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What is the key to quality onboarding for contact center agents?

Alexandre
Alexandre Prévost Odigo Trainer, responsible for Odigo Academy

You only get one chance to make a good first impression. This rule takes on a special meaning in the world of contact centers, which is why welcoming and training new call center agents is a very important step. A quality integration prepares agents to succeed and builds loyalty accordingly. To do this, onboarding programs for contact center agents need to be smooth and efficient so that they can feel comfortable as quickly as possible.

What

Blog post co-written by Alexandre Prévost, Head Of Odigo Academy, Najate Safir & Melis Sellier, Training consultants

Onboarding refers to the welcoming and training of new contact center agents. It includes all the steps from arrival to their complete integration. Successful integration is a common project, and a necessity for any supervisor who wants to build a team for the long term. In addition, it is the first experience new contact center agents will have at your organization. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, onboarding improves a company’s retention rate by 82% if properly conducted. Company executives agree, with 98% of them considering this step a key factor in improving employee retention according to a Korn Ferry survey. On the other hand, a negative onboarding experience drives new hires to look elsewhere, including contact center agents. High turnover means high costs; to prevent this from happening to your contact center, you need to develop a solid integration strategy that prepares agents for their role and acclimates them to your company’s culture.

Share your experience, share your knowledge 

When new agents join a contact center, they must quickly find their bearings. A warm welcome is therefore an important first element for contact center agents, even before the onboarding process begins. This reduces the stress levels of new hires and allows them to begin this new step in their professional life with peace of mind. 

Starting work right away without knowing the company and its customers would not make sense. It is therefore the first point to master knowledge of the company’s history, values, product and procedures before launching into action. It is pointless for a contact center supervisor to get lost in the details in the process of preparing an onboarding program: the agent must be trained according to a general knowledge of the company before focusing on specific cases. Understanding what is at stake for the customer in terms of brand image is also part of their obligations, in much the same way as knowing security rules and how to manage  personal information. Thus, it is up to the supervisor to inform their new team from the beginning of their integration in the company so that they understand what is expected of them.
The supervisor is expected to take on the role of reassuring mentor, especially as agents are coached on taking calls. This may involve listening to the new agent’s first calls and providing feedback afterwards, but also inviting them to listen to the calls of more experienced colleagues, so that they have clear examples of good practices and subtleties of the job. The supervisor must be able to provide a quality debriefing between calls to highlight positive points, without ignoring areas for improvement. The supervisor’s understanding of this information will result in mutual trust between them and the new agent.

Building confidence and developing skills

Contact center agents often perform in isolation, which can leave new hires feeling lonely and unsure of where to turn for help after onboarding has ended. During their training, a mentoring program can reassure newcomers and help them learn about less formal aspects of the job, making them a part of the company’s culture. Mentors can also answer agents’ questions about the different processes and challenges faced by the less experienced.

A supervisor can play the role of a mentor just as well as a more experienced agent. He serves as a driving force in the learning process for new agents, as well as for the rest of their team.  Clients often have complex needs, and a new agent is not expected to understand and deal with them immediately upon arrival. In order for the new agent to be able to respond positively to future customer requests, new responsibilities must be opened up to them when general call-taking processes have been mastered. The contact center supervisor is responsible for gradually opening up the field of requests for which an agent is qualified. 

During onboarding, supervisors must give contact center agents access to specific skills. First, the development of a skill that is considered less complex is given priority, such as customer loyalty. Secondly, once this skill has been mastered, the agent can acquire more technical ones, such as invoice management. This request to take on more responsibilities must come from the agent himself once they have confidence, which is only possible when the supervisor and new team member trust each other. 

Although feelings and human relations in a team are decisive elements in the decision to give more freedom to a new agent, performance indicators such as average talking time, service quality rate and satisfaction rate are also elements to measure the maturity level of an agent. 

Onboarding continuity for contact center agents 

It’s easy to assume that once a contact center agent gets the same average stats of the rest of their team that onboarding is complete. The reality is quite different. As in any constantly evolving profession, initial training gives way to continuous training. Indeed, providing ongoing support allows new agents to start working and continue to receive help when they need it. Consideration should also be given to putting new recruits into less demanding areas that allow them to learn on the job without overwhelming them. 

The next step in the coaching phase is to add training where the focus is on key communication elements such as verbal posture, proper language, stress and conflict management. It is indeed important for them to be able to speak to customers in simple language and to be at ease with them in case of conflict. 

Perfecting onboarding for your contact center agents

In order for contact center agents to be totally at ease with their jobs, certain mistakes must be avoided, such as:  

  • Not giving the agent a chance,
  • Not challenging yourself as a supervisor if the agent fails,
  • Imposing a learning time that is too short and too intense, 
  • Thinking that at the end of the onboarding, the contact center agent will work in total autonomy.

Finally, for contact centers, conducting surveys after several weeks or months with new hires is a good way to get feedback on onboarding programs and follow up with new contact center agents. Find out what areas agents are still struggling with and suggest additional training. These surveys can also highlight areas for improvement in training modules.

Developing a quality onboarding for contact center agents sets the tone for a better agent and customer experience. It must take into account the well-being of the employee, their feeling of belonging within the company, demonstrate engagement with their workload and create a strong bond between the agent and the supervisor. Odigo is actively working with Odigo Academy to onboard contact center  agents with the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions and the necessary skills they need. To learn more, contact one of our experts.

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