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Article 7 min read

Call center training: The essential guide for 2024

Call center training enhances agent development and productivity to make customers happier. Explore our guide for tips and download our training template for call centers.

Por Liz Bauer, Contributing Writer

Última actualización el July 11, 2024

What is call center training?

Call center training improves agents’ skills, customer service voice, and general abilities to handle customer inquiries and issues effectively. It often focuses on communication skills, product knowledge, phone etiquette, troubleshooting techniques, and using call center tools and systems.

More often than not, customers will base their impressions of companies on interactions with support agents. Your call center may be one of the only places your customers engage directly with your business, especially if your company operates primarily online. To ensure your agents provide good customer service, you must invest in exceptional call center training.

Both the agent experience and the customer experience (CX) are essential. Happier employees make better agents, and providing the right customer service training leads to improved customer experiences. Continue reading for 14 call center training best practices, tips for building a successful training program, and a template to streamline the process.

More in this guide:

The importance of call center training

41 percent of CX leaders agree relevant training is the best way to make agent management more strategic and improve CX.

Whether you’re starting a call center or updating your current practices, call center training can be the difference between success and failure.

Develop agent skills

Training programs are essential for honing agent call center skills. A successful program should balance soft skills like empathy and active listening with proficiency in call center tools and software. Incorporating technical skills and product knowledge into training equips agents to navigate new technologies and stay updated on industry trends.

Improve customer service

Proper call center training and call center workforce management equip agents with the necessary information and tools to solve customer problems the first time. This reduces the need for callbacks, increasing customer satisfaction and decreasing frustration. Plus, adequate enables agents to deliver excellent service and improve the customer experience.

Decrease agent turnover and churn

Call center training can decrease employee turnover and churn by providing agents with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle customer interactions effectively. When agents feel confident in their roles, they are more likely to experience job satisfaction, leading to higher morale and lower turnover rates.

Additionally, comprehensive training programs that invest in agents’ professional development and the employee experience (EX) demonstrate a commitment to their success, fostering a sense of loyalty and engagement that can contribute to long-term retention.

Boost agent productivity and efficiency

There’s nothing better than a confident, successful agent in a contact center. Agents who receive thorough call center training can handle complex situations, nuanced issues, and ticket escalations. With in-depth knowledge of a company’s products and services, training improves agent productivity and efficiency by supporting reps with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in their roles.

How to build a call center training program

Three icons represent the steps to building a call center training program.

A call center training program defines structured processes, roles, responsibilities, and software requirements call center agents must follow—whether for an inbound or outbound call center or an external BPO call center. While each call center has distinct training needs, here are three essential steps to kickstart your program.

1. Determine roles and responsibilities

Whether you’re revamping an existing call center training program or launching a new one, appointing someone to oversee it is crucial. Depending on your business size, this oversight could range from a single manager to a team of people. Establishing a RACI framework can help clarify roles and responsibilities, ensuring effective initial implementation and sustained success.

2. Create call center training materials

Your call center training materials play a critical role in the success of your program. These resources must align with your business objectives and cater to various training needs.

When developing your training materials, make sure they include:

  • Product or service knowledge: This information is foundational to employee onboarding and should cover what a business sells. Update training materials regularly as products and services evolve.
  • Internal policies: These are the company’s standards, including return policies, customer service SLAs, and other procedures that help ensure agents provide consistent support.
  • Tools and software: Ensure training materials comprehensively address best practices and resources for the software and tools agents use daily, such as your customer service solution and generative AI. This equips agents with the knowledge and skills needed to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in their roles.
  • Customer service standards and processes: These materials dive into the customer service phrases, de-escalation processes, and other standards necessary for an agent’s day-to-day.
  • Support channel best practices: For businesses offering omnichannel customer service, these materials provide in-depth training for handling customer interactions on all channels. Create training materials for every channel your agents touch, including phone, chat, email, and social media.

Consider creating written, audio, and visual elements for your materials. These training materials and resources can live in an internal knowledge base so they are easily accessible to all your employees.

3. Invest in call center WEM solutions

Workforce engagement management (WEM) tools like QA and WFM software can help you identify training needs by analyzing team performance and spotlighting knowledge gaps. For example, Zendesk WEM leverages AI to surface insights that show exactly how your team performs and highlight areas for coaching. It also enables you to factor training into agents’ schedules.

