Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged, according to a Gallup poll. And that’s a problem. Employees who aren’t engaged don’t stick around.
Right now, 51% of employees are considering a new job. And for every employee who leaves, you’ll lose anywhere from 16% to 213% of their salary, according to the Center for American Progress. So, improving employee retention is critical to your success. A big part of that is call center training.
Your employees love training. According to long-term research conducted by Middlesex University, 74% of workers believe that lack of training is their biggest hurdle to achieving their full work potential. In fact, employee satisfaction improves at almost the same rate as the amount of training they receive.
There’s just one problem: traditional training is boring! That’s right, we said it.
We might like training, and 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if they simply invested in helping them learn, but old-school learning environments bore us. We don’t want to sit in a room with a bunch of our coworkers and listen to someone talk at us.
According to LinkedIn, traditional training also ignores the skill that employees need most: creativity. Creativity is a critical skill for call center agents because it’s tightly linked to quality communication, problem-solving, professionalism, and gaining customer trust—all soft skills that are essential in the contact center.
So, how do you build creativity into your call center training? You take a break and have some fun by introducing training games. Games might seem trivial, but they are an exceptional way to foster teamwork, increase engagement, raise energy levels, and encourage skill retention.
Before you jump into training, break the ice. Give everyone a chance to meet everyone else—pairing up new recruits with experienced colleagues and mixing up departments. The ultimate goal is to build a cohesive team.
There are many great ice-breaking ideas that you can use. Here are a few of our favorites:
After breaking the ice, it’s important to test the listening abilities of your call center agents. The key is not to tell them that you are testing how well they listen. Instead, sneak it into the icebreaker game as a competition. The key is to ask trick questions.
For example, you could start by telling a story.
You are piloting a ferry, which leaves Janson at 9:30 a.m. with 73 people on board. It stops in Sheraton to drop off nine passengers and pick up six more. It then heads to the Boardwalk to drop off five more people and pick up 23. Finally, it arrives in Seattle one hour later. What’s the driver’s name?
Many agents will get this question wrong because they get so caught up in the minute details that they miss the very obvious answer—they are driving the ferry. This is a great chance to talk about how not to get distracted by extraneous information and to stay focused on what’s most important to the customer.
You can also play the telephone game to test listening. Have all of your agents get into a single file line. Then, whisper a “top secret” company mission in the first person’s ear. They then have to whisper that same message to the person next to them and so on and so forth. The last person says the message out loud to see how much it’s changed.
The key to making telephone a successful call center training game is to repeat the chain over and over again, trying out different methods. The goal is to find a way to transmit the information in a clear and concise way that sticks and makes sense. And then discuss how easy it is for communication to break down and what you can do as a call center agent to make sure your messages aren’t being lost or misunderstood.
Often, call center agents think that they’re better at remembering customer details than they are. Instead, they need to get into the habit of writing down pertinent information and listening deeply to ensure that they are actually internalizing all the pertinent details.
A great game to demonstrate this is “Do You Remember?” where you'll test your agent’s ability to remember key facts. In this game, divide your agents into two groups and then line them up facing each other so that each person has a partner. Then, give them two minutes to ask and answer the following questions:
Repeat the exercise for three rounds and then ask each participant to write down all the pertinent information they can remember about each person they interviewed. Once you read the results, spend some time talking about the importance of writing down details for quality customer service and only dealing with one problem at a time.
It’s important to put your call center agents into the shoes of your customers. The more they can get into the mind of the customer—whether they are deliberately rude, demanding, vague, happy, or excited—the better.
For this game, divide your agents into teams of three or four people. Then, have each group write down one “angry” customer statement and one “happy” customer statement. They should then pass these statements to the team to their left. In the second round, give teams ten minutes to come up with a response and backstory for both statements.
The idea behind the game is to help your agents come up with a reason to explain the customer’s happiness or anger and then to outline an appropriate response. This will help you find which agents demonstrate the most emotional intelligence. The more practice you give your agents when it comes to dealing with customer emotions, the better they’ll be able to identify and handle those emotions in real situations.
There are so many different call center training ideas that we don’t have time to discuss them all. However, here are a few more games to get you started.
To test your agents’ ability to ask the right types of questions, pair up your agents and have them complete a drawing test. First, have one agent draw a house. Then, have the second agent try to draw the same exact picture based only on the questions they ask. This is great soft skills training for effective questioning.
Sometimes, the best way to teach your call center agents is to show them what NOT to do. In this simple role-playing scenario, encourage your agents to respond to a customer situation in the worst way possible, and then you respond as the customer. Ask your other agents to point out the mistakes and come up with a better response.
Often, customers may not understand what a call center agent is trying to say, and so the agent must be able to rephrase their response and try again. In this game, use a transcript from a customer call and highlight 3-5 crucial words. Then, have an agent read the transcript aloud using a different word than the one highlighted. This will help them think on their feet and communicate better.
Various Ted Talks have illustrated the “build a tower” or “marshmallow challenge.” In small teams, ask your agents to build the tallest free-standing tower possible with just 30 pieces of dry pasta, one marshmallow, one meter of tape, and one piece of string. This will teach your team creativity, communication, resourcefulness, and teamwork.
Phone and online communication leave a lot to be desired. Without body language, you can miss a lot of what the customer is trying to say. A game of customer service charades will help your agents get better at communicating by demonstrating what happens when you’re missing information and then coming up with strategies to close the gap.
Call center training games can be an excellent tool for engaging your agents while also teaching them valuable soft skills, which they’ll need to effectively deliver customer service. The key is to make sure that the games you use and the call center training ideas you implement are based in reality.
One of the best ways to do this is to use insight gleaned from your agent scorecards to identify those areas where the most training is needed. For example, if you recognize that emotional intelligence is poor, do more role-playing games where identifying emotion is the main goal. If you do this, you’ll support your agents where they need the most help, which will increase agent happiness, success, and retention.
After a day of fun training activities instead of lectures, your call center agents will come back to work excited and ready to implement everything they’ve learned.