How to Train Contact Center Agents: 9 Tips to Improve Retention

min read
How to Train Contact Center Agents: 9 Tips to Improve Retention

Contact centers everywhere are at an inflection point. The most recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average call center turnover rate is as high as 45% — at least twice the average turnover in other departments. 

Simultaneously, contact center managers are faced with the challenge of the remote work boom fueled by the pandemic. Even now, after lockdowns and social distancing measures have eased, as many as 60-80% of contact center agents work remotely. And experts don’t expect these numbers to decline in the future — agents have become accustomed to that sweet, sweet slippers-and-pajama-pants lifestyle. Once they’ve tasted it, why would they give it up? Returning to the office and enduring a long, bumper-to-bumper commute can feel an awful lot like this montage from SpongeBob:

Many candidates won’t apply to your company if you subject them to this kind of soul-crushing monotony. So, to attract top contact center talent, you need to support remote or hybrid work and create an onboarding strategy that works for everyone. Otherwise, top talent will go to a company that offers a more flexible work environment. 

Keep reading to learn our top tips for creating an onboarding culture that improves contact center retention.

Tip 1: Create Measurable Goals for Your Onboarding Program

The first step to improving your onboarding process is to set your goals. What are you trying to achieve? If you’re reading this article, chances are improving retention is on your mind. But what other objectives do you have? Increasing sales close rates, improving your CSI score, or reducing customer churn? It’s important to make these goals measurable; vague goals like “improving morale” are impossible to track. 

Once you’ve established your goals, you’ll need to regularly monitor your metrics and assess your progress. If you’re gaining ground on your key metrics, that means your new training program is having an impact. If not, you should tweak your training to hone in on any areas where you’re falling short. For example, if your sales numbers aren’t improving, you should create more sessions geared around closing deals. You could have your leading salespeople share their tips, or bring in an outside expert to speak. You could also host pitch workshops where new contact center agents can practice their delivery and get feedback from team members so they sound polished when they hit the phones.

Tip 2: Make Training Interactive

It’s statistically likely that your training program is a total snoozefest. In fact, 58% of companies say their onboarding program is centered on processes and paperwork. Does anyone else feel their eyelids getting heavy? To engage new employees and ensure they’re retaining your onboarding materials, you need to create an interactive training program — just giving them a stack of papers and a couple of training videos to skim won’t cut it.

A great way to engage trainees is to bring in cross-departmental speakers. This allows trainees to meet more team members and ask questions about how their role at the contact center fits into the company’s overall objectives. You could bring in senior leadership to give a company overview, HR to let agents know about the resources available to them, the customer experience team to talk about how the contact center fits into their objectives, and more.

In addition, you can organize a team lunch, happy hour, or outing to help new contact center agents form connections. Forging bonds with team members is just as important as learning about processes — when your agents feel they can rely on one another, your team will function better as a whole. This also boosts camaraderie and morale, creating a stronger workplace culture. 

Tip 3: Pair Each New Hire with a Mentor

Starting a new job at a contact center can feel isolating, since your interactions are primarily with customers, not other employees. When new employees start remotely, the problem is exacerbated, since there is no breakroom or physical space to convene in. This can create issues for new employees, as they may feel disconnected from the company culture and they may not have anyone who can answer their questions. 

To solve this issue, consider pairing every new hire with a veteran employee. This way, each new hire has someone who can answer questions about processes, challenges, and culture. The mentors can also foster growth, give support, and provide introductions to others across the organization.

Tip 4: Create a Knowledge Base for Continuous Learning

Your contact center agents shouldn’t stop learning after their initial training. To perform at their best, they need to constantly hone and refine their skills. While they will no doubt receive coaching from their managers, this may not be enough — especially if managers are responsible for dozens or even hundreds of agents. And when agents are remote, giving instruction can become more challenging. 

Many contact centers use a knowledge base to help agents develop their skill sets. The knowledge base collects all of your insights, best practices, and training materials in one web portal so that agents can log in at any time and take lessons. You can update the knowledge base anytime to give your agents access to new lessons and certifications. If there’s an area where many of your agents are falling short, you can create a tutorial around it so that your team can learn how to improve. This gives agents the ability to self-guide their education long after their initial training has concluded. 

