An Advice Column for Contact Center Managers
Spring is a busy season for implementing new contact center training initiatives. After months of planning and preparation, the excitement (and expectations) for tangible post-training results are high. What can you do to ensure your team’s hard work pays off? That’s the question our reader posed this month. Read what Dina Vance, Senior Vice President for Ulysses Learning and respected industry expert on the topic, recommends to ensure your training initiative checks all the right boxes.
Q: Our contact center is getting ready to launch a new customer service training program to help our team members deliver an improved customer experience. How have other companies been able to hold their representatives accountable for using the strategies and techniques featured in these types of programs?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
A: This is a question we get asked quite often and it’s an important one because, ultimately, you’re embarking upon a change initiative. You see, any new training program brings with it some level of change. When you can manage that change it helps you bring about the accountability you seek. Let me illustrate with a story that gets right to the heart of the opportunity in front of you.
Recently, my daughter and one of her school buddies came back from college and spent a long weekend with us. At dinner one night, we’re looking over the menu and the friend announces that her mom instructed her to go on a vegetarian diet to improve her health. I didn’t think twice about the comment until she placed her order. The restaurant offered their vegetarian option which was a platter of four, non-meat side dishes. From a long list of options, the friend selected the loaded mashed potatoes, homemade mac and cheese, sweet potato mash with honey butter and toasted marshmallows, and broccoli smothered with four cheeses over rice.
Remember, her mom’s intent was to improve her daughter’s health with the instruction to change to a vegetarian diet. Well, there was enough butter and cheese on those side dishes to send me straight to the ER!
Sadly, we are guilty of doing the exact same thing with our reps. We want to bring about a change in behavior through training, our intent is good, yet we fail to give reps useful information they really need to bring about real and lasting behavioral change. Make sure you repeatedly, before, during, and after your training launch, provide clear instruction to your reps on 1) why you want them to change the behavior (what’s in it for them), and 2) how to change the behavior effectively.
Here’s another story to bring this point home. I was onsite with a team of contact center managers who recently gave their reps the instruction to not place customers on hold. To their credit they did tell reps why customers were not to be placed on hold—because customers who are placed on hold are more likely to lose confidence in the rep and/or the company and their ability to satisfactorily handle customers’ needs.
But the managers did not instruct their reps on the how. As I toured the center, I heard reps yelling across the contact center to their peers asking questions on behalf of the customer; talking out loud while researching customer answers on their computers; and calling out for supervisors to stop by their desks for assistance—with the customer hearing all of this. Yes, customers were not put on hold, but it was sheer chaos. Worse yet, it became clear that though the intent was to create a more positive customer experience, the reps were creating something far from positive, just like my daughter’s “vegetarian” friend.
Remember, whenever you want to bring about a change, whether it’s behavioral, technological, cultural, or any type of change for that matter, you must provide clear and complete instruction. You have to give reps a compelling reason for making the change (the why) and then show them the way (the how).
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you one more piece of advice: Get your supervisors involved in your training initiative and give them the guidance they need so they can be most impactful.
Your frontline supervisors will make or break your new training program because they represent the very point where strategy meets execution. You must mobilize your supervisors to help your reps adapt and integrate the new strategies, approaches, and techniques learned in your training into your daily business operation.
No matter how good or necessary your new training program is, it represents change for your people and all change is personal. Your reps will look to you and your supervisors to understand the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the new project and the impact on them. And it’s not enough to train people and expect them to make the shift because they’re adults and that’s their job. While that is true, they need your help in guiding them through that change.
I hope this answer helps you put the pieces together to ensure that your representatives apply what they have learned in your upcoming training initiative. For more, check out additional tips we shared in a previous Challenge Solved. And thank you again for asking this relevant and relatable question!
More on this month’s featured expert…
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations
In her current capacity with Ulysses Learning, Dina is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and also serves as the chief client relationship executive, working with Fortune 100 clients and other progressive organizations to redefine the way customers are cared for. Under her leadership, Ulysses has become well known for its work in transforming customer service, sales and coaching cultures through the development of emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently and expertly applied on every call. The company has special expertise in serving the insurance, utilities and financial services industries.
Before joining Ulysses in 1999, Dina was responsible for the ground-level startup of two contact centers which led to her accepting a role as call center lead consultant and division manager for an international bank training organization.
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UlyssesLearningwas founded in 1995 as a joint venture with Northwestern University’s Learning Sciences department and continues to bring clients new, innovative enhancements to its industry-leading training. Contact centers achieve profound business results, ahead of schedule, with Ulysses Learnings’ artful blend of patented simulation-based e-learning, facilitated exercises, coaching, and tools, that redefine the way customers are cared for and transform customer service, sales, and coaching cultures. Ulysses has the only training proven to build emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently, and expertly applied on every call.
Ulysses Learning is a multi-year recipient of the Gold Stevie© Award for best contact center customer service training.