E-learning software has been around for nearly as long as the Internet, and has seen wide application in both business and higher education. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that it started seeing rapid adoption in the call center industry. Today, most enterprises are using e-learning in their contact centers, and many small to medium sized business have also discovered the many advantages it brings for improving agent performance.
These multimedia systems, which often come integrated with other contact center applications, are not only used to deliver initial training to new hires in the training room, they are also used to deliver personalized “coaching” to agents while they are sitting at their desks. With their ability to deliver short, targeted training sessions just after an agent has finished a call, today’s e-learning systems are playing an increasingly vital role in the contact center software ecosystem.
In order to truly understand what e-learning is, though, one must first differentiate between content and delivery. These are the two main elements of any e-learning solution. However, it should be noted that most vendors dealing in e-learning systems don’t offer their own content. Rather, they provide the software (and perhaps the architecture) needed for delivery. Some work with third party providers of pre-packaged training programs — and pretty much all of them provide authoring tools which let companies develop their own custom training modules. Today, most organizations are using pre-packaged Web-based content, sometimes blended with custom content, for initial training — and custom content when it’s time to deliver coaching to the agents working on the call center floor. Thus, an organization might decide to go only with pre-packaged content, develop its own content, or do a combination of both, depending on its needs.
Essential to any e-learning solution is storage and testing. Obviously, you need a place to store your content – which is why most companies now build their own “training libraries,” for the purpose of delivering on-going training on an on-demand basis. Typically, these training libraries reside on a dedicated server. In addition, the content needs to be paired with some testing tools so you can test your agents and measure their improvement. The aforementioned authoring tools round-out the basic elements of a complete call center e-learning system.
One of the main advantages today’s e-learning systems bring to the contact center is the ability to train agents faster and more effectively. Research has shown that e-learning systems, when properly blended with one-on-one, personalized training, deliver initial agent training faster and more effectively than traditional methods. With interactive multimedia presentations and expertly crafted simulations being delivered right to their desktops in the training facility, new hires can roll through their training at their own pace while getting personalized training. Those who complete modules and pass follow-up quizzes at a faster pace can progress to new levels of training and get to the floor sooner, while slower learners can go through modules at their own pace.
Testing is easier, too, as tests and quizzes are delivered and graded automatically, plus scores can be immediately viewed by the supervisor. Through increased automation, training now requires much less supervision and moves along at a faster pace.
But the more important functionality delivered by today’s e-learning systems is the “just-in-time” coaching – fast, targeted training that can be delivered directly to agent desktops. With this capability, agents can get feedback, training and testing immediately after a call, while the training is still relevant. For example, once a supervisor identifies a problem, perhaps through call monitoring or speech analytics, he can take a portion of the recorded interaction, make a sound clip of it, annotate it, attach additional files (such as a test) and then send it to the agent. Because the agent gets this coaching immediately after the call, while still in context, retention is improved.
For example, the supervisor can send a link to a training module, which comes from the initial training content, and have the agent retake the module that corresponds with the call scenario that just took place. Some e-learning software requires the agent to “accept” the training before he or she can move on (and the supervisor can see whether the agent has accepted or completed the training and/or testing). In addition, thanks to the power of IP, these systems now allow supervisors to deliver personalized training to each and every agent, regardless of location — meaning that remote agents can get the same personalized training as the agents in the main center.
Today’s e-learning systems also have the ability to drastically reduce training time. The use of “just-in-time” coaching means supervisors no longer have to shuffle agents off the center floor for training in a classroom. This can kill productivity, as many agents will consider the training session as an opportunity to “take a break.” Furthermore, this means “good” agents who are performing well don’t need to be sent off to some remote classroom to take a training session that they really don’t need.
It should be noted, though, that e-learning, as amazing as it is, is not a substitute for one-on-one, hands-on training by a live supervisor or manager. It is critical that organizations continue to use the human element when training agents on basic customer service skills, as they serve as a foundation for whatever customized training is layered on top. E-learning is not a replacement for live, hands-on training that assesses agent skill sets and teaches them “the basics” before going live on the phones.