How Long Does Call Center Training Take? (+ How to Cut Training Time)
There are things in life that I would be happy if they never ended. Peaceful nights relaxing around a fire at a cabin come to mind. Or having endless seasons of Gilmore Girls.
Training is most definitely not on that list. So, how long should your call center training take?
You need to be able to balance teaching everything your new hires need to know without dragging out the class and wasting everyone’s time. Finding the balance between those two is essential to preventing turnover in your contact center (#PleaseDontQuit).
With the ScreenSteps software — a knowledge base software company — we encourage our customers to train new agents to use their documented policies and procedures. They make these procedures easy to access and follow in their ScreenSteps knowledge base.
As a former journalist, I like to get to the point quickly. And that’s what I’m going to help you do with training.
But, first, I’ll provide the average length of time for reference. Then we’ll help you calculate how long your company’s training program should take with three steps. Finally, I’ll provide three tips to help you shorten the time you spend in training.
Average length of time it takes to train call center agents
There is no precise answer for how long call center agent training will take. The truth is that it depends on a variety of factors for how long call center training lasts. Some of these factors include:
- What level of proficiency you need them to be at by the end of the training
- The extent of skills and procedures they need to be able to do (soft and hard skills)
- How much do you expect them to memorize/understand?
- Whether you are using continuous learning to train outside of initial onboarding
The average time for call center training is 4-10 weeks. This estimate includes classroom training, shadowing, and nesting. And, by the end of training, the goal is for agents to be proficient at handling calls — meaning they can handle live calls accurately and confidently — not necessarily experts.
In some call centers, however, it typically takes 4-6 months and sometimes longer for reps to be proficient.
Of course, this all depends on your circumstances and criteria for training.
3 steps to calculate how much time to plan for your call center training program
Since there are so many factors affecting call center training times, how much time should you plan for your call center training program?
Here are three steps to help you figure out how much time to allot for your training program.
Step 1: Evaluate what you are covering in training
Sometimes, trainers approach onboarding from the stance, “We’re going to have a 6-week training. What should we cover during these six weeks?” This approach limits learning. It either forces you to cram learning into a smaller time frame or it drags out training for too long.
Instead, trainers should say, “Here’s what we need new reps to be able to do. How long will it take for reps to be competent at doing those things?”
By taking this approach, you are starting with the end in mind. You are ensuring that you allot enough time to cover the material that will prepare agents for their jobs at your contact center.
Build training around what agents need to be able to do
Starting with the end in mind means building training that helps reps DO tasks. Reps need to be able to handle a call to succeed in a call center — not just know a specific policy about returns. That knowledge does the rep no good if they don’t know how to answer the phone and resolve an inquiry.
Ask yourself, “What do I need reps to be able to do to graduate from training?”
Most call centers require reps to be able to pass an assessment in order to graduate from training. The downfall of these tests is they only evaluate what reps know. But, that’s not what you care about.
How many sports analysts are on TV who know what quarterbacks should do? How many of them would you hire to be your favorite NFL team’s quarterback?
I’m guessing your answer was none. Even if your favorite analyst is a retired Hall of Famer, you know there is a reason they don’t lace up their cleats every Sunday anymore.
You should only care about what reps know as far as it helps them do the right thing.
Step 2: Create a list of skills they need to learn
Now that you know you want to cover actions and not just spew knowledge during training, it’s time to get more specific. For your call center, what competencies do new hires need to demonstrate before they’re done with training?
These skills can include both soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are basic skills surrounding human interaction (i.e. hearing the caller, restating to the caller what they are calling about, etc.). Hard skills are more tangible, action-based skills (i.e. how to answer a phone call, how to put information in the system, how to find a policy, etc.)
Create a list of skills employees need to have in order to graduate from training. Some examples include:
- Answer an intake call, gather the caller’s information, and identify the purpose of the call
- Respond to callers with empathy
- Locate the correct procedure or troubleshooting guide for handling the caller’s question/request
- Follow the procedure
- Identify when the procedure is not meeting the caller’s needs (and needs to be escalated to somebody else)
- Close the call
- Create a case with accurate notes
Step 3: Estimate how long each of those training activities will take
With a list of everything agents need to be able to do, it’s time to start doing the math. How long will each exercise take? How many can you do in a day?
Your training plan may include multiple training styles, such as lectures, scenario-based training, and other approaches. Scenario-based training is a training approach that allows your agents to role-play real situations they will encounter on calls.
Since you need your agents to be able to do a task (not just know things), you’ll want them to practice doing specific tasks. How many exercises will your new reps need to do in order to competently do them? How long would each exercise or session take?
Some training activities take minutes while others require hours of practice. Determine how much time you want to spend on each requirement. Then add those up. You can create an Excel doc to list out the items from step 2 and add an amount of time next to each item.
This will help you schedule your training days in detail.
3 tips to shorten your call center training time
What if your call training is taking too long? How can you shorten the amount of time each new agent spends in onboard training?
Here are three tips to help you shorten your contact center training time.
1. Set realistic expectations
How much do you expect new hires to memorize, understand, and do before graduating from training?
When you expect less memorization — and instead provide guides to help them on the job — they finish training quicker.
You cannot expect your new hires to be experts before graduating. Lower your expectations — only demand proficiency. Expertise will come after several months or years of hands-on work experience.
2. Start by teaching one level of difficulty (add on later)
Do your reps need to know how to handle all types of calls at once? Or can you filter the types of calls new hires will receive so they can start taking easier calls?
If you can filter your inbound calls, then new reps don’t need to learn everything at once. If your call center has an intelligent call routing (ICR) or uses specific reps to route calls, then you can create different tiers for simple to complex calls.
If you can route specific calls to reps, then you can shorten training time by focusing only on those types of calls. As reps become proficient in those calls, they can receive training on how to handle more complex calls from higher levels.
3. Create a plan for ongoing training
Training doesn’t (and shouldn’t) stop when your onboarding class is finished. Incorporate continuous learning as part of your overall training strategy.
Build on the foundation you started in onboard training. Classroom training might only be a few weeks, but your reps should be constantly learning.
Create a plan to check in with them and provide coaching and feedback so they can continue to learn. Provide courses with a learning management system (LMS). Build a knowledge base where they can access articles and guides that help them learn in the workflow.
Provide additional learning opportunities that are short and can be completed in-between calls.
Want to spend less time in training? Build a continuous learning program
When you are building your call center training program, you want to ensure that your new agents receive all the training they need to succeed on the job. That means helping them practice the skills they need to handle calls.
But, how do they continue to grow and refine their skills after onboarding?
ScreenSteps helps agents learn while they are in the workflow. Agents don’t need to put a caller on hold to learn how to handle a new type of call. That’s because ScreenSteps makes your guides more accessible and easier to follow.
Considering adding continuous learning to your training program? Learn how to build a continuous learning program for your call center reps with these five steps.