Agent training using speech and text analytics

This article describes guidelines for developing agent training programs in which speech analytics researches optimum agent behavior, track improvement in agent skills, and improve a specific performance output for the company. The methodology detailed below has been used successfully in multiple client deployments and so constitutes a proven methodology.  

There are two types of agent training programs in which speech analytics is used:

  1. Training specific skills that improve performance in a narrowly defined way.
  2. Training a combination of skills that support a specific type of overall call outcome. For example, an increase in sales conversion, or customer satisfaction. 

This type of training is straightforward and simple. The agent is typically asked to increase the use of a specific skill that is easily learned, does not require practice to master, and is not used with other skills. Increased skill usage can be tracked in the speech analytic system. 

An example of this type of situation is a cellular telephone company that is trying to optimize the average handle time of calls. Research with Genesys speech analysis revealed that agents were spending time authenticating all the customers who called, and yet many of the calls did not require authentication. 

To reduce talk time, the agents were taught to use a call reason probing skill. As a result, they would ask the customer why they called. The agents were also taught which call types required authentication. The speech analytics system recognized when the agents used the call reason probing skill. The speech analytic system tracked the improvement in skill use and the corresponding decrease in the number of authentications.  As a result, authentications dropped by 75% almost immediately after training, and call average talk time improved by about 40 seconds. 

This type of training presents a complex environment in which the agent is asked to use a series of skills to achieve a specific outcome. This approach is normally used when trying to improve agent sales conversion rates to increase revenue, or agent customer service skills to generate improved CSAT scores and/or FCR rates. Invariably, there are several skills used in combination, all of which are used according to a specific overall philosophy for the call and a specified call flow.

Sales skills 

In a sales situation, the agent normally needs to use several skills in sequential order.  For example:

  1. Build rapport: Establish a relationship and a sense of trust.
  2. Probe for needs: Understand the customers needs and usage of their existing products. 
  3. Offer product features: Offer a product whose features will match the customers needs. 
  4. Offer Product Benefits: Provide benefit statements to make sure the customer understands the value of the various product features.
  5. Ask for sale 
  6. Address objections: When met with resistance, use various skills to overcome the sale barrier (for example, urgency to motivate the customer to buy, knowledge to overcome feats or objections).   
  7. Ask for sale 

During the training program, the logic behind this call sequence is explained so the agent understands what each step is designed to achieve, why they appear in the recommended sequence, and why they work together as they do.  Any research that establishes these as key sales skills is also presented so the agent becomes convinced that their use of these skills will in fact improve conversion and commissions. 

Next, the agent is introduced to each skill specifically, and sample phrases entered into the speech analytics system are presented. This way, the agent understands how skill usage will be measured. Each skill is modelled in a sample role play so the agents can see how the skill is used. Ideally, several agents who are particularly good at the skill perform role play in front of the class.   Next, all the agents’ roles play the individual skills and receive feedback about their performance.  To achieve this, it is recommended to divide the agents into groups of three, with one agent playing the customer, one playing an observer, and one playing the agent.  A role-play situation is created for only the agent who plays the customer gets to see. The person playing the agent is required to practice using a specific sales skill during the role play, and the observer provides feedback. The agents in the triad swap roles so that each one gets a chance to practice the skill and so that each one receives feedback. To save time, several skills can be role played together. 

Once the individual skills are mastered, a final role play is conducted. The agent is required to use all the skills in the proper sequence. Performance is critiqued, and each agent must demonstrate that they understand the skill and that they can perform the skill with a high degree of proficiency. 

Once the agents return to the phones, skill use is tracked, and post training support programs are implemented. Like contests and daily feedback sessions, these programs help the agents continue using the skills when talking to customers.   

 Multiple customers of Genesys speech analytics have used this process, and gains in sales conversion range from 20% to 41%. 

Customer Service Skills 

In a customer service environment, a similar process is followed in which a call flow is generated using the specific skills that agents are expected to use, and the logic of the process is explained. For example: 

  1. Probe to understand issue – Agent attempts to understand the customer’s issue.
  2. Restate issue – Agent restates the statement to make sure the customer correctly understood.
  3. Ask for confirmation – Agent verifies that the customer agrees with the assessment.
  4. Offer solution – Agent offers a solution.
  5. Ask for acceptance – Agent asks the customer if he/she accepts the solution.
  6. Recap next steps 
  7. Final probe for needs  – Agent asks the customer if there is anything else the customer needs. This final skill helps reduce the FCR rate.

The training process is similar to that used above for sales with the overall call philosophy and call flow explained. Each skill is explained and demonstrated in front of the class by agents who are particularly skilful. For example, role playing where each agent practices the skills and demonstrates competence.  Post training support programs are introduced during training and are then implemented when the agents return. This ensures the agent will continue to use the skills in the proper manner and sequence. 

This process improves FCR rates by 25%.