Must-have call center training materials

Several call center training materials are required to create a fully developed program. Below, we introduce three types of materials you can use with call center training programs.

Call center training template

Utilizing a call center training template accelerates the creation of an effective program compared to starting from scratch. A template typically encompasses these essential elements:

  • An overview of the program

  • Customer profiles
  • The basics of a call center

  • A guide to a business’s products and services

  • Soft and hard skills

  • A call center tech stack

  • Additional resources

We included a customizable template below to help you design a call center training program for your team.

The ultimate training template

Prepare agents for customer interactions with our call center training template.

Call center training courses

Whether you’re training an in-person, remote, or hybrid team, call center training courses are a great way to develop your team’s skills. These courses can be self-paced or regimented and may include:

  • Webinars or seminars

  • Team-building exercises

  • Role-playing

  • Quizzes or other performance indicators

Supervisors can also use courses to track agents’ training progress. If you don’t have the resources to design courses in-house, consider providing your team with a quarterly or yearly budget to cover external training expenses.

Call center training videos

Call center training videos are a cost-effective way to train agents on handling specific issues or broaching certain topics. These videos should cover everything from ticket escalations to an agent’s daily workflow. They can take many forms, including:

  • TED Talks from industry professionals

  • Internal recordings

  • YouTube videos from trusted sources

  • Whiteboard discussions

  • Animated and story-focused videos

For example, consider filming a video on how to handle an angry customer and including multiple customer service phrases or solutions your agents can use in real-life scenarios. Alternatively, you can source a pre-recorded video from an industry expert discussing the most efficient ways to answer customer questions, complete with specific examples.

14 call center training best practices

When building a training program, you need to know what to prioritize. Use these 14 call center training best practices to inform the design of your training program.

1. Leverage AI to perform call quality control

Customer service quality assurance entails evaluating customer interactions to pinpoint improvement opportunities and offer coaching to enhance agent performance, highlighting its pivotal role in call center training.

With AI-powered QA tools like Zendesk QA, you can automatically review 100 percent of your team’s interactions with customers. Additionally, Zendesk AI can generate call recordings, transcripts, and after-call summaries, which managers can reference to provide actionable coaching and identify where additional training is needed.

One-third of customer service teams use AI to select and review conversations for service quality.

2. Educate agents about your business

Your top-performing call center representatives are often those who possess a deep understanding of your business. Educate them on your internal goals, product specifics, and industry trends. Additionally, ensure they grasp your company culture, mission, vision, and core values so they can best represent your brand.

3. Teach call center etiquette

Call center etiquette isn’t inherent to everyone. However, you can teach soft skills. Educating agents on how to treat customers in a respectful, friendly manner is just as important as showing them how to use your call center software.

Prioritize practices like:

  • Communicating wait times. Teach agents to be clear about potential wait times. Frustrated customers and long queues can increase call abandonment rates.
  • Alerting customers if you are recording calls. Customers usually have no problem with the recording, but an alert is often legally required.
  • Pausing recordings when asking about sensitive information. Prioritize customer data privacy to put them at ease and help establish trust.

When you prioritize call center management best practices by training your agents in call center etiquette, you give them the tools they need to make every customer feel valued, respected, and safe.

4. Offer technical onboarding

Use training so your agents are confident and adept at using your call center tools and technology. Ensure your agents are proficient in using your call center tools through effective training to minimize technical issues that could cause unnecessary hold times. Seek out customer service software that offers comprehensive training courses, webinars, and certifications to empower your team.

Develop your team’s customer service skills by providing clear guidance on:

  • Answering calls

  • Transferring calls

  • Muting and unmuting calls

  • Referencing customer profiles during calls

  • Using AI to generate post-call summaries and transcripts

It also helps to choose software that’s easy to use and intuitively designed to minimize training timelines.

5. Implement a shadowing program

Sometimes, the most effective way to train an agent is by example. With a shadowing program, new hires and struggling agents can be paired with seasoned call center agents to observe how confident reps handle various customer interactions.

Consider implementing this best practice in one of these ways:

  1. Invite agents to listen in on live customer calls. Employees can observe how expert agents adapt to different situations and use call center tools and software to improve the quality and efficiency of their support in real time.
  2. Invite agents to listen to recorded calls. Recordings enable you to select calls that illustrate how to effectively handle specific situations and issues, pinpointing key areas where your agents can improve.

