Widescale digital transformation has meant an increasing prevalence of self-service options and AI-enabled chatbots which in turn has significantly reduced the need for humans to handle the simple customer queries. However, it may come as something of a surprise, but studies show that the telephone is still the preferred method of customer communication.

In the UK, the Call Centre Management Association’s (CCMA) ‘Voice of the Contact Centre Consumer 2021’ study showed 71% of people still used the phone to contact organisations. In total, telephone calls made up 31% of interactions and one in three people (33%) said they expected to use it more in the future.

The value of our customer service and support frontline teams has never been higher as they now deal with more complex and challenging customer cases and often with more unhappy or stressed customers, who have not been able to self-solve their problem.  It’s time to re-think how we approach training our frontline teams in this increasingly digital world.

Training for frontline employees usually starts at the onboarding stage, which is typically a one-size fits all program. Straight away all employees are assumed to have the same training needs and employers miss the opportunity to fast track those who are closer to being ready for the role, and to provide enhanced training for those with wider skills gaps. This represents two missed opportunities – the first is to show new employees you see and value them as an individual (important for employee engagement) and the second is to get those who are ready to serve customers into the role sooner.

Once new hires have completed the onboarding training and actively serving customers, their ongoing training usually consists of programs linked to new tools, processes and policies. Yet all employees will have a different level of knowledge and experience following the onboarding stage and what they subsequently learn on the job. Some may need additional training on very specific areas based on customer feedback or other measures of effectiveness, but this is often not identified and inevitably can lead to more negative performance improvement measures.

Imagine the impact if every frontline worker had a skills and development road map, personalised to meet their specific skills gap with training programs tailored to their individual career progression and aspirations?

The starting point for this personalised learning journey is to conduct a skills and knowledge assessment when the employee first joins the organisation (or even during the recruitment phase). Assessing their level of skills and competency means onboarding can be tailored to the specific requirements of the individual, making onboarding more relevant and engaging.

During and post onboarding, a continual cycle of follow-up assessments will enable both the employee and employer to track progression on the learning journey – some training elements might be skipped, others might be revisited as required. If career paths are clearly outlined for employees, they can be offered or self-selected enabling micro-learning and other training content to help them progress towards their next role.

I believe taking a personalised and tailored approach to training demonstrates that the organisation values their employees as individuals, whilst at the same time the employer also benefits from all the follow-on consequences of that.

The key to this approach is to look at your employees as individuals, not as cohorts; specifically what skills they individually require to fulfil their job effectively and efficiently as well as supporting their career aspirations.

In my experience, it also has a wider impact on employee loyalty and lower attrition rates, customer service satisfaction levels and the overall brand experience.