If you’ve been following our training blogs, then you’ve probably noticed we talk a lot about The Chat Shop Academy (and if you aren’t following, get with the program and catch up with Part 1 and Part 2). If we’re being honest, The Chat Shop Academy is our best kept secret. Despite that, we’re here today to tell you all about it.
Familiarly known as "The Academy" amongst our team, our training program is so much more than its name. Within the first six months of its debut, The Chat Shop Academy has proven its worth company-wide. New agents and existing team members alike have all benefited, as well as our bottom line. This is what award-winning live chat training looks like.
The part about Rachel
Before The Chat Shop Academy, training new live chat agents was delivered by our Team Leaders during our years as a lean startup. While this wasn’t a bad training program, it ate up much of our team’s time. There was a lot of untapped potential when it came to good live chat training. We wanted to standardize how our new agents came to learn the skills they needed to be successful. So, how to train live chat agents? Getting the most out of our training program meant relieving our Team Leaders of some of that extra burden.
Enter our Training Coordinator, Rachel Haslam.
Our Training Coordinator joined us back in 2015 as an agent and soon moved up to Team Leader. During her time as a Team Leader, Rachel personally oversaw and trained new agents as they joined The Chat Shop. Rachel noticed that some things were much easier for new agents to grasp in the training period while more complex tasks frustrated new team members because they weren’t getting enough time learning tools. With such invaluable insight into what was and wasn’t working over the years, she knew the best approach for turning a training program from something that was getting the job done into an irreplaceable element of The Chat Shop’s award-winning services.
To give you a glimpse into her approach and how she’s seen training evolve, we sat down for a mini Q&A session with her to discover her best practices for how to train live chat agents:
Q: What inspired your creation of The Chat Shop Academy?
A: I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that first impressions count, and that someone’s first few days at a new job can really make or break their success, as well as setting their opinion of the company they work for. So, I wanted to ensure that every agent starting with The Chat Shop received the best start possible, with a whole week of onboarding training designed to give them a warm welcome while also teaching them all the basics they need to know in order to go on to be successful live chat agents.
Q: What was your biggest obstacle in creating a successful training program?
A: Honestly, myself! I had so many ideas about what I wanted to include in the Academy, but since we already knew the programme was going to be limited to a week, not everything could make the cut. In the end I gathered a lot of feedback on what our existing team thought would be most useful and used that to decide what would make it into the final week. Although saying goodbye to some of my favourite ideas was really difficult!
Q: We’re seeing greater success, more preparedness, shorter onboarding times, and greater retention from new agents who go through The Chat Shop Academy. Why is that?
A: Working as a live chat agent isn’t something that most people will have experience with, and neither is working from home. Starting work at The Chat Shop means picking up a whole new skillset, and a new way of working. I believe that giving people a whole week in which to learn the basics, ask as many questions as they need to and practice in an environment where they can hone their skills while not having to worry about making mistakes instills a sense of confidence in new agents. This confidence removes the nerves they would otherwise have had during their client training and the go live process, allowing them to perform to the best of their ability!
Q: What’s the future of The Chat Shop Academy?
A: We’re always looking to refine and improve the Academy based on the feedback from new agents. One of the most exciting improvements we’re working on currently is “top up” modules for agents who want to gain a little more confidence in a particular area. So rather than the same 5 standard days of training for everyone, agents who want a little more practice in one aspect of chat will be able to tack that on to the end of their Academy before moving forward in the training process. Greater flexibility in the training delivered means every agent will move on in their role with the tools they need to be a great chat agent!
So what came first; our award-winning team or our successful training program? While that’s a philosophical question we’d love to debate, we owe a large part of our continued success to the tools and ideologies that The Chat Shop Academy employs.
The part about good live chat agent training programs
There are obstacles that make creating a good remote live chat training program hard. When Rachel set out to create The Chat Shop Academy, she not only had to take these obstacles into account, but she had to find ways to improve them without compromising what was already working well:
- Teaching administrative duties and company policy
- Teaching basic skills and turning new agents into experts
- Program structure versus reasonable expectations of new agent growth
The part about The Chat Shop Academy
It might be a little hard to see exactly how The Chat Shop Academy provides new agents with a solid foundation for being a Live Chat Agent. Over their first 26 working hours, new agents learn The Chat Shop’s background, the expectations and administrative duties of their role, system utilization, chat processes, and how to balance three chats while effectively navigating a Knowledge Base.
You read that right. All of those areas are taught and learned in just 26 hours over a 5-day period.
On paper, that may seem shocking. For a new agent, however, the structure of The Chat Shop Academy is something they can rely on to project their growth. There isn’t a single minute that isn’t used to set them up to succeed in their role. It is a mindful, elevated training program that balances self-led learning with collaborative group sessions. Every piece has been intentionally structured to produce successful, well-practiced live chat agents.
