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Training Your Home Agents

What if you’re hiring new agents to work from home? You have a big decision to make. Will you train them remotely, or bring them into the office initially – or some combination thereof?

If you transition in-office agents to a work-at-home environment, chances are they’re already fully trained. All you need to do is to make sure they’re versed on equipment and connectivity, and are thoroughly familiar with the policies and procedures of your work-at-home program. But even if all your home agents started out in the office, you’ll undoubtedly need to give them additional training at some point.

Most of the companies who presented at the Remote Agent Summit last month touched on the topic of training, as it’s a critical area to a successful home agent deployment. Let’s look at what they had to say.

One large financial services company who spoke at the conference asserted that virtual training can’t consist of just PowerPoints. And, even their part-time workers are required to complete four weeks of full time training. This company retained a third party company to develop their training, and was very happy with the results – they said the engagement model was excellent. They cited one example of in-office versus virtually trained agents where a quiz question is “tell me what APR is”. With the in-office group, two people raised their hand, compared to 20 out of 20 for the home agents. (Of course, this could be partially attributed to the fact that home agents typically have higher levels of education.)

A large rental car agency presented a “would do” and “would not do” list. On the “Would do” list, they listed a technical training lab. They also recommend tracking all metrics for premise versus home-based agents. On the “would not do again” list – they advised against delivering 100% of agent training on-line. They found that agents were completing the tests and even passing them, but found a higher rate of errors and a higher drop-out rate. Exit surveys revealed that training was an issue. This finding supports the financial services company’s decision to use an outside company to develop their virtual training program!

A third company provides high-quality concierge service to high-end financial companies. They consider it essential to hire educated agents who are talented in working with their high-end customers. All 800 of their agents in NA and Europe are home-based, and 100% of their training is virtual. They use a learning management system, and have a blend of self-paced (~10%) and instructor-led training, and have no more than 15 students per instructor. Agents take assessments and when they are ready to go live, have a “soft launch”. They take a couple of live calls, during which the instructor listens in and is available via chat. Then they go back into the “classroom”. For this company, they feel instructor-led training is critical.

An agent staffing company who presented at the Remote Agent conference has put 25,000 agents into companies has also become an outsourcer at the request of some of their clients. This company has a 100% virtual training program.

The common thread I’m seeing here is companies can be successful using virtual training for their home agents – but having an instructor involved is rather important.

On a final note – I’ve found good information provided by FurstPerson, a company that helps contact centers hire and develop “the right employees.” I recently downloaded a nice white paper from FurstPerson - “Going Home – Which Road Do You take”. This paper provides well-thought-out pointers on talent assessment for remote agents.

What has worked for you? Let me know what you’ve learned and I’ll share your experience.

Kay Phelps is a solutions manager at Jabra, where she supports the contact center segment for North America. Kay has more than 15 years of experience in contact centers, ranging from systems engineering and product definition to product management and product marketing. Her areas of expertise include contact center routing, reporting and analytics as well as the agent desktop and work-at-home agents. Kay has spoken at numerous conferences and webcasts on Home Agent, and began blogging at the request of Avaya customers. more

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