Customer Care Agent Training Programme

Designing a training program for new and experienced customer care agents

1 Overview

An on-boarding program is essential to launching and maintaining a high performing support operation. It involves identifying trainers, creating training assets, delivering the training, and testing the understanding of your agents. A training program is not just a one time activity for new agents. It requires a continuous investment to keep up with changes to your business, internal policies and customer care processes.

Key considerations:

  • Decide whether you need a dedicated training team or resource
  • Define the scope of training activities
  • Decide whether and what training activities to outsource to vendors
  • Time required to develop training materials if launching new operations

Essential resources:

  • Subject matter experts to develop your training assets
  • Trainers to deliver the training program
  • A Learning Management System (LMS) or other means of administering tests and tracking certifications

2 Creating a training team

Scale of your customer care operations across the following dimensions will determine your need for a dedicated training team or resource:

  1. Velocity - frequency of changes to your business, internal processes or systems
  2. Complexity - range of products or services requiring support by specialised skill sets
  3. Scale - number of locations supported and the need to adapt to local culture or languages
  4. Related responsibilities - complexity of managing internal knowledge bases such as troubleshooting guides and help centres

The best approach for staffing and scaling your training team is to leverage your top agent talent. Identify top performers to develop your training assets on a full or part time basis. Where possible, these agents should meet the following characteristics:

  1. Deep knowledge of your business and customer care processes
  2. Passionate about teaching and developing the capabilities of others
  3. A confident presenter with exceptional oral and written communication skills
  4. Ability to follow precise instructions and processes

As part of their role, they will have the following responsibilities:

  1. Creating new training assets and refreshing stale material
  2. Training content management
  3. Delivering training to new joiners and as needed
  4. Developing and administering tests for agent certifications
  5. Supporting ongoing learning and sharing best practices

3 Developing training assets

Begin by defining the purpose and scope of your agent training programme. This should include:

  1. Training new agents
  2. Ongoing agent development
  3. Adapting to changes in your business, policies or internal processes

Once your scope has been determined, keep the following points in mind when developing your training assets:

  1. Use standardised templates - consistent formatting looks more polished and is easier to follow by your agents

  2. Delivery method - consider the most effective medium for delivering your training (e.g. video may not work well if agents cannot easily listen to audio)

  3. Related materials - link your training to up-to-date assets, such as your knowledge base, to keep content fresh

  4. Active learning - training that requires active participation, such as processing mock customer care tickets, is more likely to stick with your agents

  5. Feedback - solicit feedback on training assets from your agents to drive continuous improvements and minimise any ambiguity in your content

4 Certifying agents

Certifications are a great way to quantify training effectiveness and provide a career progression path for your agents. They help to identify knowledge gaps, compare agent performance and identify your top talent.

When developing and implementing certifications, we recommend thinking about the following objectives:

  1. Checking the skill levels and knowledge of your agents

  2. Assessing depth of knowledge in specific topics (e.g. beginner, intermediate or advanced)

  3. Measuring agent performance in training

The scope of these certifications should be broadly defined, not just limited to product or service knowledge. It is worthwhile covering the workflows and policies that form part of your operations.

5 Delivering a training program

The final and most critical step in the training process is to effectively communicate and prepare agents for their day-to-day work. Several points to keep in mind while delivering training:

  1. Modify the delivery method (e.g. classroom, virtual or online) based on effectiveness with the target audience

  2. Track comprehension and retention throughout the training process (e.g. daily quizzes, practical task tests and verbal checks)

  3. Manage co-employment risks (where applicable) by ensuring that vendors deliver training to their own agents

At Google, we have found the “train the trainer” delivery model to be highly effective. In fact, 80% of our internal training sessions are delivered through an employee-to-employee network called “g2g” (Googler-to-Googler).

This process starts by identifying skilled resources with a passion for sharing knowledge and developing others. The next step is to enable them to effectively share their experience by deploying a “train the trainer” programme with the following components:

  1. Guidance and practical experience of delivering training sessions - provides a safe environment to develop presentation skills and confidence

  2. Approaches for soliciting feedback from training attendees, evaluating the effectiveness of training sessions and making targeted improvements

  3. Identifying gaps in agent knowledge and developing business cases for new training sessions

  4. Ability to proactively develop and deploy new training content, including a mixture of text, visual and practical components, to suit different learning styles

The “train the trainer” model ensures your training is tailored to the needs of your organisation and provides opportunities for your more experienced agents to advance their careers. More information on this approach can be found on our re:Work site.

6 Onboarding program for new agents

It is important to give special consideration to your onboarding training. This should be designed to integrate new hires within your organisation and instil your brand values. The following components should be considered:

  1. Goals - Having standardised goals on a daily and weekly basis provides a consistent basis for assessing agent performance. This allows you to make early interventions to ensure the quality and consistency of your customer care agents. It also provides a more structured career pathway for your agents, which can help to increase engagement and lower attrition levels

  2. Mock tickets - Classroom training and internal documentation are a great way to get your customer care agents up to speed. However, there is no match for hands-on-experience. Previous customer care issues should be identified and assigned as mock cases to new agents. This allows new joiners to hone their practical skills in a safe environment

  3. Supervision - Agents should be given additional support as they ramp up in their roles. This involves controlling the contact volumes they initially handle under the supervision of trainers, quality assurance specialists or other experienced agents. This helps to ensure your agents align with your brand and are comfortable using internal tools to resolve customer issues