Customer service
first day on job

Sometimes, we go to so much trouble to recruit the right people for our customer contact centers, that we forget the importance of onboarding — helping newbies make it through those first nerve wracking days on the job. If done right, though, onboarding can put new employees on the fast track to productivity, and much more. It certainly takes the sting off those first days on the job and is likely to keep employees happier and more engaged.

Why is onboarding needed?

Onboarding is much more than speeding up the initial time it takes an employee at a call center to learn how to do their job; it’s also more than orientation. It presents companies with a meaningful opportunity to engage employees, convey to them the larger corporate picture — brand, goals and culture, and even reduce turnover.

Using onboarding to familiarize employees with job essence: customer happiness, as well as with job function: the tasks required to do it, quickly gives them a sense of success and accomplishment. In fact, some companies are so convinced of the importance of onboarding that they even engage with potential recruits through pre-boarding programs. Both onboarding and pre-boarding  are excellent grounds for enterprise gamification.

Gamification: the secret sauce

Gamification has nothing to do with playing or mobile app video games. It has everything to do with applying game mechanics to enterprise gamification applications and it is a super effective way to communicate with employees, encourage behavior changes, and boost performance.

Many people erroneously relegate contact center and sales gamification to the simple use of competition scenarios — such as leaderboards, badges and contests — where actions like ‘first call resolution’ are rewarded. While competition can work well for motivation (only if the pitfalls of discouragement and temptations of gaming the contest are removed), other game mechanics reward completion and as such are ideal for elearning, training and onboarding. That is why call center onboarding is a classic use of enterprise gamification, due to the latter’s compatibility with training. In other words, gamification is an excellent way to encourage people to carry out certain tasks (such as completing details, watching a presentation, or taking a course) and to reward them with a good feeling of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.

Some recommended tips and tricks:

1. It is all about ‘beginner level’

You may not realize it, but 99% of the people reading this have experienced game onboarding. A good example is any digital game you ever played, be it Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, or Temple Run, where you kick off play at an easy, beginner’s level. The secret behind the success of these games is that they tap in to the habit-forming, innate desire to win quickly and to do anything possible to experience the cues that signify  that one has completed a level. Each beginner level refers to a core ability (creating sets of three or more candies, using a slingshot to launch birds at pigs, jumping over objects to escape demonic monkeys) and players enjoy the satisfaction that they are independently mastering a skill.

Onboarding is the same. If one could transform those frightening first work days into an easier and more rewarding ‘beginners level,’ onboarding and training would be far more successful, especially in the long-term. Don’t underestimate the emotional value of those quick wins: it is habit forming in that it. These habits will be key to job performance. Quick wins also ensure that employees are trained one skill at a time, and that a sense of mastery and autonomy (“I know how to do this well!”) is achieved, driving employee engagement and satisfaction.

2. E-learning experience

If you were a new contact center employee, would you prefer your training to come in the form of a huge file dumped in your lap by HR, which you are supposed to read, or one that engages you with quizzes, rewards you for reviewing materials, and uses team work to show you how to apply them? Well, gamification has an amazing ROI compared to rote completion of these educational materials, regardless of whether they deal with product data, communication channels, conveying empathy with customers, or handling problematic callers. Since it rewards learning by emphasizing completion of small chunks of learning tasks, employees tend to complete many more tasks compared to just looking at printed material, videos or presentations.

3. Team onboarding

Another way to optimize onboarding through gamification is to create team-based competitions around learning the training material and completing tasks. Encouraging teamwork between new hires, sharing a similar stressful and challenging experience, has highly successful results. We’ve seen that reaching 100% of course material completion is definitely doable.

4. Onboarding… and ongoing

Contact center onboarding should not be limited to the first days on the job and then end abruptly, say after the first week of hire.  In fact, several contact centers we have spoken to, placed new employees in the customer service channels that are less complex, such as social networks or email, where there are no immediate responses to deal with. With time, employees move into more intricate customer service channels, such as answering calls and dealing with technical problems, which require more knowledge and experience.

Outstanding results can be achieved by integrating training with the new hire’s workday and splitting up onboarding for each customer service channel. Add gamification into the mix — such as using training as a qualification, solving a challenge, or a team contest, and one just might have the key to training and onboarding that creates employees armed with the skills and education they require in order to integrate and excel.

Gamification and onboarding go hand in hand. Take the opportunity to create a lasting good first impression with employees and provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

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