The driver’s seat, however, was a different education. His educational capacity exploded. Hands-on learning is the most popular element of a curriculum, according to The Trainer’s Handbook. My son proved this.
Call centers can sometimes misuse this tradition that arms New Hires with just enough information to function before casting them helplessly to the floor. There are arguments to be made on both sides. I always thought of myself as an impressive facilitator, but in reality, agents learn more after five hours on the phones than three days in my classroom. They just retain more. I advocate hands-on Training. Taking live calls is as hands-on as it gets.


The flipside of that coin is attrition. Call centers always struggle to keep agents, and Trial-By-Fire can skyrocket attrition to nauseating heights. Attempting something new can be overwhelming for even the heartiest personality. Fragile confidence, outlier customers and knowledge gaps can shake quality agents to meltdown.


It’s easy to dismiss Trial-By-Fire as antiquated, heartless demands for agents to either sink or swim. I cringe at the notion, but my hesitation might be just as antiquated. Direct Interactions, for example, is a virtual call center that facilitates agents to work from home. Their virtual model celebrates an unheard-of two percent attrition rate, and they use this approach to measure success. “Nesting is where it happens,” according to Jaime Raffaell, Director of Client Services for Direct Interactions. “You’re constantly being berated on the phones with foul language or threats. It can be a stressful job. We definitely equip the agents with the information they need. But nesting is where we can see how efficient and effective our trainees can be.”
That’s the key: to evaluate learning. Direct Interactions’ curriculum—which can last up to a week—prepares agents with enough information to get started before applying what they learn. This isn’t throwing agents to the wolves. This is developing an effective knowledge base.


Now throw in cost. I’m a huge advocate of prioritizing Training dollars, but so long as you’ve built an effective classroom curriculum, save money by speeding up the process. Extra time in a classroom can be valuable, but if your client’s particulars can be simplified, get people on the phones. Just make sure you have a strong support staff—one resource for every four agents should suffice.


Trial-By-Fire is historically flawed, but with the trend toward virtual centers, it’s a commodity rewarding Trainee and company alike. If you properly support New Hires during this transition with healthy resources, patience, and educational backing, Trial-By-Fire could be an encouraging hand that helps Trainees find where the rubber meets the road.