April 25, 2013
Size Does Matter – Class Size That Is!
Filed under: Entrepreneurship
Class size is a matter of significant importance for organizations looking to maximize the value of virtual agent training and development programs. Failure to take this into account has the potential to lessen agent comprehension of vital information. This could result in both decreased company efficiency, and lower levels of service for clients. To ensure virtual training of agents occurs smoothly with maximum knowledge transfer, take these three parameters into account:
Consider the Nature of your Training Program
The first step required when deciding upon the best class size for a training program is to assess the nature of the content you wish to teach, and the style in which it might best be delivered. Some of the most important factors for consideration include:
- Level of technical expertise that will be required of your agents.
- Level of direct interaction that an agent will have with customers.
- Scope of the issues that an agent must be able to resolve by the end of the training.
For example, if you’ll be putting your agents in charge of support requests that require a high degree of technical knowledge, it may be best to consider doing some of the instruction in a small group environment. This can easily be accomplished provided that the training software you’re using includes some sort of live-chat functionality. Ideally, the software should also allow instructors to set up simulated customer support scenarios.
The combination of a group chat system with simulation software will yield a number of crucial benefits. First, instructors will have the tools to assess an agent’s ability to handle support situations firsthand. Having a good method of assessment is vital when any form of instruction is undertaken. In addition, group members will be able to offer valuable feedback to one another, and receive performance feedback from instructors.
Methods of Instruction
Now that it has been established that the nature and content of a training program are important considerations when determining program size, it’s time to consider the different methods of instruction that can be put in place. When it comes to training virtual agents, certain class sizes logically lend themselves to certain styles of instruction.
If you’re going to be working with a larger class, a direct instruction style of teaching generally works best. Due to the fact that effective group work is more difficult with a higher number of students, having material presented to agents by a single lecturer is more efficient. Using webinar software, instructors could easily present information to a larger group, and address any questions about the material.
If you’re training a smaller group of agents, a system of guided practices can be highly effective. In a guided practice situation instructors will teach the required material to program participants, and then provide them with the opportunity to practice the techniques and concepts that they’ve learned.
The ideal implementation of small group training for virtual agents has already been discussed in an earlier example. In short, you’ll want to make sure that instructors have the tools and software necessary to implement job specific simulations. You’ll also want a system that allows for the easy exchange of performance related feedback between instructors and agents.
Finally, if you’ll only be working with a few agents, you can use a more individualized system of training and evaluation. Generally, this would involve using software that allows agents to complete job tasks on their own as a means of internalizing their training. Combining this with a system that utilizes further skill testing and task simulations can significantly increase an agent’s confidence and proficiency level.
Choose a Mixed Approach
Ideally, your organization will employ all three of the above learning methods as part of your overall training program. For example, you may wish to teach in larger groups when training agents to address company policy queries. This information is easily conveyed, and instruction can be accomplished with simple live-chat software.
Guided practice can be used to train groups of agents to perform more technically demanding tasks. The smaller group size will make task simulations more feasible, and allow for a more open exchange of feedback with instructors and other students.
Finally, implementing individualized training exercises at the end of your program will help agents cement their understanding of everything they’ve been taught. Using the proper software platform, they’ll be able to hone their skills on their own, before actually interacting with a customer, ensuring customer satisfaction is at its highest as soon as agents are available to handle transactions.