Training Technical Support with the Help of eLearning

Apr 25, 2017

Pick a company, any company. You can be certain of one thing: there is probably a department suffering from a high turnover rate, and it is likely either the technical support or the customer service department. Constantly onboarding new employees drains company resources and puts an unnecessary strain on its budget. This is especially noticeable in situations where new hires require a lot of training. Conducting a two weeks long frontal course three or four times per year can cost a pretty penny. To add insult to injury, high turnover means most new employees need to be taught the same things, as it is rare that the product or service offered by a company changes so radically within the span of a few months that the training program has to be rebuilt from scratch.

How can eLearning help you train new hires?

Well, glad you asked. In fact, training new employees is a task eLearning handles very well. A common scenario involves the creation of a training program consisting of a number of eLearning courses. These courses combine theory and hands-on tasks, and also have learners answering questions, performing interactive tasks and taking tests. Thus, eLearning helps you both train new hires and test their newly acquired knowledge and skills.

eLearning vs. face-to-face training

Admittedly, frontal instruction often proves to be more effective than eLearning, but it is also much more costly. It goes without saying that being able to talk to a teacher or mentor is a great advantage to any student, and far be it from us to suggest doing away with that completely. Instead, we propose a combination of the two to ease the burden on experts and make training more economical.

Combining eLearning with face-to-face training

In fact, we can propose a number of training models to suit any taste:

  1. Theory is delivered via electronic courses and then the students put it into practice under the supervision of an instructor.

  2. Both theory and practical tasks are delivered via electronic courses. An instructor meets with the students on a regular basis to test and gauge their acquired knowledge and skills.

  3. An instructor explains the theoretical part, afterwards the students practice by themselves by completing tasks and taking tests in an electronic course.

  4. Some topics are delivered by means of electronic course entirely, others are explained via frontal instruction.

Building courses for technical support personnel

It is important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of any support personnel is helping customers resolve their issues. By the time a new support engineer finishes training, they must have learned to put the newly acquired skills into practice the way they were instructed.

Memorizing action chains

To achieve this goal, electronic courses meant for training support personnel must, whenever possible, contain step-by-step instructions for resolving the most common issues. You can use numbered lists, illustrations and flowcharts, or you can go one step further and make them interactive. For example, you can make it so that by clicking any individual step in a flowchart, the learner would be taken to a page explaining it in detail.

Using electronic courses on the job

One undeniable advantage electronic courses have over frontal instruction is that they can be referenced at any time, not only during training, but also when a learner is actually performing his or her duties. Support personnel can turn to eLearning courses and use them as supplementary help when talking to a customer on the phone or communicating via chat. A practical example: a support engineer has reached a step where he is not sure how to proceed. Having access to an electronic course allows him to reference it and continue troubleshooting the customer’s issue without unnecessary delays.

Lots of examples and practical use cases

A good way to help students memorize new information is to use lots of practical examples. Considering the number of issues support engineers are likely to face, the more examples you include, the better. Examining a real-life use case is a great way to teach new hires how to properly act in this or that situation, and the more use cases you present, the easier it would be for the students to be effective at their job.

Use tests to reinforce the employees’ knowledge

Having support employees pass tests regularly is a great way to help them memorize action chains. Tests both help management gauge engineers’ knowledge and skills and help engineers practice by putting them in simulated situations where a virtual customer is in need of assistance.  

Peer assessment

Another best practice is giving learners homework assignments that are then checked and graded by their peers. This allows learners to better understand the instructor’s perspective, as grading an assignment fairly requires that the learner understands the subject well himself. This added responsibility will spur the learners to train harder, so that they can excel when they are put on the spot.

For example, you can task the students with producing a flowchart for some non-standard, corner case situation. Have them design and visualize the most optimal sequence of steps for resolving the issue based on their previous experience. Once assignments are complete and uploaded to electronic courses, have every student check and grade the assignment of a randomly selected peer. To make the task easier, you can hint at which criteria are the most important when grading such a task and tell them what aspects to pay attention to.

Educate your customers with eLearning

Another advantage of eLearning is that you can share the electronic courses created for employee training with your customers. Just imagine how much time you can save by enabling your customers to search for answers in an extensive knowledge base. Given the opportunity, it is very likely that a lot of customers will prefer self-service, because smart customers know that searching for answers online often produces a solution much quicker than contacting support. So give your customers the ability to help themselves, tell them where to find the answers to their questions (a gentle reminder every now and then wouldn’t hurt either), and they will thank you!