How to Train Contact Centre Agents: 13 Tips to Improve Retention

min read
How to Train Contact Centre Agents: 13 Tips to Improve Retention

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

Simultaneously, contact centre 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 centre 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 centre 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 about the importance of contact centre training and our top tips for creating an onboarding program that improves retention.

The Importance of Contact Centre Training

Contact centre training plays a pivotal role in shaping the customer experience. Providing agents with comprehensive coaching not only equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their roles but also empowers them to deliver exceptional service. This, in turn, leads to increased job satisfaction and retention rates, reducing the constant and costly cycle of recruiting and onboarding new talent. 

When agents are well-trained and confident in their abilities, they're better positioned to handle customer inquiries efficiently and effectively, ultimately resulting in happier customers who experience quicker issue resolution. In essence, call centre training is not merely an investment in agent proficiency; it's a strategic move that yields happier employees, happier customers, and significant cost savings in the long run.

13 Contact Centre Training Tips to Improve Retention

Tip 1: Provide a Comprehensive Pre-Hire Overview of the Job

The success of call centre training initiates even before an agent is onboarded, right from the hiring process. It's imperative to have a transparent and comprehensive hiring approach that not only identifies suitable candidates but also sets the stage for their future success. Clearly outlining the job's expectations, communicating day-to-day responsibilities, and helping candidates envision themselves in the role is vital. This early alignment ensures that individuals who join the call centre team are genuinely enthusiastic about their roles and understand what it entails, reducing the likelihood of mismatched expectations and early attrition. Thus, an effective hiring process acts as the foundation upon which successful training and long-term agent satisfaction are built.

Tip 2: 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 centre agents can practice their delivery and get feedback from team members so they sound polished when they hit the phones.

Tip 3: 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 centreed 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 centre 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 centre fits into their objectives, and more.

In addition, you can organise a team lunch, happy hour, or outing to help new contact centre 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 4: Highlight Your Company Culture in Your Training

Embedding your company's culture into training is essential for aligning new call centre agents with your organisation's values and goals. It's an opportunity to instill a sense of belonging and purpose from day one. Integrating cultural elements into training materials, sessions, and interactions helps new hires understand the unique identity of the company, fostering a stronger connection and sense of pride. By emphasising cultural aspects like teamwork, customer-centricity, or innovation during training, you not only prepare agents to embrace these principles but also ensure a smoother transition into the workplace, where they can actively contribute to and champion the culture. Consequently, weaving your company's culture into training is not just about instructing employees on what to do but also the ever important WHY they're doing it, resulting in a more engaged, motivated, and culturally aligned workforce.

Tip 5: Pair Each New Hire with a Mentor

Starting a new job at a contact centre 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 organisation.

Tip 6: Create a Knowledge Base for Continuous Learning

Your contact centre 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 centres 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 7: Create a Process for Dealing with Angry or Upset Callers

Dealing with irate callers is like the occasional thunderstorm in the customer service world — it's bound to happen, but with a little preparation, you won't get drenched! Creating a structured process for agents to handle angry or upset callers is as crucial as having an umbrella on a rainy day. Angry callers are an expected part of the job, and providing agents with tools, training, and guidelines on how to manage them is paramount. It ensures they feel more comfortable and capable, preventing that "thrown in the deep end" sensation. Plus, with our recent report revealing that 78% of contact centre agents deal with angry callers regularly, having a well-oiled process in place is not just about keeping the customers happy but also ensuring your agents stay sane and smiling through even the stormiest of calls! 

Tip 8: 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 centre 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 centre 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 centre 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 9: Provide Technical Onboarding

Technical onboarding is the backbone of ensuring call centre agents are well-equipped to excel in their roles. This process is not merely about introducing agents to the company's software and tools; it's about providing them with a deep understanding of how to navigate these resources effectively. Comprehensive technical training empowers agents to handle complex customer inquiries efficiently, boosting their confidence and job satisfaction. It's akin to handing them the keys to a high-performance vehicle, ensuring they can navigate the digital terrain with finesse. By prioritising technical onboarding, call centres pave the way for a more skilled and capable workforce, capable of delivering top-notch customer service while embracing the latest technological advancements in the industry.

Tip 10: 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 centres 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 11: Give Agents Their QA Scores Immediately After Calls End

In some organisations, contact centre 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 12: Coach Agents Virtually and in Real-Time

To help agents grow and advance in their careers, you need to give each of them personalised 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 13: 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 centre retention? Check out these resources:

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