Best practices to streamline agent onboarding with quality assurance
So, you have gone through the motions of successfully hiring your latest cohort of customer service agents. That’s great! But don’t get too carried away with celebrations just yet… now you have got to get these new hires onboarded.
Onboarding is arguably the most essential process for getting your new customer service agents acclimated to the business and prepared to tackle their new roles. Not only that, but positive onboarding also engages employees and leads to a motivated workforce that is more likely to be committed to the company in the long term.
In fact, research shows that there is a correlation between a well-planned and structured onboarding process and employee retention. When new hires take part in a structured process, retention can improve by as much as 82 percent and productivity by 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 become a bigger part of the organization and contribute towards organizational goals.
So what makes a good onboarding process?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all or “correct” approach to onboarding, there are some elements that are shared amongst those that are the most successful:
Operational: New agents must have everything that they need (materials, knowledge) 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 know the organization, such as its organizational structure, vision, mission, goals, culture, and key developments, and be able to reflect this knowledge in their work.
Optimizing the agent onboarding process with 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 is in nobody’s best interests 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 is so important to verify during the onboarding process that the agents that you are hiring are up to the task and are likely to succeed.
One of the best ways you can assess a new hire’s suitability for the role is to perform quality assurance test tasks that are similar to the tasks that they will 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 test tickets. 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 have understood their training, and other key factors. During the first few months, I also recommend leveraging your set QA criteria to evaluate agent activity and real interaction with customers.
2. Use test results to help new agents transition into their new roles
While your new agents might have experience in customer service, they still need to learn the ins and outs of working for their new role in your business and how they can ensure that they are a good fit.
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 to both empower them and promote transparency.
3. Continuously improve onboarding by evaluating existing agents
It is 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 where they struggle or fail and use them to finetune your process and strengthen your training programs for future onboarding.
Automate onboarding tasks: By automating some of your onboarding tasks, you help your coaching team become more efficient. You might also consider connecting your QA platform 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 the 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 tickets 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 onboarding process is crucial for employee success and retention, and ultimately your bottom line.
Getting it right is therefore 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 will help acclimate your new hires faster with fewer hiccups and set them up for success in their new roles.