Tip 5: Invest in Your Employees

Agent turnover is extremely expensive — a recent study found that it can cost $12,000 to replace and retrain a single entry-level employee who makes $36,000 per year. If your contact center is dealing with high attrition rates, it can greatly impact your operations and revenue. Therefore, rather than continuously replacing employees, it’s far more cost-efficient to invest in your existing employees to retain them.

A great first step to invest in your employees is to lay out their career advancement opportunities and promote from within. In many cases, contact center agents aren’t given a clear path to a promotion, and may leave after job growth remains stagnant. If you address this problem and develop a career progression plan for each position, you will give your agents something to work toward and help them see their position not as a job, but as a career.

Another great way to invest in employee retention is to offer a learning and development stipend for each employee. Your agents can then use these funds to pay for online courses, attend conferences, or take additional classes. This gives them the autonomy to advance their career and work on any areas for improvement they’ve identified. 

Finally, make sure that your contact center agents have all the right technology they need to be effective at their jobs. According to a G2 study, 52% of workers said they have become dissatisfied at work due to missing or mismatched software. Paying for the right software solutions to help your employees succeed is far more cost-effective than dealing with the aftermath of high turnover rates. 

Tip 6: QA 100% of Your Agents’ Phone Calls (Not Just a Small Sample)

One of the best ways to improve agent retention is to ensure that every team member’s performance is fairly measured — and that they’re fairly compensated for their efforts. This starts with implementing a strong quality assurance (QA) program. 

Some companies choose to listen to a small sample of their calls to perform quality assurance and score agent performance. However, this method is flawed — your quality assurance is only scratching the surface of the calls you receive. It’s probably not an accurate sample size to truly assess agent performance — you could be catching your best agents on their worst days or vice versa. Not to mention, listening to hundreds of calls and manually scoring them is tedious and extremely time-consuming.  

To solve this problem and get visibility into every phone conversation, cutting-edge call centers use conversation intelligence to automate call QA. Invoca uses AI to automatically QA every call. Call scores are based on your unique criteria, and you can set separate scorecards based on agent function — for example, you can create an AI scorecard for sales and a separate one for customer care. 

Invoca’s automated QA gives you a complete picture of agent performance which can greatly improve morale. Your agents can rest assured that the scoring process is completely fair, unbiased, and transparent. This removes the noise from the process and allows them to focus on doing their jobs and performing at their best. It also helps them to rest assured that they’re receiving the correct bonus payouts and being fairly compensated for their work.

Sample Invoca agent scorecard generated by AI

Tip 7: Give Agents Their QA Scores Immediately After Calls End

In some organizations, contact center agents don’t get regular feedback. They have to wait for weekly or even monthly one-on-ones with their managers to learn how they’ve been performing and what they can do to improve. This lag in the feedback process can allow issues to fester and can slow down agent progress. With more regular feedback, agents can correct issues before they become habits and continuously improve their performance. 

Invoca solves this problem by giving agents real-time feedback on their performance. After each call ends, Invoca gives your agents instant access to their AI-generated call scores. This gives them the autonomy to learn from their mistakes and self-coach. They’ll no longer have to wait until their next one-on-one with you to get coaching insights — they can continually improve their skills, and provide top-notch experiences that earn customer loyalty. 

Tip 8: Coach Agents Virtually and in Real-Time

To help agents grow and advance in their careers, you need to give each of them personalized coaching to reinforce their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. This process can be time-consuming, especially if you have dozens or even hundreds of agents reporting to you. 

Invoca improves the coaching process by making it easy to identify coaching opportunities within your call recordings and transcriptions. This saves you countless hours of listening to calls and allows you to focus on what’s most important — actually giving your agents feedback.

Another challenging part of the coaching process is that, as I mentioned earlier, more companies have adopted remote or hybrid working methods. This can make it harder to quickly and effectively give your agents feedback on their performance. But with Invoca, you can virtually coach your agents directly in the platform. You can highlight specific moments in the call transcriptions and @mention agents to give them feedback in real time. This allows them to see exactly where their pain points are and to easily correct issues on the fly. 

Invoca allows you to give your sales agents real-time comments on their performance

Tip 9: Collect and Act on Employee Feedback

To fine-tune your onboarding program, you should also gather feedback from your employees. Send out a survey once training is complete so you can understand which training sessions were most informative, which weren’t helpful, and if there are any areas where your new hires could still use help. You can then take this feedback and use it to improve your training, so you can create a program that makes new hires feel prepared for the job ahead.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you improve contact center retention? Check out these resources:

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