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Call centres assume soft skills are innate and don’t need training


Research from the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne appears to refute claims that a great deal of time and money is spent on training call centre staff.

A key aim of the project, entitled 'Work opportunities for women in the information society: call centre teleworking' is to investigate the nature and quality of the training that call centre employees receive, but so far, the research has revealed that training provision is not as well-defined as the call centres have claimed.

There was a general view that soft skills were something which people already had (and in any case were difficult to train), and training was only required to acquire knowledge of products or IT packages. 'On-the-job' training was usually provided, but it was being provided by Supervisors who were unlikely to have had formal training themselves. Instead, when questioned Supervisors commented that they felt they naturally had the skills required to train others. Two of the companies did however provide structured and intensive training programmes for supervisory staff.

The role of induction is revealed as particularly important - trainees felt more confident, comfortable and motivated when induction training demonstrated how the call centre and they as individuals fitted into the wider organisation they were working for. However, induction programmes varied dramatically from company to company, lasting anything from a few days to six weeks.

The study has however revealed a number of examples of best practice. One call centre provides high quality IT training, with Microsoft and Novell certified training available to staff. The same company also provided foreign language training to agents if they require it. Coaching was another popular option, with one company using job shadowing as a way of preparing staff for supervisory positions. One company has an ‘open library’ and another has a learning centre.


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