4.5 Tool kits

4.5 Tool kits

Typically, tool kits are self-paced programs consisting of a number of modules that CSRs can use to study alone or in small groups. Using workbooks and audiocassettes, a CSR can complete a module and be back on line in less than 45 minutes. In some instances, working through the exercises alone is all that's necessary; in other cases, a CSR will work with a coach or peer to obtain feedback on his or her progress. The kits include a matrix describing the specific skill or knowledge gaps each module covers. This means that a CSR's training efforts can be focused on particular area(s) of need. Tool kits are available to assist CSRs in developing and refining the following skills:

  • Effective listening

  • Overcoming language barriers

  • Preparing to take the call

  • Telephone professionalism

  • Improving voice quality

  • Asking the right questions

  • Identifying social styles and selecting strategies

  • Identifying skills and maintaining call control

  • Offering solutions and ensuring customer satisfaction

  • Emotional self-control

  • Handling difficult calls

4.6 Advanced CSR training

Longer workshops, typically lasting three days, can further develop CSR skillsets. Some recommended objectives and course content are shown next.

Objectives

  • Understand standards required for effective teamwork

  • Establish personal learning goals

  • Recognize the importance of attitude ownership on quality of contact

  • Understand why self-motivation is part of customer satisfaction

  • Acquire increased telephone professionalism and self-confidence

  • Adapt individual communication style through voice, speed, and tone to suit different customers

  • Apply active, empathetic listening with questioning techniques for a complete understanding of customer needs

  • Manage customer conversations with an assertive, action-oriented approach

  • Effectively address and satisfy a difficult or irate customer

  • Improve personal effectiveness through time and stress management

A typical course outline for a three-day advanced CSR workshop to meet these objectives should contain the following elements:

  • Teamwork

  • Personal goal setting

  • Attitude and motivation

  • Excellence in customer service

  • Meeting and exceeding customer expectations

  • Best telephone practices

  • Developing rapport through speed, articulation, tone, and modulation

  • Listening effectively using active/interactive skills

  • Managing customer conversations that go "off topic"

  • Assertiveness techniques

  • Professional phrases

  • Handling difficult customers

  • A process for handling customer complaints or difficult calls

  • Handling callers who shout, swear/threaten, use sarcasm

  • Declining with diplomacy

  • Controlling emotional reactions

  • Personal effectiveness

  • Stress-management techniques

  • Time-management skills

4.7 Training supervisory and management staff

The benefits of promoting CSRs to supervisory and management positions from within the call center have been mentioned previously. This process will be successful providing internal or external training programs are made available to these employees to assist them in following a call center career path. The primary benefits to the organization of promoting from within are that employees who have gone the CSR route know the business, customers, staff, and corporate culture. As most organizations will understand, an internal career path is a great motivator for other CSRs—particularly when support is provided to their former peers to help them succeed in their new roles. Whether or not CSRs are promoted from within, or brought in from outside the call center to fill supervisory or management positions, however, training should be made available to help these individuals perform their new roles effectively.

Leadership skills training is critical

For centers with a career development program that provides CSRs opportunities to regularly move "up the ladder," it is essential to develop a formal curriculum and time frame for supervisory training. Adapting to a supervisory or management role in an environment where the individual has been a peer to other CSRs can be a difficult transition. Supervising former fellow CSRs and becoming a team leader, instead of just a team member, is not easy for some. However, the transition needs to be made by those CSRs who want to follow a career path in call center management in order to move into supervisory or management positions. Although not every CSR will aspire to a supervisory or management position, there should be a recognized and well-established career path for those who do.

In addition to the more specific training required for call center supervisory and management personnel, additional leadership training, which includes managing tasks as well as leading people, is essential.

