Typically speaking, whenever one starts a new job, there is training involved. Throughout my experience of being hired for a new job, I have experienced minimal training and have been thrown into something I didn’t have much knowledge of, and I have also been through rigorous and extensive training before put live on the job… ::cough cough The Chat Shop cough cough::
Here at The Chat Shop, new agents are put through training that gives them an inside look at what they will experience as a live chat agent. From personal experience, I can vouch that the training here was hard but worth it, as it gave me a first hand look at what I could expect once I went live.
I would like to provide a brief overview of the entire training process that I went through, whilst drawing attention to a crucial stage of training… Test Chats, which I highlight in detail towards the end. Test Chats, in my opinion, are one of the most important training elements for a live chat outsourcing service and a first time live chat agent.
The basic requirements that The Chat Shop expects by the end of initial training is for an agent to be able to successfully handle 3 concurrent chats and have a response time of no more than 40 seconds. The number of concurrent chats that an agent handles increases as they gain experience, and their response times also improve (all agents easily beat this 40 second average actually, The Chat Shop’s average response time is 32 seconds). The quality of the interactions that an agent can provide is the most important aspect however. An agent shouldn't handle a larger number of concurrent chats if they can’t keep their response times low, achieve business goals as (as requested by the business), and effectively help the customer.
There’s also client specific targets to achieve, and once live, an agent and their Team Leader carry out a weekly Quality Assurance process assessing 20 quantitative and qualitative metrics.
And as well as achieving all of these important metrics and targets, it’s also very important for the chats to be from a real human being, with a real personality. The Chat Shop doesn’t do robotic chats.
When I started with the company, I looked at these standards and thought "how on earth am I going to get this good when I am completely new to live chat?" I have worked in call centres before but telephone support and sales is a completely different ball game to live chat...
Enter my Team Leader, Ben.
We started off with a few calls at first, getting to know each other and learning about his journey with the company. I was very encouraged by Ben’s clear passion for the role and the company’s objectives. It was great to see that my Team Leader had progressed from a Live Chat Agent role because of his chat ability, and that The Chat Shop offers room for growth with their company. He and other members of my team, and other teams have really helped me settle into this role and have been on hand to answer any questions I had, at all hours.
I was surprised with how detailed the training programme is and how much we must learn about each individual client. Many companies understand that training needs to be done, but they don't really mind how it is implemented as long as the person being trained is somewhat competent when they go live.
At The Chat Shop it is completely different; with smaller teams, each agent plays a bigger role rather than being a small cog in a massive system. So it means that training has to be perfect as the agent must be achieving clients’ and their customers goals when they go live. Training and testing is very important to The Chat Shop, as we know that quality interactions are important to create great experiences and conversions.
For each client that we work with, we have four different parts to training. We complete archive work. This is where we sit down and go through the archives of chats, pick a few, and break them down into the good and bad. We speak on what we think the agent did well, where we think they could have improved, and so on.
Next, we complete training software. To do so, we complete quizzes on client knowledge to ensure that we are up to date and current with the client and their knowledge base. We also partake in a phone call with the client where we discuss anything unique about their products/services. This is great because we get the tips and tricks only learned from experience that aren’t listed in our data base.
Finally, we complete test chats. This is where we are in a live environment and our Team Leader acts as a customer. The Team Leader gives us potential scenarios that we have to act on and respond just as if we were on a live shift.
Test chats are an important opportunity for my Team Leader (and the clients I would be representing) to test my abilities in some real life chat scenarios. We use a purpose built website to do this - I wasn't let loose on the general public just yet! My Team Leader (and as I said, sometimes the client too) ask me some common chat questions and also some more challenging ones, to see if I am ready for talking to real visitors.
I thought the training was great. It required me to be fully engaged and that meant that the required knowledge was easy to understand by the end of it. I enjoyed the test chats in particular as they allowed me to translate theory into practice. My Team Leader and clients were able to test my outsourced live chat agent capabilities, by posing as customers and asking me challenging questions (that I really could face whilst chatting on their website).
The test chats also gave my Team Leader an opportunity to provide me with some feedback and constructive criticism after each chat. If you aren’t willing to accept feedback (positive or negative), being a live chat agent at The Chat Shop isn’t for you!
As stated above, we have weekly a Quality Assurance process, which is where we once again break down the good and the bad of our own chats. To learn and grow here at The Chat Shop, is to be willing and understanding that sometimes, you have to change how you do something, so you can do it better!
I think that the test chats (along with over 100 hours of paid training) is a very important step in the live chat outsourcing process. It provides The Chat Shop with the ability to make sure that agents are ready to handle chat (from their perspective as live chat experts) and it also provides the client with confidence, over the fact that professional chatters will be representing their brand and interacting with their website visitors.
Once I had been trained on the techniques of live chat, and the knowledge of a couple of clients, my Team Leader at the time decided that I was ready to begin taking some real chats on these clients.
This was really nerve racking and I will tell you now, waiting for the first chat to come through was the most anxious I had been in a very long time. But my Team Leader was there, supervising every chat, just in case I needed some assistance.
A lot of training went into being ready to accept real chats. I’ve taken on a lot of knowledge along the way and I think that test chats were a very important step up during the training process. It took training from theory to practical. The practical training element is crucial for any live chat agent but especially for one that is part of a live chat outsourcing service. The live chat agent not only has to respond in a timely manner and a suitable tone (among the other metrics that our Quality Assurance process tracks), but they have to represent the client and their brand in the correct manner too.
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