waste. You literally cannot afford to skimp on your training program. It only takes a moment to lose a customer. Establishing trust, fostering genuine customer relationships and building lasting brand loyalty is a long and challenging process. It belongs in the hands of experts, and that’s exactly what well-trained call centre operators are. Establishing and supporting a strong, informed, professional workforce is an investment that adds exceptional value at every level of business. It must not be neglected.
Our clients put their brands into our safekeeping, and we owe them consistent excellence. Their customers are busy, and deserve quick, courteous, and competent help. Call centre operators work hard to provide an ever-growing range of essential services, and they should be given all the tools they need to deliver. When a call centre fails to provide good training, they let everyone down. The client companies suffer reputational damage, the customers on the other end of the line hang up feeling disappointed and irritated, and the call centre employees are left helplessly unequipped to deal with the challenges of the job, floundering whenever the going gets tough. It’s unfair, and it’s bad business. Perhaps anyone can answer a phone, but it takes a highly trained expert to do it right.