Call Centers: ITSM and Agent Training

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Call centers exist worldwide, serving a variety of uses (i.e., telemarketing, sales, member account management, legal services, product warranties, etc.).

Trend of pain points. Having worked in some over the past few decades, I noticed pain points that repeat themselves.

  • A cogent, efficient plan to prepare, test, deploy and support devices in a simple, efficient manner that is timely;
  • A training plan that ensures the success of new agents by day three of taking live calls.  

Factoring brand recognition of the call center operator and customer expectations, it’s reasonable to create a project charter and plan to eliminate those pain points.  A cogent approach that is prudent and useful is apply the fundamental principles of ITILv3 to ensure device performance and training outcomes by day three of taking live calls (i.e., strategy, design, implement, operations, continual service improvement (via preset metrics)). 

A module-based training curriculum that builds on itself, a teacher (trained and experienced) to train new agents to work with competency and confidence, two days of simulation classes, plus teacher and IT  support for the initial three days of taking live calls.  Device preparation and training program are carried out via a project charter per customer using project management processes (e.g., initiate, plan, execute, monitor & control, close).  (The USA has a vast number of call center operators serving mid-tiers to large caps and government entities; it’s reasonable there should be a project charter per operator to ensure performance objectives are met (per customer, per new agent)).

Business Analysis

Business Analysis is a structured process governed by the IIBA that is commonly used to create software.  Six consecutive phases and processes could be applied to improving or innovating infrastructure operations. 

  1. Planning and monitoring
  2. Elicitation and collaboration
  3. Requirements lifecycle management
  4. Strategy analysis
  5. Requirements analysis and design definition
  6. Solution evaluation

The business analyst writes a report that justifies the need for a project, the ultimate objective, and the processes and funding needed to realize the objective.  Crafting devices and function, and training of new agents, could benefit from structured business analysis, performed by a certified ECBA (note I am self-studied in all six domains).

Device Preparation

Business analysis should be carried out [in detail] to identify the functional objectives per device, connectivity to a network, applications, peripherals, and cybersecurity.  The BA’s report explains the attributes of computers (or virtual machines), cybersecurity, connectivity, software, and peripherals that enable call center agents to perform their role seamlessly.  Funding for devices should be matched to a choice of physical devices (and peripherals) and gold image (likely connecting via a VPN client), or virtual machines accessed from a browser through an asymmetric encrypted session (such as TLS).  Attributes of device makeup and configuration should be identified, prototyped, and tested in a lab (e.g., PaaS from a cloud service provider such as Azure).  Each device shipped (via a written logistics plan) should include procedures of setup and post activation-support; support processes should be limited to the helpdesk.  Support personnel should be well-versed with device setup and configuration to solve each support call the first time, expeditiously.

Completed devices or VM’s would have the following:

  • Computer: multicore CPU with sufficient clock speed, cache, front-side bus, ample RAM, peripheral ports (a mini form factor devcie can be effective and inexpensive)
  • Operating system compatible with functional needs and security
  • User account within on-prem or cloud-based IAM; dirsync as needed
  • VPN client if needed; VM’s via VDI, sessions encrypted with TLS
  • Single sign-on to productivity applications; federated authentication to external applications
  • Just-enough productivity applications to process each call
  • Folders of productivity applications and shortcuts to resources to process calls
  • A plan/procedure to test patches and automate approved patches in groups of devices

Training

A smart agent that is well-prepared is poised to perform well.  Business analysis should be carried out [in detail] to identify the business processes and procedures that enable agent staff to perform to customer expectations reliably.  The BA’s report recommends a training curriculum written and taught in modules that build on each other.  The trainer reviews content of each module at the end plus hands-on practice to prepare learners for a 10-question quiz.  (Note: Review, hands-on practice, and testing influences learning.)  Training is designed to prepare learners to be competent and productive within the first 3 days of taking live calls.  (Team supervisors are responsible to log work hours per learner and live calls until agents can self clock-in/out.)  One to two workdays should be used to show learners how to process call scenarios.  One workday provides hands-on simulation of call handling; the simulator uses principles of an online gaming app.  An additional workday of simulation builds agent competence and confidence to perform.  The online simulator provides a final exam for 30 minutes; learners receive a weighted exam score per specific domains of the role.  The score outlines strengths and weaknesses; resources are provided to shore-up weaknesses via remedial training of up to one workday.

Modules – from beginning to end – are suggested as follows:

  • Outline of employer, customer, purpose of role, work hours to serve members across geographies
  • Qualifying event(s) that create members’ account, access member account via website
  • Screenshots of software used to process calls and how they integrate with telephone
  • Glossary of terms; laws, regulations and processes associated with each customer account
  • Progression of call flow, outlining integration with phone, applications, how to document calls
  • Customer satisfaction survey per call generates performance metrics’; trends show SWOT
  • Trainer presents sample use cases of calls to educate learners on call scenarios
  • Learners observe on-screen simulation of calls to learn about call flow
  • Hands-on practice of calls via web-based simulator
  • Final exam via simulator
  • Weighted score of final exam, outlining strengths and weaknesses of domains
  • Up to 8 hours of remedial training to shore-up weaknesses

The approach above is likely to produce predictable outcomes per iteration.  A mature process is more likely to produce an expected result (because it’s been tested and refined per iteration).  If the call center operator can achieve a capability maturity index of 2 or 3 of the processes outlined above, call agents are likely to generate a reliable result.  Such results align the customer experience of performance outcomes (e.g., call handling) with the value proposition they purchased [from the call center operator].

If you’re interested in discussing the approach outlined above, please fill out the “Request a  Consultation” form at the base of the Consulting tab, write “Call Center” in the subject line, include the contact information of the executive assistant to the call center leader in the message body.  I reply within 24hrs to arrange an exploratory conference call with executive assistant.  Thanks for reading; perhaps I’ll hear from you soon. ###

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