Personal development topics for managers and supervisors

Any supervisory training program, whether formal or informal, should include such call center management topics as forecasting, workforce management, planning and scheduling, and using technology in addition to training in basic leadership skills. The following key areas for personal development of supervisory and management personnel are recommended in a supervisory training program:

  • Customer interaction

  • Employee interaction

  • Team leadership

  • Decision making

  • Employee motivation and recognition

  • Communication

  • Systems manipulations

  • High-level problem solving

  • Company process knowledge

  • Company HR policies and procedures knowledge

  • Conflict management

  • Reports and data analysis

  • Monitoring and coaching

  • Performance-management processes

Planning the curriculum

Developing a curriculum for supervisory and management personnel is a complex task; however, when broken down into its components, it is much easier to manage. For instance, if the company has a training department, an initial step would be to request that this department collaborate with center management to develop a career-path training program for supervisors and managers. This program should be broken down into modules that allow individuals 12 to 18 months to complete the curriculum.

With the assistance of the training department, a range of topics, selected from the following list, should be included in a training program:

  • Forecasting and scheduling

  • Understanding metrics and reporting

  • Workforce management

  • Communicating with CSRs

  • Motivating CSRs

  • Customer relationship management (concept and/or technology)

Follow-up, information-sharing sessions with supervisors should be conducted to get their input. The training program should provide consistent development in all key areas of call center management, and future training needs should be considered. The curriculum must be expandable, with the capability to add new training sessions as they become necessary.

If a company does not have the training expertise in-house, there are other training resources available (see Appendix A, "Call Center Vendor Resources") as well as other methods of learning besides the training received in an instructor/student environment. Self-development learning resources include tool kits, industry conferences and seminars, Web seminars, white papers, and books.

Staff input

Once an initial training plan has been developed, consult with a team of call center managers, supervisors, CSRs, and in-house trainers, if any, and analyze the training requirements. Determine where opportunities lie and then prioritize them, based on the following guidelines:

  • Select training topics that will provide the biggest return in the quickest amount of time

  • Schedule training sessions for mutual availability of training resources and call center staff

List the top-five training opportunities for supervisors and then determine the best way to deliver the training. To test the training plan, select a pilot team to undergo the training and act as a focus group to review and modify the curriculum.

The experience of many call center managers points up the importance of defining expectations in order that CSRs can fulfill them. If they demonstrate they can do this, then it's really in the best interest of the customer, the employees, and the company to move these people into positions of more responsibility—because they've demonstrated they can do the job. They can also bring the customer's perspective with them to the supervisory or management role.

Develop clear performance guidelines

In addition to training and providing early growth opportunities, management can ensure the success of new supervisors by developing clear, consistent guidelines and expectations. These expectations should be objective and measurable and provide feedback to frontline staff on what their performance gaps are and how they can work toward closing them. Opportunities should be provided in the call center to actually develop competencies in a way that shows people are ready for additional assignments or responsibilities.

Supervisory and management workshops

Exhibits 4-6, 4-7, 4-8, 4-9, and 4-10 are recommended topics for supervisory and management workshops. The topics have been derived from workshops developed and presented by Bell Contact Centre Solutions.

Exhibit 4-6: Managing Performance (Two or Five Days)

start example

Objectives

This supervisory and management workshop addresses the following performance issues:

  • Productivity

  • Quality

  • Agent performance

  • Service levels

This workshop will prepare CSRs aspiring to move up the ladder to supervisory or management positions to apply the "best practices" of successful contact centers. It will identify the types of performance and service-level reports to focus on, and why, as well as unleash the power and potential of the center's enabling technology.

The content is the same for both workshops; however, the five-day workshop goes into more depth in each area; analyzing the data, providing training on the Excel templates for productivity and service-level management, quality call calibrations, and other topics.

end example

Exhibit 4-7: Service-Level Management (Two Days)

start example

Objectives

The objectives of this workshop are to teach supervisors and managers the following skills:

  • Using the mathematical queuing model

  • Working with key variables such as average talk time, average idle time, and average not ready time, and how they impact service levels

  • Examining incoming call load factors including: daily call volumes, cyclical call volume variations, call volumes during emergency events

  • Creating and analyzing service-level measurement charts, including daily volume and ASA trends, hours of worst abandonment rate, and ASA and staffing levels

  • Making service-level measurements that are meaningful

  • Forecasting call loads

  • Resource planning using industry-accepted Erlang C formulas and industry staffing methods

  • Scheduling staff

  • Handling customer impatience and the cost of abandoned calls

  • Managing in real time

  • Contingency planning

end example

Exhibit 4-8: Coach Development (Four Days)

start example

Objectives

The coach development workshop is designed to develop the following skills:

