If you have found yourself wondering what can be done to make your communication training more effective, you are not alone. Many organizations spend days and sometimes weeks training agents how to effectively interact with customers. Yet when they hit the floor, business metrics like CSAT or NPS show all too painfully that something is wrong.
So what are the common mistakes that organizations make when it comes to rolling out communication training programs? I have listed the top 6 things that you may be missing, along with some actionable items that you can work on to address them.
1. YOU ARE HIRING POORLY
Good planning is key to good training. If you do not spend time carefully screening people or understanding the needs of the account, then rolling out training will be a shot in the dark. You may get people who are at varying skill levels – including some that may not even improve through training – and you then set yourself up for failure.
Consider one client who came to Future Perfect for help. In our week long audit, we found out that the recruiters did not know the account they were hiring for. There were also no test sets to measure the applicants’ skills. The combination of these two led to trainers frustrated over getting trainees with poor communication skills.
What to do:
Avoid this common pitfall by having a solid recruitment process and tools in place. A strong communication assessment should be valid, reliable, and practical. It should also measure the key communication skills that agents need to succeed on the job. In a study done by Future Perfect using the BUPLAS framework, we found that discourse, which is the ability to put your thoughts together clearly, and interactive skills, which is the ability to connect and manage other’s emotions, are the two skill sets that led to higher KPI scores.
2. YOU ARE TRAINING THE WRONG SKILLS
Many believe that possessing the right English proficiency level will automatically make people good agents. But this is a fallacy – if it were true, then any native speaker can take the job of a customer service agent – and we know that it’s not the case.
The thing is, proficiency does not equate with performance. Yes, you may have the building blocks such as grammar and vocabulary that can make performance possible, but this is not a guarantee. Other things that are as equally important are one’s discourse and interactive skills.
These skills do not come naturally to many people, which is why training and coaching on these skills is needed.
What to do:
Review your training program. Assess whether the topics you have selected have any impact on KPIs. If you have not yet completed any training needs analysis, now is the right time to do it. Read: Why Train? 3 Things that Simplify Training Needs Analysis.
3. YOUR APPROACH TO CULTURE IS FLAWED
More often that not, training courses focus too much attention on the superficial aspects of culture such as geography and national holidays instead of the more relevant skills related to cross-cultural communication.
As a result, agents come out of training memorizing landmarks and festivities, but are largely unaware of subtle but important cross-cultural commnication requirements such as the ability to give direct responses, or interpret silence or sarcasm correctly.
When agents are not aware that customers have a unique set of values, it is harder for them to connect with the customers and understand what they really mean. It is this deeper aspect of culture that has a bigger impact on effective communication, and therefore needs to be discussed during training.
What to do:
Instead of training on random language or culture topics that have little impact on performance, focus on intercultural communication issues that affect daily interactions and cause communication breakdown. Some common topics include sarcasm, use of silence, avoiding blame, expectations on accountability, saying “no”, etc.
Running a thorough needs analysis will help you identify which topics and skills to prioritize. Get started by downloading the 6 Step Checklist to an Effective Training Needs Analysis.
4. YOU DON’T PROVIDE SUFFICIENT PRACTICE
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 in a science course or a legal class that is highly information-driven, but in a communication course where skills are being honed, the only way to properly train is through 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.
What to do:
Follow a solid training methodology that is grounded on adult learning principles. Aside from providing sufficient practice, trainers should make the classroom learner-centered. There should also be a variety of tasks as well as plenty of opportunities for pair and group work. .
5. YOUR TRAINERS ARE NOT COMMUNICATION EXPERTS
You cannot teach what you do not know. 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 possess the skills they are teaching.
What to do:
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.
6. 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.
Or you may have tests, but instead of capturing what trainees gained from the session, it can unfairly show what they did not learn (because you did not teach or practice it, or it’s not included in the course).
What to do:
Have a look at your course objectives and exams and ask yourself: Do I test what I teach? And do I teach what I test? 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. This way, you can record data and adapt your training to where the gaps are.
We all know that communication training is essential. However, like in any learning program, it must also serve its purpose and yield business results. By keeping these top 6 mistakes in mind, you will be able to identify what you may be doing wrong within your organization so you can make the necessary adjustments.
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 free evaluation so we can help you identify the gaps within your organization and provide you actionable recommendations.