Just-in-time learning the key to call centre training
South Africa could create 150 000 new call centre jobs in the next three years and become a significant world player in this competitive industry, according to Ryan Falkenberg, MD of Hi-Performance Learning (HPL).
The challenge, however, says Falkenberg, is to overcome the perception that call centres are 21st century factories where young people can earn a living without education or skills.
"We`re up against formidable odds. In India, the average call centre employee is over 25 years old and degreed, while in SA the same employee is under 25 years old with no degree."
The challenges facing call centre training are immense, says Falkenberg. With training taking up to 18 weeks and an average job tenure of under two years, many call centre employees are lost as fast as they are trained.
"Most call centre environments provide no intrinsic motivator for employees to learn. They suffer from massive learner fatigue."
Call centres, more than most environments, face the challenges of constant learning. The problem is that most call centres use the wrong training paradigm, says Falkenberg. "They cram knowledge into employees` brains and are delighted to achieve a 20% retention rate."
Over the past year Hi-Performance Learning has focused on call centre learning challenges and has devised a learning model that reduces training times by up to 50%.
Falkenberg attributes HPL`s success to "dramatic rethinking" around the call centre training model. "Our just-in-time model allows employees to focus on conceptual learning and lets technology do the rest.
"Instead of having to remember a massive amount of information, the consultant is effectively given an online expert in the field. Our technology reflects logical thought process, seamlessly integrating system, process and product details. We effectively create an online library with an indexing structure that emulates the logical indexing of the brain." The result, says Falkenberg, is lower time to competence, greater quality assurance, dramatically reduced training and a workforce adapted to ongoing change.
Falkenberg believes strongly that call centre employees, as the extension of the sales and service arm, should focus on interpersonal skills. "They should not have constantly changing information forced into their heads.
"Technology needs to become the enabler if SA is to become globally competitive," he says. "Just-in-time learning is the answer - using technology to access information only when you specifically need it."