Keys to Good Training and Supervision
by Kent Miller
Critical to the success of any industry is the quality of the people who work within it. Telemarketing is no exception, and with the explosion in telephone sales— up 30 percent since 1994—having reps who can sell on the phone is very important.
Telemarketing is a tough business, producing a high rate of employee turnover. How do you find and keep the best people? To find out I spoke with Noreen Kaminski, vice president of quality assurance with DialAmerica Marketing. She offered some tips on recruiting and training TSRs, as well as on supervision and customer satisfaction.
DialAmerica Marketing looks only for people who are 18 or older and puts them through a several-step process before they are considered for the job. First, good voice quality and professionalism are essential. If candidates possess these qualities, they are given reading and typing tests and are then interviewed.
Once the applicant pool has been reduced to the most promising people, the training begins. TSRs train on scripts, engage in mock calls from supervisors, and listen in on actual calls made by other agents. Kaminski noted that it is very important that reps have good product knowledge and thorough understanding of the sales and marketing philosophy of the company on whose behalf the products are being sold. Agents are tested on the products and terminology they will be dealing with and are given guidelines for closing sales and telephone etiquette. Standard procedures are also in place; for example, agents are taught ways to deal with angry customers or hang-ups. According to Kaminski, "Good work habits are the best way to predict a person's success on the phone."
DialAmerica trains each agent a minimum of three or four hours before they are allowed to speak with actual customers. Training includes testing on rules which are absolutely necessary to the operation of any call center. For example, these rules include the disclosure statements which must be read during the call, having a supervisor verify certain sensitive information, and relaying an 800 number that customers can call with problems or concerns. Another important topic is the privacy issue. Telephone agents must be familiar with the laws regarding consumer privacy and what they should do for those consumers who wish to appear on a "do-not-call" list.
Kaminski also stated that supervisors and trainers give the reps lots of encouragement. This is an industry where workers deal with a lot of rejection and hang-ups, and DialAmerica understands that's part of the job and helps the agents to deal with this without taking it personally.
Finally, the reps get the green light to get on the phone and start dealing with the public. However, training has not ended. Kaminski points out that education is an ongoing process and that calls are continuously monitored. All supervisors have been on the phone themselves and are extremely successful at selling and dealing with customers on a wide range of issues. Supervisors monitor calls from the floor, and also remotely from headquarters. There is one supervisor for every 10 sales reps, plus additional supervisors, as well as those at headquarters. All monitoring is done against a checklist and problems are dealt with immediately. Agents are ranked on a scale for their sales techniques and manners, and are also marked on a yes or no basis for all compliance issues, such as, "Did they give the 800 number?" or "Was confirmation read verbatim?"
All this monitoring ensures quality, but does it put additional pressure on the TSRs? Kaminski doesn't think so. According to her, the motto at DialAmerica is "Catch us doing something good."