It's Not Your Father's e-Learning

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Ever since the first call was taken in the first call center there has been a need for agent training. Ongoing training coupled with time and experience is the best way to ensure excellence in customer service. Traditional training usually took place in the classroom, and required the agent to leave his or her desk, usually in teams, for a specified period of time to complete the training. During these training periods, customer service generally suffered as undermanned phones meant long queues and abbreviated service. This presented a bit of a conundrum for call center managers who were required to provide training while maintaining high levels of customer service. When computer-based training (CBT) came along, training became more efficient because less time was required to complete the training and the relative success of the training could be immediately measured by computer-based tests administered at the conclusion of the training. Still, this second generation of training techniques also usually required the agent to leave her desk for the quiet of a computer classroom and the dedicated training computers. Today's third generation of contact center e-learning has turned the entire concept of agent training on its ear with unprecedented levels of efficiency and productivity, while challenging enterprisewide training systems to match its streamlined delivery and dedication to customer service. Corporate training managers are reconsidering the role of dedicated contact center training as highly innovative training techniques make agent training the envy of many organizations today. Take, for example, the concept of creating training on the fly. This technique, pioneered by Envision Inc., allows the contact center supervisor or manager to take snippets of actual calls, including the agent's screen data, and turn them into annotated training that can be pushed to all agents within minutes of the actual occurrence. Examples of excellence are shared with the entire team immediately, boosting both agent morale and customer service. This is also an excellent way for outsourcers to get information about a new campaign out to their agent teams in an effective manner. Agent training today takes place at the agent's seat, rather than in the classroom. The agent is always immediately available to log back on in the event of a spike in call volume. Workforce management software makes it much easier to schedule agent training that is not disruptive to customer service levels by looking at historical data and scheduling training breaks for agents at historically low points in call volume. Tie that workforce management software with training delivery management software, and agent training reaches new levels of efficiency. Witness Systems has always closely tied the monitoring and recording process with agent training, using agents' monitoring scores as a basis of assigning training that targets identified gaps in skills. With Witness's acquisition of Blue Pumpkin in December, it has also become the first company in the industry to offer a complete, single-brand workforce optimization solution. Its integration of workforce management with monitoring, e-learning and performance management raises the competitive bar in terms of agent training and performance efficiency. E-learning has come a long way in a short period of time, and this former poor cousin to more glamorous, high-profile technologies is emerging from the shadows and moving into the spotlight. With today's new attitude, new integrations, new market interest, and peak efficiencies, it's definitely not your father's e-learning system. Paul Stockford is chief analyst of Saddletree Research, which specializes in contact centers and customer service. Contact him at pstockford@saddletreeresearch.com
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