  • Understanding and supporting the performance model

  • Understanding measures that are indicators of behavior patterns

  • Coach to behaviors, in support of skill- and knowledge-gap analysis

  • Defining the difference between coaching to "what I heard and/or what I saw" versus coaching to metrics

  • Understanding the role of a coach—lead, support, and develop

end example

Exhibit 4-9: Monitoring, Analyzing, and Coaching (One Day)

start example

Objectives

This workshop is designed to develop monitoring and analyzing skills that can assist supervisors to manage CSRs more effectively. The following topics are included:

  • Defining, monitoring, analyzing, coaching, and performance standards within the call/contact center

  • Exploring the role and benefits of monitoring and coaching in contact centers

  • Types of call monitoring

  • The 5 Ws of call monitoring: Who, What, Where, When, and Why

  • Setting call performance standards

  • Developing a call-monitoring worksheet

  • Understanding the holistic versus tabular approach to monitoring

  • Gaining broad-based support and acceptance for call monitoring

  • Defining and creating call standards

  • Developing a call-monitoring strategy

  • Taking a process-driven approach to call analysis

  • Prescribing the appropriate action to improve call handling

  • Turning the coaching process into a positive and valuable event for both CSRs and management

  • Developing a personal monitoring and coaching action plan

end example

Exhibit 4-10: Coaching for Results (Two Days)

start example

Recommended topics in this two-day workshop will provide call center supervisors and managers with the skills and know-how to coach effectively. Five modules are included in this workshop:

Module 1: The Principles of Coaching

This module describes coaching and how it differs from mentoring, training, and counseling. The benefits of coaching and why some managers avoid it and the skills required to perform the coaching job are discussed. Examples of employee performance problems are examined.

Module 2: The Coaching Continuum

The "Coaching Continuum" is a four-step approach to coaching. The process is discussed in detail and participants role-play to solidify understanding. Role-play sessions are tape-recorded to allow participants to review and critique their work.

Module 3: Coaching One-on-One

This module discusses how to overcome resistance when employees do not want to be coached. Role-playing sessions are tape-recorded, reviewed, and critiqued by the participants. Emphasis is placed on coaching as an ongoing commitment from both the manager and employee. Learning points are reinforced through professional adult-learning-based facilitation, as well as individual and group activities. The transfer of learned skills to actual skills on the job is enhanced through a series of coaching simulation exercises. These exercises allow the participants to apply and practice their new skills within a simulated job environment.

Module 4: Essential Coaching Skills

This section of the workshop highlights the skills that are critical to a successful coaching session:

  • Listening and questioning techniques

  • How to effectively motivate employees

Module 5: Setting the Stage

The final section of the workshop describes how to introduce coaching into the participant's organization, which is applicable to a company that is just starting the coaching concept. Participants practice their newly acquired skills by applying them to their own simulated job environments through experientially based exercises, enhancing the transfer of skills learned to on-the-job performance.

end example

Monitoring and coaching guidelines

As noted previously in this handbook, monitoring is a sensitive issue with CSRs and should be carefully planned and implemented. Therefore, once the monitoring/coaching program has been designed, it needs to be discussed and agreed upon by both CSRs and management to ensure mutual understanding and acceptance.

One commonly accepted rule of thumb for monitoring is that it should be done on the basis of 10 calls per rep every two weeks. Some of the issues that need to be addressed in monitoring and coaching CSRs are

  • Why monitor? Will it identify areas for additional training, enhance individual skills, and improve quality and productivity?

  • How will monitoring be done? Will it be remote and/or side-by-side, will calls be taped, what is being monitored (voice, desktop, or both)?

  • What is being evaluated? Quality of problem resolution, tone of voice, ability to capture important detail, questioning techniques, sales and customer service skills?

  • Who will be monitoring? Manager, supervisor, trainer, peers?

  • When will it be done? Random, daily, one call per rep per day?

  • How will performance be measured? Metrics, scoring, accuracy, objective versus subjective, cumulative results rather than one-time event (unless specific coaching is required at that time)?

  • How will feedback be given? Frequency, what data, one-on-one?

  • How will personal calls be handled to ensure privacy?