The Benefits of Cross-Training Agents
Want higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, lower handle times, and better first call resolution? Cross-training agents is an effective way to make the most out of your workforce by having the flexibility to assign them to multiple business lines and channels. It maximizes cost savings, efficiency, and employee performance by creating more confident, well-rounded agents who can solve a variety of customer issues. But when should you cross-train, and how does that learning process differ from regular training? Here, we explain the benefits to our clients, and how we approach cross-training at itel.
Types of Cross-Training
There are various types of cross-training and the kind you engage in depends on your needs and requirements. Cross-training can be used:
- To train agents across different business lines within the same account. For example, an agent for a telecom client may start out serving landline customers and may be cross trained for wireless and/or internet support.
- To train agents to support multiple communication channels within a line of business. For instance, an agent may be cross trained to support voice, email and/or live chat.
- Optimizing operational efficiency. For example, instead of furloughing agents during off-seasons, they may be redeployed and trained to support another client account.
Reasons to Cross Train
Cross-training Creates Efficiencies
Hybrid agents can serve multiple business lines or communication channels, reducing the total headcount required to efficiently handle call volumes. Cross training maximizes an agent’s productivity and allows them to field calls from a wider variety of customers, serving a wider variety of needs. This generally reduces overall wait times, handle times and the number of transfers to other departments, which also boosts first-call resolution rates. An agent that is cross trained is also easier to schedule, because they can act in various roles and capacities, and are more readily available for shifts.
Cross-training Enhances Agent Performance
Cross-training essentially upskills agents, providing them with a much deeper understanding of the entire customer cycle journey and a client’s business line(s). With the increased level of skill comes increased confidence in their roles. These agents become more seasoned, and with greater exposure to different customer needs and issues, they become empowered problem-solvers, and are more likely to experience higher CSAT (customer satisfaction) rates, lower handle times, and more rapid career advancement within the company.
Cross-training Retains Employees
In the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry, it is common to hire talent on short term contracts to cover peak seasons. It is much more efficient to simply cross-train them to support different accounts. This provides a win-win situation. Employees are guaranteed consistent work and keep their tenure, while the customer experience provider saves on training costs and cultural retraining, thereby building a culture of retention.
Cross-training Agents at itel
At itel, all agents are assigned to only one client account. However, to maximize our skilled workforce, we will often cross-train high-performing agents to serve multiple lines within one account. For example, for a travel and hospitality client, an agent may begin in a sales/booking role, and if they meet the performance criteria, they can eventually be cross trained to serve customer care calls as well.
Instead of furloughing our best agents during low-volume seasons, we also sometimes retrain them and cross-train them to serve another client account in a non-competing industry. This allows us to retain our top talent, while saving on retraining and re-culturalization costs.
Using our rigorous 70-20-10 training model, which is a combination of in-person classes, online simulations, mentorship, on-the-job learning, and individualized virtual training modules that use gamification, we supplement our cross-training program with more hands-on learning from trainers and job-shadowing with more experienced agents.
“The benefit of cross-training agents is that they typically demonstrate a higher speed to proficiency,” explains Shurland Buchanan, itel’s Chief Learning Officer. “Because you're working with an advanced, experienced agent who better understands how they learn, and what training methods work for them, the learning curve will not be as steep, especially if they're returning to an existing account that they were on before. Both training and upskilling are reduced.”
The main benefit of cross training is obviously a more well-rounded agent with a wider set of skills, one that can be placed in several roles, as business needs demand. But the process also creates disciplined, lifelong learners, and an agent workforce that is open to new skills, new technologies, and new and innovative ways of serving customers.
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