Effective Strategies For Onboarding And Training Support Agents

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In today’s business environment, mediocre support sets you behind. Some businesses deal with this by hiring help desk outsourcing companies, while others try to upskill their support teams. If you fall into the latter category, how you onboard and train your agents makes all the difference to the support they offer.

Read on to learn industry secrets about making your new hires as successful as possible.

The importance of effective onboarding and training

Effective onboarding increases retention by 82% and boosts productivity by 70%. Moreover, there are other benefits to getting this process right, including:  

  • Better customer satisfaction: If you give your agents the right training, they’re better able to resolve issues quickly and effectively. This has a positive effect on customer satisfaction rates.
  • Retention and productivity: Proper onboarding and training ensure that your consultants have the skills they need to do their jobs. They are, therefore, more satisfied with their work, willing to work harder, and remain.
  • Consistency: Proper training makes sure that each agent starts with the same basic information and adopts the correct tone. This makes it easier to produce a seamless experience for your customers across the board.
  • Product knowledge: Agents need to properly understand the company’s products or services to provide accurate information and assistance to customers.
  • Problem solving: Most importantly, adequate training teaches consultants how to find the answers they need, enabling them to deal with more complex problems.

Effective onboarding strategies

Okay, now that we know why onboarding is so important, let’s look at some strategies you can employ to improve its success.

Effective Onboarding Strategies

Structured onboarding programs

In the old days, a new person was typically given a manual to read and left to their own devices. That’s not a very effective way of getting anyone up to speed because it’s boring. While the consultant learns about the products and procedures this way, they don’t really get much grounding in other important issues like the company culture.

Today’s onboarding processes involve the use of multi-media presentations that build excitement about the company and its offerings. It ensures that the consultant has a step-by-step program to follow so they feel enthusiastic rather than overwhelmed.

In many instances, companies automate this process with the use of HR management software like Bamboo. Whatever tools you use, break the information into bite-sized pieces that are interesting and give the consultant an overview of the support team's goals, responsibilities, and expectations. A well-organized program sets a positive tone for new agents.

Mentorship and shadowing

As a second part of the onboarding process, consultants might shadow an existing agents to see how things work. This allows them to get practical experience while still having someone they can ask for help.

Product and service immersion

It’s also helpful to get your agents to use the company’s products or services. This way, they go through all the same experiences your clients do, so they can offer valuable tips. Who knows, they might even pick up areas in which you can improve.

You could have them order a product online to better understand the process, for example. If you’re dealing with a product rather than a service, you can get another use out of this exercise. See if your agent is comfortable making content of them or their family using the product. User-generated content is helpful for your marketing team.

Role-specific training

Many companies fail by offering generic training rather than focusing on the specific roles and responsibilities of support agents. You need to determine which area you’ll put the agent in and tailor their training accordingly.

For example, live chat agents might need different training than phone support consultants.

Gaining experience

Give your trainee the opportunity to work through role-playing exercises. Create some common experiences and more challenging ones so that get a good range of feedback.

Provide continuous feedback in a positive manner

Focus on what they’re doing right rather than mistakes they might make. Offer constructive criticism in a nice way so that they feel supported rather than like a failure. By doing this, you create an environment in which they’re happy to ask questions.

Gradually increase their responsibilities

Another mistake managers often made in the bad old days was that they operated on a sink-or-swim approach. They’d throw the consultant in at the deep end, reasoning that they’d either make it work or leave.

Today we know that it’s better to create a more nurturing environment that allows agents to blossom. Gradually increase their workload and let them handle more as they become proficient. This makes the transition more pleasant and ensures that they feel confident, not overwhelmed.

Effective training strategies

Now let’s look at some effective training strategies to help you create a confident consultant.

Effective training strategies

Comprehensive product training

Your consultants must know your products and services inside out. Or, at the very least, know how to find the information they need at a moment’s notice. If you’re a retailer with thousands of products, it’s unreasonable to expect your agents to know everything about each product in your stable. However, if they can easily source the information they need, that’ll work.

