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Effective eLearning training in the call center: Eight tips for success

Donna Fluss, President, DMG Consulting LLC

Part of SearchCRM.com's Call Center Trend Watch guide
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Conceptually, eLearning is a great idea. As the Web becomes a primary method for delivering content, more

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and more organizations are naturally turning to eLearning to provide training; and eLearning can effectively deliver targeted training materials and support self-directed performance development. It minimizes scheduling complexity and reduces some of the expenses involved in conducting live training courses, including the trainer's salary and the cost of the facilities.

I've been asked on a number of occasions to develop training materials to be delivered as call center eLearning courses. I like the concept of eLearning because it allows me, or others, to create a program once and use it to reach a large audience. It's also advantageous because an eLearning course can reach people and companies that I (and others) would not even know existed, or were in need of the information.

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The downside is that all too often eLearning training is viewed and used merely as a tool of convenience; many eLearning courses are poorly designed and do not achieve the desired results. Too often, organizations see eLearning as a "quick fix" or a replacement for coaching, which it is not. The very thing that makes eLearning courses potentially beneficial for organizations – the ease of delivery – can constrain its effectiveness. There is much more to eLearning than just creating content and making it available over the Web or an intranet. To succeed with eLearning, organizations must combine proven call center training best practices – delivering targeted and well-developed training, at the right time, to the right audience – with the eLearning delivery model.

Here are a few best practices that will help your organization build effective call center eLearning sessions.

1. Use domain experts to develop the eLearning course content -- Rather than just being subject-matter experts, eLearning experts should be extremely familiar with the online aspect of the training.
2. Know your audience before delivering an eLearning course -- One of the biggest complaints about eLearning sessions is that they are not geared to the needs of the audience. To avoid this, set up a few qualifying questions to help prospective trainees determine whether the course conveys the information in an appropriate and useful manner. If eLearning is automatically assigned based on an evaluation, for example, give the recipients a way to challenge the need for the course.
3. Do not use eLearning as a replacement for live call center coaching -- eLearning is a one-way communication delivery mechanism. It is effective for disseminating information, but unlike live interaction, it does not allow for follow-up discussions, question-and-answer sessions or the exchange of ideas.
4. Incorporate real-time feedback into eLearning courses -- Invite participants to rate an eLearning course immediately upon completion and then again six to eight weeks after the course is delivered. Use this information to identify opportunities for improvement.
5. Find the right eLearning tools for your organization -- There are a growing number of eLearning applications and tools available in the market. These range from basic coaching tools that enable managers to create a mini-course by annotating a phone call, to full course development tools. The complexity and cost of these solutions also varies greatly. Enterprises should identify and document their needs and in-house skill set prior to seeking out a solution. This will allow the organization to get the automation they need without purchasing sophisticated functionality that is unlikely to be used.
6. Combine call center training approaches -- Unless your business model requires otherwise (as may be the case when using remote call center agents), offer a variety of training approaches and do not depend on eLearning alone. Other options include live training courses, side-by-side training, practice sessions, coaching and eLearning.
7. Determine if eLearning is the most effective vehicle for the content that is being delivered -- eLearning is ideal for delivering fixed content but not appropriate when a course requires discourse to succeed.
8. Ask call center agents to specify the type of training they prefer -- It's good to know what kind of training will be most effective for each employee. Even if your organization cannot always customize its training to meet every employee's needs, knowing the preferred methods will help you make the right training investments.

eLearning can be a very useful call center training vehicle, particularly when it is combined with other educational approaches. An effective eLearning program will improve the performance and morale of call center staff.


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