Integrating a shadowing program into your training ensures new and struggling agents learn directly from the best.

6. Promote collaboration

Promoting internal collaboration at your call center creates a supportive environment where agents can share knowledge and skills, leading to quicker resolutions and overall productivity gains.

For instance, call center software facilitates collaboration by:

  • Surfacing similar tickets within an agent’s workspace so they can learn how their teammates resolved similar issues

  • Allowing agents to share notes via Slack, email, and Microsoft Teams directly within their workspace

  • Enabling internal comments on tickets to gain teammates’ perspectives

Teamwork also promotes continued learning and encourages agents to give and receive feedback daily. It also enables agents to observe and learn new skills from other team members.

7. Build an internal help center

Establish an internal help center to make it effortless for your agents to access training resources and swiftly find answers to customer inquiries during calls. Internal knowledge management tools like help center software empower agents to locate solutions efficiently for common support queries and training needs.

This comprehensive, searchable database of guides, how-tos, and call center scripts centralizes a wealth of resources for your support team, eliminating knowledge silos. Beyond call center resources, an internal help center can also house information on various aspects of your business, such as product updates, PTO policies, and benefits.

8. Set clear objectives

During training, communicate your call center goals clearly to agents. Pair these objectives with regular coaching sessions to enhance employee engagement and boost agent performance.

Consider setting goals around common customer service metrics like:

  • Average wait time: No matter how catchy your hold music is, long wait times are less than ideal.
  • Resolution time: This refers to how long an agent takes to solve an open ticket.
  • Missed calls: Setting attainable objectives for total missed calls motivates your agents to improve their multitasking and organizational skills.

Whatever objectives you set, ensure they’re attainable and measurable. For example, a goal of 0 missed calls per week isn’t realistic for a new call center agent. Unattainable objectives set new hires up for failure, quickly leading to decreased employee happiness and increased churn.

9. Give feedback

Providing regular feedback helps agents understand their progress and areas for improvement. Quality assurance software can help you gain unbiased insights into your agents’ performance. Additionally, use call listening to pinpoint agent strengths and weaknesses so you can deliver targeted and constructive feedback. You may even consider creating a customer service scorecard to evaluate agent conversations with customers.

10. Request feedback from agents

Seek agent feedback on your training program to enhance engagement and alignment with organizational and professional goals. Their insights can highlight successes and areas for improvement, fostering an open dialogue to refine sessions effectively. Transparently communicate any constraints that may prevent specific changes to maintain trust and clarity.

11. Offer incentives

Call center training is all about agent growth, but sometimes, it takes a little extra to encourage agents to step out of their comfort zone. Consider offering prizes like company swag for reaching certain outcomes, like lowering wrap-up or average handle times. Incentives can also be commission-based, depending on your business’s pay scale.

12. Include cross-training opportunities

Providing cross-training opportunities with other teams can further develop your customer service reps’ skills. For example, pairing agents with your sales team can improve their ability to upsell and cross-sell. Meanwhile, connecting them with your product team provides additional education about your business’s offerings.

13. Allow asynchronous training

Not all teams operate simultaneously or in the same time zone. Allow agents to train asynchronously by building a knowledge base to hold call center training materials, courses, and videos. Record any in-person or remote training sessions so agents can watch them back at their convenience. This type of training also allows employees to review complex topics after initial training sessions or dive into new self-guided training topics at any time.

14. Measure training effectiveness

After developing a call center training program, evaluate its effectiveness. Use software to track call center metrics like QA scores, average talk time, average first response time, and repeat call rate.

Use your findings to identify areas for improvement and continuously update training programs. This call center training best practice should be continuous to help stop programs and agents from becoming stagnant.

Frequently asked questions

Improve agent performance with in-depth call center training

In customer service, every detail counts—support calls are no exception. You can build confident, informed support agents who understand the nuances of phone etiquette by designing a call center training program that follows best practices.

With the right call center software and WEM tools, you can keep your team running smoothly without sacrificing quality. For example, Zendesk WEM leverages AI to deliver insights that show you how your team performs and automatically highlight areas for coaching. It also enables you to factor training into agents’ schedules. As a result, you can discover knowledge and skill gaps and elevate your call center training accordingly.

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