Agent Hiring and Training

One of the most difficult tasks for a call center is recruiting and training good call agents. Since the success of any center relies on their agents, finding and keeping good ones is critical. Training is costly. Plus, while an agent is working with a new hire he or she can’t take calls and two staffers are not producing. The longer it takes to train a new agent, the more costly the process becomes. Should the new hire not work out, the process starts all over with another new agent, thereby doubling the cost.

Many vendors and industry associations recognize the problems associated with training and provide assistance for training on their systems. Here are some of them:

Telescan has recently improved their training programs by developing a computer-based training program (CBT). The CBT is a self-contained program on a CD-ROM containing two modules, with five to six lessons in each module. The lessons are logically organized starting with basic message entry and call processing, to more advanced tasks. Lessons can be reviewed separately for more advanced trainees or experienced agents who only need to update their skills. The CBT reduces training time for both the trainee and the trainer because it is a self-paced tutorial, which can be operated by the trainee without supervision. Agents can use the CBT at anytime to review lessons or train existing agents to learn techniques that are more advanced.

One of the unique features about Telescan’s CBT is that it can also help hire agents who are more qualified. Each lesson contains several assessment questions designed to test the users’ retention as they progress through the lesson. Call center managers can use this assessment to evaluate new hire candidates. A manager can determine if a candidate has the required computer skills to be an agent in 30 minutes.

The new CBT was funded by TUNe (Telescan User Network). It is included free with each new system package or can be purchased separately.

SNUG, the Startel Network Users Group, has designed a training program specific to the Startel call-processing platform, called Startel Call Answer Mode Primmer (SCAMP). Available on CD-ROM, the program is interactive, allowing for self-paced study. Scored quizzes at the end of each section allows the trainer to assess agent progress.

“SCAMP has cut our training time in half,” stated Lisa Wright, a trainer at Answer Quick in Louisville, KY. “It gives the agents a solid footing and they are better able to handle real world situations sooner.”

TUG, the Tascom User Group, representing users of Alston Tascom equipment, has similarly developed a training tool. No additional information was made available by press time.

ATSI (Association of TeleServices International) provides three generic tools which are platform and software independent. ATSI Gold Key Training Programs were developed specifically for the telemessaging and call center industry. These non-platform-specific programs address common industry training needs.

The first, “Professional Telephone Techniques” simulates person-to-person training for call center agents using CD-ROM technology, graphics, animation, and video. Working at their own pace, trainees interact with the program through self-guided exercises and examinations without the expense and inconsistency of live trainers.

The second ATSI program is entitled “Professional Telephone Techniques for Call Center TSRs.” It focuses on specific functions, such as order entry, help desk, dealer locate, call overflow, application screening, appointment setting/reservations, and lead generation/ad response.

ATSI’s third offering is “Caring In Action: Customer Care for Teleservices.” This program is divided into specific sections: general information on customer care, TSR Level, mid-management level, and owner/upper management level.

CBT programProfessional Telephone TechniquesProfessional Telephone Techniques for CallCenter TSRsCaring In ActionStartel Call Answer Mode Primmer (SCAMP)Telescan Agent Training Program
Initial cost$1265 (member); $2000 (non-member)$1265 (member); $2000 (non-member)$1265 (member); $2000 (non-member)Member: $1945, Non-Member: $2995Included with each new system purchased.
Ongoing costsNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Generic or software specific?GenericGenericGenericSpecific to StartelSpecific to Telescan software and equipment.
UpdatesNotice sent of update availability sent to all purchasers.Notice sent of update availability sent to all purchasers.Notice sent of update availability sent to all purchasers. When changes happen, the CBT will be redistributed to current users.
Is agent hiring/ employment screening included?Pre Employment Testing and Application CDsPre Employment Testing and Application CDsnonenoneAssessment questions tests the retention of the knowledge obtained in the program. An interviewer can quickly find out if a prospect has the aptitude to operate the software without the need for direct supervision.

[From Connection MagazineMay 2004]