If you have found yourself wondering what else can be done to make your communication training more effective, you are not alone. Many BPOs spend days and sometimes weeks training their representatives on how to understand their foreign customers on a call, and how to speak with them effectively over the phone. Yet when agents hit the floor, metrics like CSAT show all too painfully that your agents are still missing the skills they need to make it.
Below is a list of things that you may be missing:
1. YOU DID NOT PROPERLY IDENTIFY THE SKILLS THE AGENTS NEED TO FULFILL THEIR ROLES
Good planning is key to good training. If you were unable to spend careful time understanding the needs of the account, screening people at recruitment for the role will be a shot in the dark. You will then get people who will be at varying skill levels – including some that may really not be able to improve with training – and you then set yourself up for failure.
Consider one client who came to us for help. We found out that the recruiters did not have knowledge of the account they were hiring for. There were also no test sets to measure this skill, which we will discuss in one of the coming points below. The combination of these two led to frustrated trainers who were shocked to get trainees who they felt were beyond the level they could help given the training program. The trainers went on with the role – they had no choice – even though they knew it was going to be learning by mistakes for those people who were unfairly hired.
Avoid this pitfall by ensuring skill sets needed are identified through needs analysis.
2. YOUR TRAINING PERIOD IS TOO LONG OR TOO SHORT
Sometimes the problem is a matter of time. Trainers have too much to cover in 5 days, so they end up rushing the course and nothing is effectively learned in the rush. If it’s too long the same problem can happen – training gets so diluted with unnecessary activities that the focus is lost. To ensure that you have the appropriate time frame, quality and efficiency should always be at a balance. In places like call centers where quick results are often favored, it’s easy to get swayed into cutting time for training. If any moves to shorten training are in the horizon, ensure that this is carefully studied first, and piloted, so that the results can be tracked and you can see whether the time change is really effective – before rolling out the plan to the whole organization. Do the same thing if you are rolling out a new course.
3. YOUR COMMUNICATION COURSE FOCUSES PRIMARILY ON GRAMMAR AND SPIELS
Many people have the notion that if people have the right English proficiency level, then this automatically means that they will make good agents. But this is a fallacy – if this were true, then any native speaker can take the job of a customer service agent – and we know that this is not true. The truth is, proficiency does not equate with performance. Yes, you may have the building blocks that can make performance possible, but this is not a guarantee. Other things that are as equally important as having good pronunciation, a wide range of vocabulary, or accurate grammar are things like good discourse, which is the ability to put your thoughts together clearly, and interactive skills, which is the ability to connect with the other person and manage their emotions. These are the communication skills that actually impact customers more than grammar, once you reach a certain level. These skills do not come naturally to many people, which is why training on these skills is needed.
4. YOU FAIL TO TEACH CULTURE – OR TEACH IT INAPPROPRIATELY
many communication courses fail to take into account the teaching of culture. Not teaching it per se, but getting people aware of what it is, what their cultural attitudes/behaviors are, how it impacts other people, and how they can adjust or be sensitive to differences.
The truth is that many communication breakdowns may seem as if they are caused by poor grammar or word choice. When agents are pulled aside and informed about the error and how they can correct their word choice, it may be fixed temporarily but then another similar error may come up. The reason why this happens is because the errors are actually caused by deeper cultural predispositions which the other person is unaware of and not able to change. If we teach culture and the awareness of it, then agents are more likely to be sensitive when there are differences, and be empowered to adjust to these on their own.
5. YOU DON’T PROVIDE SUFFICIENT PRACTICE IN THE CLASSROOM
We’ve all been in this type of classroom – the trainer talks and talks and we listen and listen till we get bored. It may be justifiable why this can happen in a science course or a legal class where students need to learn a lot of knowledge, but in a communication course where skills are being taught, the only way to properly teach this is through giving enough opportunity to practice.
And this practice is not just done sporadically. This is strategically done to pull the learner from being able to do a few things slightly well to being able to do almost everything competently. It is progressive.
6. YOUR TRAINING IS NOT RELEVANT
Some trainers assume that just because the trainees need to undertake training that they will understand that the course is relevant to their jobs. Assuming this leads to a lazy approach to teaching where it is up to the trainees to draw the link between their needs and the realities of the training. This should not be. Appropriate and effective training is where the trainer drives the relevance of the course at every step of the training – in every activity even. People come from different backgrounds, so relevance must be made explicit and never assumed. Doing this also keeps you the trainer from just throwing in any activity there in the class – you are accountable to your class in ensuring that classroom tasks add to their learning.
7. YOUR TRAINING IS TOO MUCH OF A SPOON-FEEDING SESSION
When you provide everything to your trainees, they will not do much to take ownership of their learning. Many training sessions focus on always getting the information to the class. But in order for learning to be effective, you must also make the learner work – they must ask questions, their interests piqued, and they take steps to be part of discovering the knowledge in class – even if you have to go to great lengths to stage it. (For more information on targeted training, have a look at our coaching framework) There is a reason why puzzles and games are popular – it’s not just because participants have fun, but it is also because they become involved in the journey of finding answers.
8. YOUR TRAINERS ARE NOT COMMUNICATION EXPERTS
You cannot teach what you do not have. Nothing can be truer in the case of communication training. Yes, you can pretend to be – and many do – and this is partly the reason why there are so many mediocre courses out there. But truly effective training comes out of trainers who can impart the knowledge that they have. Trainees also get demotivated, not to mention distrusting, if they see that their trainers do not even have what they are trying to teach.
Carefully evaluate your team for their expertise. This may call for you to make changes to how you select your people, but it will most likely really encourage you to invest in developing the ones you already have. For a sample train-the-trainer course you can click here.
9. YOUR TRAINERS DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ADAPT IN THE CLASSROOM
It is no secret that each class is different, you will never have the same class again. If we have trainers that are trained too rigidly and prescriptively, then their training may be effective with one class and not the other. But what you need for every class to be effective are trainers who can think on their feet and know what to do given the situation they have at hand. The materials that the trainers are given will always be the same, but they should have both the ability and the leeway to make adjustments in order to achieve its purpose – which is ensure that the trainees learn. Your organization must be able to accommodate this.
Adapting in the classroom calls for many skills – adapting to learner styles, adapting to technical differences, adapting to age levels, to different cultures – and there are ways you can upskill your trainers in these aspects.
10. YOU DO NOT HAVE PROPER ASSESSMENTS IN PLACE
Without the right test in place, you will not know for certain the impact of your training. Without a test, your trainees may not even be motivated to learn – many want to see how they have performed and compare it with other people, it’s an adult need. Or you may have tests, but instead of it capturing what your learners gained from the session, it unfairly shows what they did not learn (because you did not teach or practice it, or it’s not even part of the course). Many badly designed tests are the culprit behind poor performance in trainees – it has bad washback on their learning.
In order to maximize your training, you must have tests that are valid, reliable, fair, and practical, so you record the right data and so you are able to adapt your training to where the gaps are and deliver results better as you go along. For more info on assessment principles, you can click here.
So is your training department guilty of any of these mistakes? What training practices do you have that you are still unsure will make an impact? Write us a note or message below. Or request for a training consultation.