Online Training Helps iFleet's Call Centers Reduce Costs

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iFleet, a call center operator that provides roadside customer assistance for car and battery makers, said it is reducing its personnel costs through an Internet-based training program for its agents.

The company is using an online training program called KnowDev from Knowlagent, Atlanta, which allows its call center agents to learn new subject matter without leaving their workstations to attend classes.

"We use this product a lot because we have different programs that have to be updated with new information," said Bob Fletcher, senior vice president of automotive services at iFleet, Roswell, GA. "We can't take [agents] out of production two or three days to have them learn new products, so we use this."

He said the online training probably would never be used to replace all of an agent's training, but it can reduce classroom time by allowing agents to ingest some new information without leaving their workstations.

iFleet is using the Web-based training on a limited basis for product updates and procedures. For example, if a car maker unveils a new feature that is important to the roadside assistance process, agents who handle calls on that model of car can take a 15- or 30-minute online lesson introducing the new feature. In some cases, a quick product briefing that would have taken 30-45 minutes in a classroom can be conducted in less than 10 minutes online, he said.

The online system also is used to round out the more general training that iFleet agents receive.

"If you are bringing in new people, you can do some soft-skills training with a trainer, and then you can have them log on to the KnowDev and have them learn some skills about listening and maybe take a quiz," said Ivan Ashby, manager of iFleet's call center in Atlanta.

Agents take tests online at the end of their training, and both the score of the test and time spent on studying the material are recorded. In some cases, agents must achieve a minimum score on a test in order to be able to handle certain types of calls.

Fletcher said iFleet's objective was to conduct about 20 percent of agents' training online, although at this point it is being used for somewhat less than that. The company has about 17 programs in the training regimen, all of which are written by the iFleet managers based on material provided by the company's clients. The program combines both text and graphics, including video.

KnowDev can be scheduled manually into the agents' daily routines or can be connected to the automatic call distributor so that agents are prompted to begin the training when call volume slows. If call volume increases unexpectedly while an agent is using the program, the agent can log off and return to it later at the same point.

iFleet has had the system in place for several months, and Fletcher said he feels it is providing savings in both time and money.

"It's hard to calculate how much we've saved," he said. "But I will say this, it takes some amount of time to get people up from what they are doing, get them into a room and train them, and it takes 'X' amount of dollars to hire a trainer to come in and provide the training."

iFleet operates two call centers, one in Camarillo, CA, which employs about 100 agents, and one in Roswell, which employs another 50. The company provides customer service for about 92 clients.

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