The real magic, though, is in how The Chat Shop Academy counters those obstacles we mentioned above and paves the way for an agent’s future successes.
Teaching Administrative Duties and Company Policy Company policy, procedure, and administrative tasks aren’t sexy. They’re especially not sexy compared to live chatting. Because of that, this information tends to either overshadow the importance of other role-related learning or be glossed over and forgotten as soon as training is complete.
The Chat Shop Academy, however, shows a new agent the how vital it these things are to their role on the first day. In order to focus on its importance but make it relevant to the rest of a new agent’s time in training, our administrative duties and company policy are taught with the two objectives in mind:
- Introduce new agents to training material and The Chat Shop Academy, as well as the other agents they will be training with.
- Familiarize new agents with The Chat Shop training software.
Instead of handing our new agents a company handbook and hoping they pay attention to the important parts, the information we need them to retain is presented in and tested on in the exact same format as the rest of their role-related training.
Teaching Basic Skills and Turning New Agents into Experts Maybe you’ve worked in a cafe and know how hard it is to learn to make drinks while people order them. The trick is to learn the standard recipe first, then introduce customers and their preferences after you’ve mastered the basics.
Good live chat training requires the exact same approach. Without teaching an agent what a “basic” chat looks like and how to handle it, you cannot set them up for success when handling more complex situations. The Chat Shop Academy takes logical training steps that increase in difficulty in order to cover a few objectives vital to a new agent’s success:
- Understand what the goal on chat is and what information an agent needs to get there.
- Effectively navigate a Knowledge Base.
- Demonstrate the ability to uphold The Chat Shop standards in one, two, and three concurrent chats.
Program Structure versus Reasonable Expectations of New Agent Growth There is an ongoing battle when it comes to learning. If you over-standardize everything, some people won’t retain a thing. If you lack any sort of standardization, however, then it’s a lot harder to measure growth and learning. Finding a balance between the structure of your training program and the growth of your new agents isn’t easy. It can often mean increasing your training expenditure (in money and time) for some agents and not others. In order for your training program to benefit your bottom line, you have to see consistency from the people who go through your training.
The Chat Shop Academy tackles this obstacle head on by setting attainable milestones and walking new agents through them. During each lesson, new agents are introduced to and taught the objectives they are expected to retain. Before moving on to training quizzes or tests, objectives are reviewed and clarified.
The result? A training program that doesn’t waste time. The Chat Shop Academy shows we’ve invested in a human asset and helps a new team member know if the role is the right fit:
- Clear, measurable objectives show us if a new agent is failing to reach milestones that are essential to their role.
- Ongoing feedback and open communication between agent and trainer allow either person to ask for or offer further clarification/help if an objective is proving to be difficult.
The part where we recap
If you’ve taken anything from reading about The Chat Shop Academy, we hope it’s this: that old cliche about Rome not being built in a day rings true for good live chat training programs as well. If not for the trials, errors, successes and - okay, we’ll say it - flaws of our previous training program, The Chat Shop Academy wouldn’t be what it is today. We owe a lot of that to Rachel and the new agents who have proven week after week that The Chat Shop Academy is the definition of a good great live chat training program.
But don’t take our word for it. Take theirs:
“With the Multi-Client Academy, things were totally different than when I first joined The Chat Shop. My original team was a dedicated client, so I was used to covering one client per shift. By the end of my week in The Chat Shop Academy, I felt fully ready and capable of dealing with a multi-client team whilst live on chat. The training left no stone unturned, we were given step-by-step guidance and support that went above and beyond from beginning to end. I can't speak highly enough of it."
- David O'Neill, Chat Agent since September 2017
“I think the Academy week is a great idea, I feel that it calmed my nerves a lot and it was a great introduction to not only the company, but to live chat as well. I also think it gave me time to settle in before I started client training and I appreciated the pace of it."
-Victoria Lamb, Chat Agent since March 2018
“I'd say overall that The Academy was an excellent experience, and I felt so much more prepared after going through the academy week! We went over everything I wanted to know, and my instructor (Megan) was very helpful and supportive. I felt very welcomed when I was introduced to my team, too. I really appreciated how we were gradually introduced to each step (one concurrent, two concurrent, etc.) and how that's carried over into training even after academy week.”
-Brianne Frisco, Chat Agent since March 2018
“The Academy was honestly really interesting, and the entire process was done in such a way to not feel like it was a 'pass or fail.’ It felt more like learning how things go naturally, rather than being forced to cram things. It really helps that it does emphasis The Chat Shop's values so everyone is supportive of everyone else during it, and no one is afraid to ask questions.”
-Derek Gunnels, Chat Agent since October 2017
Ready to see what live chat training can do for you?