Every contact center encounters its fair share of hurdles on the path to success. Why struggle in silence when you can face the problem head on?
Balto is here to help.
Fix-It Friday targets contact center leaders’ biggest frustrations with solution-focused content. Keep an eye out every other Friday as we tackle a new topic.
This week, we’re discussing a problem that can decrease an organization’s bandwidth and negatively impact profits: onboarding agents takes too long.
Why Does It Take So Long to Onboard Agents?
Quality conversations drive contact center success. When agents aren’t properly trained, customer experience suffers.
About 34% of agent mistakes on calls can be traced back to ineffective training or a lack of training. This being the case, it’s little wonder that contact centers understand the need to thoroughly train contact center agents, with 51% remaining in training for more than three weeks.
For sales reps, this timeline is often greatly extended. On average, it takes four and a half months for sales reps to ramp up completely; for over 40% of reps, it takes more than five months.
Some contact centers must train strict compliance standards; others need to familiarize agents with complex scripts or vast catalogs of information. Whatever the specific needs of the organization, the reality is that traditional training takes time to complete properly and poorly trained agents leave contact centers vulnerable.
Is Onboarding Really That Much of a Problem?
Average turnover rates in contact centers hover around 40%, and it’s much higher in some organizations. Because of this, leaders are forced to retrain a huge chunk of their staff every year.
Ramp time, the amount of time an agent spends in training before they start making calls on their own, is a key performance indicator (KPI) many organizations track. Because agents aren’t fully effective during onboarding, longer ramp times translate to higher costs and lower profits for contact centers.
Contact centers pay agents during onboarding, but they won’t see a return on that investment for weeks or months. On the other hand, agents can actually cost a contact center money in the long run if they’re not properly trained by creating poor customer experiences and losing opportunities.
Simply put, most contact centers understand that agents need thorough training, which can’t usually be done all that quickly. But the costs of extended onboarding periods are also a near constant concern.
So, how can contact center leaders ensure agents are properly trained without hemorrhaging money as they invest weeks or months in training?
Finding the Fix for Long Onboarding Times
Contact centers need a way to provide quality training on a shorter timeline. Although long ramp times are often considered a byproduct of effective training, there are a few ways to sidestep this connection.
1. Pair New Agents with More Experienced Ones
Sometimes referred to as nesting or buddying, allowing new agents to train with high performers can speed up the onboarding process.
Veteran agents can show new hires how to succeed in their contact centers rather than telling them. As new agents watch their mentors navigate calls, they’ll (ideally) learn how to emulate the same habits.
Although buddying agents still takes time, it’s a faster and more hands-on way to ensure new hires learn the ropes. Watching presentations or reading documents doesn’t prepare many agents for the stress of a live call, but a front-row seat may do the trick.
2. Invest in New Resources and Methods
Training is far less effective without a clear agenda and the right tools. Think critically about what resources could improve your onboarding process, even if those resources are non-traditional.
Call simulation software and e-learning courses are just a few of the tools that might prove useful for speeding up the onboarding process. But you don’t necessarily need a new tool to transform your training process.
Help agents learn faster by incorporating role play into their training. This method may feel stressful at first, but it allows them to gain experience in a low-stakes environment. With practice, this prepares agents to handle the stress of live calls.
Whatever your training method, invest the necessary time to plan a training process that will guide agents to functional independence as quickly as possible. Develop a list of tasks all new agents must complete within their first month, or design a program that helps them practice the skills that will be necessary on calls.
Make it a point to periodically explore new training resources and methods; consider the areas that seem to take agents the longest to grasp, and look for tools or techniques that target those areas.
3. Get Feedback on the Onboarding Process
Contact centers sometimes get entrenched in habit. Once an onboarding process is embedded in an organization’s muscle memory, it can be tough to change — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way to do things.
As the ones going through the training, new agents have a valuable perspective on the onboarding process. They can provide insight on efficiency, and offer suggestions on improvements.
Organizations should give agents the opportunity to provide feedback during and after their training. This supports engagement by showing agents that their insight truly matters. You can use the feedback to update training processes regularly, making them more seamless for agents and more effective for your goals.
4. Utilize Tech to Cut Ramp Time
The right contact center solutions can get agents on their feet faster and help them maintain consistently high performance.
Real-time solutions that don’t just show agents a script, but actively guide them based on the context of the conversation can give new hires the confidence to take calls faster. Plus, this kind of support makes managers more comfortable with new agents handling calls. Since there’s no need to memorize scripts or vast amounts of information, it’s easier for managers to feel comfortable setting new agents loose.
Balto’s Real-Time Guidance helps agents reach independent efficiency faster. Dynamic prompts keep new hires on track without forcing them into unnatural patterns of conversation. Whether contact centers aim for higher sales, better compliance scores, or exceptional customer service, Real-Time Guidance can help.
Balto helped UGA Finance and a multinational insurance company each cut their onboarding by two weeks on average. For UGA Finance, this means that agents who once remained in training for about a month are now ramped up in just two weeks.
Pick Your Fix; Forget Extended Onboarding Timelines
Agents need proper training before they can effectively take calls on their own. But there’s no reason onboarding should take many weeks or months, taking a bite out of contact center profits. With the right fix, agents can onboard faster and perform better.
Check back every other Friday for insight into a new topic, and reach out to email@example.com if there’s a contact center issue you’d like to learn how to fix.