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Knowledge and training: Peanut butter and jelly for the customer contact center toast

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Training and onboarding new employees plus keeping tenured employees up-to-date with their knowledge and skills can spell the difference between boom and doom for organizations. Nowhere is the knowledge challenge more acute than in the customer contact center.

Customers say that the lack of agent knowledgeability and inconsistency of answers to their queries across touchpoints is the #1 impediment to getting good customer service (source: Forrester Consulting survey of 10,000 consumers). On the flip side, contact center agents are pointing to thesame knowledge and know-how challenges with their tools as the biggest barrier to delivering good service (source: eGain survey of over 600 agents). 

No wonder a Gartner survey found that 84% of contact center agents hate their desktop tools! Training and L&D can help but it is not cheap, with U.S. companies alone spending as much as $92.3 billion in 2021, according to Training Magazine’s spending report (source: Statista.) Moreover, with chronic staff shortage and escalating demand for service, contact centers can ill afford to keep agents in a perpetual training mode. Here is the kicker—the agent knowledge problem is going to get worse for the following reasons.


Traditional training programs have been disrupted by the pandemic and hybrid work models, with 75% of agents still working remote full-time or at least some of the time. These agents undergo baptism by fire with no next cube to walk over to for answers if they are stuck with a complex customer query.


Self-service adoption continues to increase, with younger consumers accelerating the trend. Routine customer queries are now deflected to and automated with self-service, leaving mostly complex queries for agents.


 Humans retain only 25% of new information they learn just after two days, according to the forgetting curve theory of German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. In fact, research by the University of Waterloo found that it is a mere 2-3% after 30 days! What use is training if employees are not ableto retain the knowledge?


Today’s contact center agents are Millennials and, increasingly, Gen Z. If you think Millennials have a short attention span (12 seconds), Gen Z has a gnat attention span of 8 seconds (source: Sparks and Honey). While millennial agents may tolerate some formal training, 65% of Gen Z agents would rather just learn on the job.


Exacerbated by the Great Resignation, contact center agent attrition continues to be high, with many organizations reporting as much as 50%, and others reporting close to 100% after just 2-3 years. This compounds the training challenge since L&D organizations have to start from ground zero with a constantly recurring stream of new agents.

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