Streamlining the support onboarding process

A good agent onboarding process is critical to the success of your customer support team. Bad agent onboarding leads to higher employee turnover, a frustrated team, and unsatisfied customers. With a well-thought-out onboarding plan, your agents will be better prepared for the job and more engaged in the work they do, resulting in a stronger team and happier customers.

This guide is meant to help you create an agent onboarding plan that will enable you to build a high-performing support team. Let’s start by defining agent onboarding and understanding what the onboarding process might look like.

What is agent onboarding?

Agent onboarding is the process of integrating and educating newly hired customer support agents into the work environment, providing them with the information, skill set, and resources necessary to deliver effective and efficient work, and setting them up for long-term success.

Understanding the support onboarding process

Agent onboarding looks different from company to company, but we believe there are some fundamental steps you can take when it comes to welcoming new team members and getting them up to speed.

  1. Orientation: An overview of company policies, culture, and values. This sets the tone for the entire relationship between the new hire and your company.
  2. Communication and soft skills: Preliminary training on some of the core skills of a support agent. This gets everyone communicating consistently with customers.
  3. Product/service training: A comprehensive overview of your company’s product and/or services. This is where you go into detail on how your product works, and set expectations around the scope of work for support agents.
  4. Systems and tools training: A detailed look at the tools, systems, and processes the support team uses to do their job. This includes customer-facing tools like a help desk ticketing system, in addition to internal tools for team collaboration.
  5. Mentoring and shadowing: Here, agents gain practical experience by observing tenured teammates and experience real-world scenarios by fielding incoming support requests with the help of another member. Shadowing existing agents is a powerful way to learn the ins and outs of the job.
  6. Evaluations and feedback: This helps promote continuous improvement. Evaluations and feedback might be a more frequent occurrence for new hires, and move to quarterly or annual evaluations as agents accrue a certain amount of time on the job.
The support onboarding process

Support onboarding best practices

We recommend considering these best practices when bringing on new team members. Whether you’re onboarding contact center agents, an escalations team, or front-line chat support, you’ll find these tips helpful when building out your agent onboarding process.

Use real-world scenarios

Employees learn 70% of their skills doing the actual job, and 30% through training and coaching. Create practical exercises using role-playing and real-world scenarios to help convey critical information.

Leverage peer-to-peer coaching sessions

Allow new hires to get feedback from their coworkers on customer interactions and troubleshooting steps. This enables new hires to learn from experienced agents and fosters stronger relationships between agents. 

Survey new hires

Ask new agents about what’s working and not working in the training process. These insights can be leveraged for follow-up training and to improve the overall onboarding plan. Use a survey tool to collect feedback about the onboarding process so that you have qualitative and quantitative data to help drive decisions.

Ensure all training materials are accurate and up-to-date

Outdated training material will cause confusion, errors, and frustration. It’s important to keep your onboarding and training information accurate and updated as your product, services, or processes change. Have a plan in place to flag outdated information and make regular updates so that incorrect information doesn’t make its way to customers and cause a negative customer experience.

It’s important to keep your onboarding and training information accurate and updated as your product, services, or processes change.

Conduct ongoing performance reviews

Ensure team leads and managers are in regular contact with their team. Frequent performance reviews are a great way to measure how individuals and teams are doing when it comes to staying fresh with knowledge. 

Encourage shadowing sessions

Similar to peer-to-peer feedback, new agents can shadow tenured agents (and vice versa) to allow them to learn from each other and level up their skills and knowledge.

Create an accountability culture

Use customer support metrics and lean into transparency so that agents feel accountable for their work. Address misaligned behaviors so they avoid negatively impacting the team’s output and culture. 

Key components of agent onboarding

Successful agent onboarding requires a combination of people management, access to the right technology and resources, and personalization. Here are some key things you should consider when building your customer support onboarding program.

