Posts Tagged ‘Call Centers’

bananaSo what do Call Centers and Dairy Queen have in common?

I remember when I was much younger you’d make frequent trips to Dairy Queen in the summer.  What you’d find is that they’d hired lots of high school kids.  They’d all be able to make a basic cone but that’s about it.  However, there was always one kid who knew how to make everything.  So if you ordered the super banana split, you’d have to wait for the one expert.

In any call center there is always someone who knows how to do everything.  It’s not necessarily a supervisor.  So if you don’t like the answers you’re getting, my advice is to hang up and redial until you find that individual.  If you ask for a supervisor and you don’t get a good answer, redial and see if you can get a different supervisor.  I recently did this with Sprint.  After about 5 frustrating calls, I got an agent who knew the issue and how to handle it.  Plus the agent saw from my bill where I was wasting money and made some changes.  So if you’re frustrated by a call center call, think Dairy Queen.

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I’m doing more consulting these days which means we have a lot of brainstorming sessions and working through documents.  As an alternative to filling the room with unreadable flip charts, I’ve started to do all the recording of information in something like Microsoft word, projected onto a screen.

 This allows us to easily change and rearrange information, delete stuff and best of all read it.  If you’re attached to a printer, you can also continously print out copies for all attendees.

 Finally, when you’re all through you can email everyone the work from the session.

 We’ve also done this during training when teams work on case studies or other things that require a presentation to the class.  In every class there are always several people who have laptops.  The teams then create their report outs and presentation on their laptops.  Then use a flash drive to gather up all the reports so you can show then from the computer you are using to project your PowerPoint.  It’s really an upgrade from flip charts.

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What I’ve seen in most call centers is that trainers come up through the line.  The start as agents move to leads to supervisors and then to trainers.  This gives them a good background in what happens on the phones and how to talk about the technical aspects of the job.

However, few have any formal background in training and development and I’m usually surprised that they have not reached out to the training community to find out what’s going on.

 Other than reading my book, I always suggest that they start by getting involved in the major training and performance improvement associations to try and find resources and a mentor.  It’s helpful to find associations with good local chapters that you can be part of at a very minimal cost.  The two I suggest that everyone starts with are the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD.org) and the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI.org). 

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There is a lot of talk about whether talk time is a valid or useful measure in call centers.  There are good and not so good arguments on both sides.  However, in a training environment, talk time can provide some useful information.  Here’s how..

As agents become more confidence and competent there speed naturally picks up.  You can see it and hear on every call.  They navigate screens faster.  They know where to find information.  They give better advice.  They talk more naturally and fluently.  The calls of experienced agents will be faster than the calls of inexperienced agents.

During training, what I like to do is put talk times on a quality run chart.  On a control chart .   Then I look at the normal distribution of call times from experienced agents and set both upper and lower control limits.  When new agent’s talk times fit within these limits, I’m no longer concerned about talk time.  Some agents will have much higher talk times.  To me this indicates that there are areas they haven’t mastered and are therefore too slow.  A little analysis and observation can help spot these.

The trickier ones are those who are too fast.  This can mean agents may be skipping things they don’t know well or even things like blind transfers.  Again, a little watching and listening should reveal these. 

By identifying the outliers on the control chart, you can be much more focused with your coaching.

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We offering two more dates for thos who want to learn how to dramatically reducing the time it takes to ramp up new employees.  The webinar give an overview of the concepts from the Learning Paths book.  This site gives an overview of the book and the whitepaper provides some important background.

The dates are December 19th at 10 CST and January 10th at 1 CST. 

 To sign up, simply send me an email at learningpaths@gmail.com.

 For more info, you can also go to my website at www.learningpathsinternational.com

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I think one of the most interesting parts of international training is when you deal with other country’s understanding of American culture.  It’s actually rather funny.  They tend to get about 75% right and the rest is rather funny.  I remember dealing with collections in India.  In their training, they referred to people who refused to pay as credit criminals.  I had to tell them that fraud is a crime but just owing money isn’t.  We don’t have debtor prisons.  They also thought that American’s can’t wait to get on social security and live the good life.  I’d be interested in any other funny stories like this.

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This is a great video to demonstrate different levels of proficiency and how you measure proficiency versus high performance.  You also might use this analogy for something like project management.  I was mesmorized by the action.

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Test Scores

1370166.jpg   I’m often asked what should be a passing grade on a test?  Is it 65, 75, or 85%?  I think the real question should be if I don’t get 100% does it matter?  Here’s the situation.  You go to the doctor tomorrow.  You find out that he got 90% right on all his tests in medical school.  Not bad but do you have to hope you don’t have the other 10%.  How about the pilot who know 85% of everything you need to know about landing a plane?  Feel better?

If something is critical and you need to know it, than anything short of 100% isn’t good enough.  If it isn’t critical and you don’t need to know it, why is it on the test?  Maybe, so  you have enough questions.   I often see in call centers that how people do on the knowledge tests have very little to do with their performance on the job.  Partly becuase on the job you need quick recall and the ability to do two or three other things at the same time.

In many cases, I like to replace paper and pencil testing with direct observation by an expert.  They tend to know what to look for and can do the assessment very quickly.

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