So, you’ve successfully hired your latest cohort of customer service agents—that’s great! But don’t get too carried away with the celebrations just yet… It’s time to get these new hires onboarded.
Agent onboarding is the most important part of getting your new customer service agents acclimated to the business and prepared to dive head-first into their new roles. Not only that, but a positive onboarding experience also engages employees and leads to a motivated workforce that is more likely to be committed to the company long-term.
In fact, research shows that there’s a strong correlation between a well-planned and structured agent onboarding process and a high employee retention rate. When new hires take part in a structured onboarding process, retention can improve by as much as 82 percent, with productivity gains of up to 70 percent.
At the same time, it’s important to be mindful that you are investing significant time, effort, and money into onboarding your new agents, so you need to do all you can to ensure that your onboarding process is not just well-structured but also efficient and streamlined.
Effective onboarding practices help new agents play a bigger role in the organization, sooner, and contribute towards organizational goals.
So, what makes for a good agent onboarding process?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding, every company and its needs are different, after all, there are some elements that the most successful processes share:
- Operational: New agents should be given access to everything they need (materials, knowledge, colleagues who can assist) to get the best start in their new roles.
- Social: New agents should instantly feel welcomed and that they are a part of the team. Coaching teams should promote relationship-building among colleagues and managers.
- Strategic: New agents should get to know the organization: its organizational structure, vision, mission, goals, culture, and any other key elements, and be able to reflect this knowledge in their work from the get-go.
Optimizing the agent onboarding process with quality assurance (QA)
One way you can optimize and streamline your agent onboarding process is to leverage quality assurance (QA). Here’s how:
1. Create test and evaluation strategies
It doesn’t do anyone any good to spend time and money on onboarding a new hire only to find out that they don’t have the necessary soft skills and competencies for the role. That’s why it’s so important to verify during the onboarding process that the agents you are hiring are up to the task and are likely to succeed in the role.
One of the best ways you can assess a new hire’s suitability is to have them perform quality assurance test tasks that are similar to the tasks they’ll be performing on a day-to-day basis in their new role.
In the case of a customer service agent, for example, you might have them complete a series of questions they may receive from customers. You can then conduct quality checks and assess their responses, gauging factors such as their communication skills, response methodology, knowledge of your systems and processes (if they applied the right resolution steps), how well they’ve understood their training, and other key factors. Then, during the first few months especially, you can leverage your set QA criteria to evaluate their real-life interactions with customers.
2. Use test results to help agents transition into their new roles
While your new agents might have prior experience in customer service, they still need to learn the ins and outs of their new role.
Your QA process should be leveraged to not only test your new customer service agents but also to access test results and turn them into learning opportunities. Having a QA tool that also accounts for agent development, so that feedback is followed by coaching sessions is also key.
Your customer service agents should be able to access all relevant information through the QA tool, both empowering them to take charge of their own success and promoting transparency.
3. Continuously improve onboarding by evaluating existing agents
It’s important to keep your new agent onboarding updated by continuously optimizing the process. There are two main ways you might want to consider doing this:
- Finetune with existing problems: When performing QA on your current agents, identify pain points and places they struggle or fail, and use these to finetune your process and strengthen your training programs for future onboarding.
- Automate onboarding tasks: By automating some of your onboarding tasks, you can help your coaching team become more efficient. You might also consider connecting your QA tool to a learning management system.
4. Have your coaching team implement checks
Once the training of your new agents has been completed and they have gone through your full onboarding process, you should have your coaching team—i.e., the people who were responsible for training and onboarding—carry out their own QA process on your new agents in the form of fast checks.
These checks should be simple and non-intrusive, designed to take a quick look at the work your new agents are completing to assess quality. For instance, your coaching team might dip in and out of the conversations your new agents are handling in their first few weeks, look at chat logs from live support, or listen to recordings of telephone conversations.
Any shortcomings that are found can be addressed on an individual level during periodical one-to-ones and on a larger scale by making positive changes to the training and onboarding processes.
Set your new agents up for success
The agent onboarding process is crucial for employee success and retention, and ultimately, your bottom line.
Getting it right is of the utmost importance. But, given that the average new hire onboarding experience consists of over 50 individual activities, it can be easy to slip up.
Streamlining your process and carrying out thorough QA activities will help acclimate your new hires faster, with fewer hiccups, and set them up for success in their new roles.