  1. Mock tools and dummy accounts: Having a dedicated dummy account that new agents can tinker with will get them more familiar with your product faster. Think of this as a “safe space” new hires can access and play with without causing any harm. Build this out with mock data and examples of how customers will use your product so agents get a sense of how the product is used. 
  2. Recorded customer interactions: Give new support agents access to pre-recorded sales calls, customer training sessions, and support interactions so they can learn from interactions you’ve had with real customers. This allows them to see how you talk about your product, and it helps them get familiar with customers. 
  3. Knowledge checkpoints and feedback: Come up with specific milestones where new support agents are expected to have a certain level of understanding about an area of the product or service. This will help motivate agents to keep momentum with the training program, and it also helps promote a culture of accountability. Provide consistent and frequent feedback so that new support agents can accelerate their learning curve.
  4. Well-defined and flexible onboarding plan: Take the time to draft a well-thought-out onboarding plan for new hires. This might be a 4-week plan or a 90-day plan. Whatever the case, be very clear on what the agent should be learning, how they should be learning it, and when they should be learning it.
  5. Accessible and comprehensive training materials: An onboarding plan is nothing without resources for new support agents to learn from. In addition to the pre-recorded calls we mentioned earlier, make sure any additional learning materials are available and up to date. This might be your customer-facing knowledge base or internal training documentation.
  6. Mentorship and buddy system: Pair new support agents with a buddy or provide them with a mentor who can help them as they learn. A good support agent has taken the time to learn the ins and outs of the role, and giving new hires access to a tenured agent will help expedite their understanding of the product or service.
  7. Regular check-ins and progress tracking: Getting a new job only to be ghosted by your manager after day one doesn’t feel very good. Have a plan in place for managers and team leads to regularly check in with new hires and be able to track progress. Keeping momentum right out of the gate is critical to the success of new hires and the overall team.
  8. Professional growth opportunities: Training doesn’t stop once you’ve completed the onboarding plan. There are always ways to learn more, acquire more skills, and become an increasingly more valuable teammate. Allow agents to continue learning and leveling up their skills through professional growth opportunities like conferences, courses, and certifications.

The role of technology in agent onboarding

With so many moving pieces and the complexity that remote work brings to training and onboarding, on-site classroom-based training isn’t always an option. Companies today are leveraging technology to support their onboarding process. 

A Learning Management System (LMS) might be necessary to help scale the onboarding process and guide new hires through the training curriculum. An LMS brings more structure and organization to the training process. 

AI tools can simulate conversations and scenarios to help guide customer support agents through a successful conversation. Virtual classrooms and e-learning modules allow access to self-paced learning, virtual shadowing sessions, and pre-recorded customer conversations. 

Knowledge management tools give agents a self-serve way to study scripts and view practical information through videos. The opportunity for technology to improve your onboarding process is endless. Beware of adopting multiple tools at once. Start slow and build as you learn what your team and your business need to be successful.

Personalization in agent onboarding

Onboarding should be both standardized and personalized. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences and it’s important that everyone involved in the agent onboarding process is aware of these nuances and understands how to navigate them.

With multiple types of personalities in the training program, it’s important to embrace empathy and approach every situation with an open mind so that new support agents feel seen and heard. Playing to each person’s strengths and weaknesses will make the onboarding process feel more inclusive and bring everyone together to learn as much as possible in a more efficient manner.

Personalized learning paths based on prior experience might be necessary to help streamline education on certain topics. For example, if someone already knows how to use Sales Force, they might not be required to sit through a day of training on it. Training modules should be adaptive to address the specific needs of each agent. 

Metrics and considerations of the agent onboarding process

Streamlining the agent onboarding process requires measuring various parts of the customer support process, agent knowledge, and customer interactions. Measuring the success of agent onboarding will give you and your leadership team visibility into how the agent onboarding process is working. There are several ways to measure the impact of your onboarding process, including post-training evaluations and quantitative data.

Post-training evaluations

Evaluate new hires after they have completed the training process. At PartnerHero, this is typically done 5 days and 30 days after onboarding has been completed. Evaluations can be done through a traditional testing framework or hands-on exercises, or a combination of both. 

First response time

Perhaps the most common metric customer support teams are known to measure, first response time can shed light on many things. If first response time is low, it might indicate needing more support agents, or it might mean agents are struggling to understand customer inquiries, pointing to a need for more training. 

Average handle time

Average handle time measures the amount of time a support agent spends handling a customer problem. This KPI measures talk time, hold time, and after-call working time needed to solve the issue. If average handle time increases after new support agents come on board, it might indicate more training is needed around certain scenarios or topics. 

Customer satisfaction

This metric measures the level of satisfaction or happiness that a customer feels after receiving support from your company. A low CSAT score for a given agent might indicate the need for additional training around certain topics or an improvement in soft skills like communication and empathy.

Quality assurance

This helps measure if agents are reaching the desired quality in solving and handling customer issues. A low-quality response can still answer the customer’s question and solve the problem, but it likely wasn’t handled in the best way possible. 