Communication skills development

An agent must, first and foremost, be a skilled communicator. If they’re not, they can’t hope to deal with customer queries effectively, let alone de-escalate fraught interactions. Your training should focus on active listening, clear and empathetic communication, and de-escalation techniques for handling upset customers.

Problem-solving techniques

Sometimes there are problems you can’t prepare for. If you equip your agents with problem-solving strategies to tackle complex issues, they’ll be able to find a solution. Teach them how to analyze problems, identify root causes, and implement the solutions efficiently.

Role-play and scenario-based training

Role-play exercises are a useful training tool that helps your new agents and keep your existing agents on their toes. You should use this hands-on approach to allow your team to practice their skills and receive feedback.

Knowledge base and resources

You need to show the agents where to find your knowledge base, manual, and other resource. Teach them how to access the information efficiently.

Customer empathy training

Support agents must demonstrate empathy for their clients or the customer won’t feel supported. You can train agents to learn to empathize with customers by explaining different scenarios and how they may make the client feel.

You can encourage your team to picture themselves on the other side of the conversation and determine how they might feel. Belligerent customers come across as angry, but they may be so because they feel foolish. Understanding this helps your consultant to depersonalize their abuse and deal with it appropriately.

Multichannel support training

Does your support team use multiple communication channels like the phone, live chat, and emails? The approach for each is a little different so it’s important to provide your agent with the appropriate training.

You might, for example, provide short templates to use via chat and longer templates to use via email. You also need to teach your consultants that the tone of their written communication is as important as that of the spoken word. Therefore, it might be wise to incorporate business language training.

Continuous learning and skill enhancement

You should encourage your agents to continually upskill themselves. Where possible, provide in-house opportunities for them to do so to improve their satisfaction. Keeping their skills current is an asset as customer expectations and technology change.

Leveraging technology in training

Technology can be a vital asset for companies. It not only allows for the automation of much of the training process, but also allows the consultants to work at their own pace. You can then easily check on their progress.

Leveraging technology in training

Learning management systems

Learning management systems allow you to create structured training modules, track progress, and assess agent performance. They’re an easy way to make training accessible.

Interactive e-learning modules

You should develop interactive e-learning modules that engage agents with quizzes, videos, and simulations. Such content can be more engaging and effective than traditional training materials.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Why not consider further enhancing the training using VR or AR? These immersive training experiences can simulate real-world scenarios and enhance your agent’s skills.

AI-powered training

AI can identify areas where individual agents may need additional training and provide targeted resources. AI can also interact with the agent, providing them with realistic scenarios to practice.

Evaluation and assessment

It’s also important to regularly check on the agent to see how they’re doing. In some cases you may not have someone who’s the right fit, and it’s best to find this out early on. By instituting regular reviews, you can ensure that the consultant gets the support they need, and you get the information you need.

Evaluation and assessment

Regular assessments

Conducting regular assessments allows you to see how the agent is progressing. You can assess them with quizzes, mock customer interactions, or scenario-based evaluations.

Quality Assurance (QA) programs

It’s useful to implement QA programs to review recorded customer interactions and provide feedback to agents. QA programs ensure that agents adhere to company standards and policies, but should be seen as a training tool rather than a punitive measure.

Performance metrics

Finally, you can use performance metrics, such as customer satisfaction scores, response times, and issue resolution rates, to evaluate agent performance. It’s useful to provide your agents with regular feedback to enable them to course correct if necessary.

Conclusion

Effective onboarding and training take some careful planning and thought. However, the benefits outweigh the costs in terms of time and effort. Having a well-rounded, confident team that deals with your customers with aplomb is well worth spending a few days at the drafting table.

The long-term benefits include increased customer satisfaction, improved productivity, and better employee retention. Isn’t that worth the effort? 

 

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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