Outsourced call center operations often rely on teams of remote call center agents working at home to service their corporate clients. Training curricula and methodologies for remote agents must take into consideration their unique circumstances and environment — you can’t simply take your existing call center training manual for in-house staff and transfer it without modification to a virtual portal.
Here are some quick tips on how you can maximize your remote call center team’s productivity, efficiency and success:
- Understand your training objectives and align them with business goals. It’s clear that you must train all your remote agents, but do you know what you want them to achieve from that training? What are the agents’ expectations from the training, and just as important, what are the company’s expectations of the training and of its newly minted agents? Are they in alignment with the company’s sales, marketing and revenue goals? All these questions must be addressed before creating the first training module.
- Involve management and existing agents. Training is often conducted by both call center supervisors and, sometimes, outside consultants, depending on the training objectives. Another invaluable training resource, however, is your existing remote agents, especially your top-performers. Include them at various points throughout the training cycle, from curriculum development to the training sessions themselves and even during call monitoring sessions. Your best agents know firsthand the challenges and unique scenarios your call center deals with day-to-day and can provide insights and training tips otherwise not obvious to those who are more removed from the nitty-gritty of answering incoming customer service calls.
- Don’t skimp on technology. One of the biggest challenges with training a remote workforce is having to rely on sometimes unpredictable technology to maintain communications and manage your team. Since you can’t just walk over to an agent’s station to monitor their progress or discuss a problem, you must be able to access the best tools to make the interaction as real-time and interactive as possible. That also means being able to use as many different tools as necessary, depending on the situation: instant messaging, video conferencing, webinars, Skype, email, social media, or even the old-fashioned telephone.
- Expand your training offerings. Most call centers provide some type of basic training to all incoming agents, whether they’re in-house or remote. The curriculum usually covers critical topics such as the history of the company, organizational charts, HR policies, customer service best practices, sales techniques, and conflict resolution/management. Make sure you also build into your training cycle sessions on the latest technologies, communication tools, and trends in the industry. Keep your agents at the cutting edge of call center and customer service best practices. Training should be a part of the remote agent’s entire career at your company.
- Expand your informal training opportunities. Outside of the formal training programs should be a plethora of informal training sessions to further enhance an agent’s knowledge base and encourage the more motivated ones to continually improve their skills. This may include agent-only forums, wikis, social networks, and mentoring and coaching programs. These may also serve as excellent breeding grounds for future leadership candidates within your company.
- Know your metrics. Scrutinize your performance metrics, not only those of your agents but also of your trainers. Time to train, time to learn and master, agent turnover, first call resolution rates, customer satisfaction scores, conversion – these are all fundamental metrics in measuring the effectiveness of your remote call center training.
- Train the trainers. Supervisors need continuing education, too, perhaps even more so than agents because of their potentially tremendous influence over agent performance, satisfaction and attrition. Management training should include lessons in mentoring, coaching and leadership, and they themselves should receive continuous support and mentorship throughout their tenure.
Remote call center operations aren’t exactly new, but many companies with remote workers are still learning how to manage and train this workforce. Now that telework and remote operations are moving into the mainstream, and more companies are beginning to embrace the high productivity and low cost benefits of remote call centers, the industry owes it to itself as well as to its agents to create innovative training programs that recognize the importance of the call center in overall business operations and success.
How do you manage the training programs for your call center workers, both in-house and/or remote? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about what to do and what not to do when training remote agents?