Time to resolution

This refers to the amount of time it takes to solve a customer problem. More specifically, this metric measures the entire time it takes for a ticket’s lifecycle to go from “open” to “closed”. Different than “average handle time”, time to resolution includes the time the agent is waiting to hear back from the customer. 

The value-friction CX framework

While these metrics are typically used to measure agent-customer interactions, they can also be used to understand how your onboarding and training process is working (or not working). However, it’s important to consider which metrics your customers value at different points of the customer journey. 

For example, new customers going through the setup process might value a faster response time over a quality response. If that’s the case, looking only at first response time isn’t going to give you the entire picture. Use the value-friction CX framework to measure the customer experience across the customer journey.

Onboarding support agents remotely

Many companies today are onboarding new employees remotely. In our experience at PartnerHero, the difference between on-site and remote onboarding has been minimal, thanks to the right technology and continued improvements to training programs. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Remote training allows for scalable growth while simultaneously onboarding for multiple regions. However, it may require more tools for its success, associates may require more follow-up, and the process may be slower.

In-person training allows for immediate support through the onboarding process, including troubleshooting any issues and providing on-the-go feedback. However, it may require more support and resources to onboard large groups or multiple regions.

Building a remote onboarding program requires skills in project management, establishing processes & protocols, clear & timely communication, and a high level of emotional intelligence. 

The most important thing to consider is flexibility and adaptability during the onboarding process so that you can constantly improve the experience. 

Benefits of effective agent onboarding

A smooth and effective agent onboarding process impacts numerous parts of the business in positive ways. 

  • Increased customer and agent satisfaction: Good agent onboarding impacts the employee experience and the customer experience. Sloppy onboarding can be a concern for new employees and it can be frustrating. It also means customers will get a lower level of service as agents aren’t prepared for the problems they will face. 
  • Reduced customer and agent churn: Simply put, a frustrating employee or customer experience may result in churn. Employees might leave as they don’t feel equipped to do the job. Customers might leave as they’re frustrated with the poor customer service caused by ill-equipped agents.
  • Increased performance: A well-trained support team has the tools and information necessary to be a high-performing customer service team. Good onboarding and training will result in a more productive and effective team. 
  • Reduced learning curve: Customer service agents today are faced with increasingly more complex problems. Employees who have gone through training and have resources available to them will get up to speed much quicker than agents without any training. 
  • Optimization of resources: Good agent onboarding ensures existing employees can stay focused. Imagine joining a company without an onboarding process… you’re likely going to be distracting various people as you scramble to find answers and information you need.
The benefits of effective support agent onboarding

A good agent onboarding process ultimately helps reduce company attrition, produces a learning culture, and increases revenue.

Challenges of agent onboarding

As you can see, onboarding agents takes a lot of planning. Even when you have a solid onboarding plan, there are still many challenges of onboarding new employees.

Information overload

The “fire hose” of information is all too common when starting a new job. Information overload can result in overwhelmed employees and it can actually be counter-productive. 

Solution: Break down training into digestible modules and constant checkpoints. 

Limited engagement in virtual onboarding

Remote or virtual onboarding is inherently less interactive. This might result in missed opportunities for new agents to ask questions or provide feedback. 

Solution: Incorporate interactive elements and frequent group/team discussions.

Technological issues

Technology is a critical part of building a good agent onboarding process. However, sometimes technology can seem to cause more problems than it avoids. Having access to the right technology at the right time is key. 

Solution: Offer training courses and technical assistance around common issues along with meetings with IT members so agents ensure they’re set up with the tools and systems they need for their job.

Retaining and applying information

With so much information being shared, it can be difficult for new agents to retain what they’re learning. Some information might not be applicable right out of the gate, and by the time it is needed, the agent might already be a few months into the job. 

Solution: Use practical experience and ongoing evaluations to reinforce what has been learned.


Unfortunately, there is no rinse-and-repeat process of agent onboarding. Every company must work to define a unique onboarding process that works for them, their employees, and their customers. 

The most important thing we encourage is to have a plan. Any plan is a good place to start. Onboarding at a young startup is going to look drastically different than onboarding at a large company. Continually update your agent onboarding plan and work to put in place tools and systems to measure its success.

Ultimately, onboarding impacts the entire company and your customers. By focusing on onboarding your employees, you’ll have a foundation for building a world-class customer experience. 

PartnerHero has years of experience onboarding customer support agents and standing up high-performing support teams. We have connected thousands of talented people from all over the world with innovative companies that truly care about the customer experience. Reach out to learn more about what we do.