Contact Center Agent Training: Key to Engagement and Customer Experience

Contact Center Agent Training: Key to Engagement and Customer Experience

We’ve all heard it a hundred times before – “Happy agents make happy customers.” And it’s become a contact center mantra for good reason – a recent Gartner Survey indicated that 86% of customer experience execs point to Agent Experience (AX) as the single greatest factor impacting CSAT!

But how do you make a happy agent? Much to the chagrin of leaders everywhere, there is no fast track to effective agent engagement. It takes deliberate strategy, time and effort to create a contact center environment that champions agents and fosters high-performance – all in turn benefiting your customer experience.

Quality management and agent training are key ingredients to agent engagement. In the Agent Experience Maturity Model & Toolkit, ICMI establishes a five level framework for assessing AX Maturity in a contact center, and the most mature AX level includes ongoing agent training plans that are personalized to each agent.

So, you just need to conduct ongoing, personalized training in your contact center- easy right? The reality is contact centers don’t fall short on training for lack of care. Contact centers understand the value of training, but the execution effective agent training is typically hindered by two main issues:

  • Not enough time for agent training
  • Not focused on the skills that really matter to CX


Not enough time for agent training

When an agent first gets hired into the contact center, there is typically onboarding training that occurs. 70% of contact centers spend less than 2 months onboarding training and then send them to the wolves – I mean, customers. Even more startling, 8% of contact centers spend less than 2 weeks on onboarding.

Once onboarding is completed, however, most contact centers lose sight of the importance of training, with most contact centers only spending a couple hours a quarter (at best) on training. While this doesn’t surprise those of us who have spent time in the contact center, it is alarming when considered in another context – training for a marathon. If I were training for a marathon that takes place 6 months from now, I would start by learning the basics of running – best practices for fueling, breathing, recovery, etc. – in essence, onboarding. However, if I only ran a couple hours per month for the subsequent 5 months, I would most definitely not perform well on race day.

The same could be said for your agents – they not only need onboarding training to get them up to speed on the processes and standards of the contact center, but also regular ongoing training to ensure they stay in tip-top shape to provide superior service to your customers.

As a contact center manager, I always had the best intentions around training. I completely understood the value of training. I would set a goal around training, and even define an outline for training topics based on agent performance gaps. But then we would have a system change that would have to quickly learn… and then we would have a product recall that would cause an unexpected influx of call volume that required all hands on deck… and then we would have too many agents out sick to staff the phones while other agents attended the training. Seeing a trend here? Contact center “life” happened, and training was put on the backburner, as usual.

Not focused on skills that really matter to CX

Now don’t get me wrong, my contact center was completing some training - remember we did spend a some time up front onboarding! However, the little time actually spent training during onboarding was usually focused on skills that didn’t directly move our customer experience needle.

In my contact center the majority of onboarding time was spent on contact center processes and technologies – and this is consistent with contact center industry trends. While these skills were important to agent productivity and the ability to execute the operational job components, more time should have been spent training agents on skills that mattered to our customers – like problem solving, communication, and more.

Did our agents need to know how to initiate a product return in our order management system? Absolutely! But should they also have received training on how to deescalate the customer initiating the product return? YES! Training on the latter would arguably have had a bigger impact on our customer experience – but we never had time to train on things like emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.

So how can contact centers create more time for training, and ensure that it’s focused on the right skills? Register for our upcoming interactive CRMXchange webinar “Meaningful Agent Training for Meaningful Customer Experiences” on March 24th. I’ll share ideas on how you can improve the effectiveness of your agent training to improve your customer experience by

  • Accelerating agent onboarding
  • Training smarter with analytics
  • Pushing just-in-time training … and much more!