SME May Not Equal Trainer Without
Some Training

By Marshall Lee, ttech

Have you ever thought about using a group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to expedite training? But are you worried that this may not be the best way to do this? If you answered yes to both, it’s understandable. 

Subject Matter Expert (SME) literally means one who is expert in a certain area. It does not mean one can teach or train that skill. However, in call centers, promotions are often given to agents to positions such as Team Leads, Trainers, Analysts, Coaches, and Supervisors. There is one truth though — just because an agent can take calls, that does not mean they will automatically make a good trainer or lead or analyst. But if an agent has high quality scores, good caller satisfaction, and strong first contact resolution, likely they know the job, and the subject well. This agent likely would qualify as a subject matter expert. 

However, you can’t just take that successful agent and throw them in front of a class and expect them to bring a group of new hires up to speed. This is a bad scenario for the SME and new hires. There is nothing wrong with using the SME to help train — they may have more active knowledge of the material than the trainer. The key is preparing them and using them successfully. To do this you need to do two things:  1) teach the SME how to teach; and 2) map where to use them in your training program. 

By smartly deploying an SME team, trainers can develop the next generation of support, give the trainees exposure to team members, and break up the monotony of one trainer.  

You can create a program capability index by completing an inventory of all the places an SME would be appropriate for training. Then work with the contact center leadership team to identify the SMEs who have the best aptitude. Sync your names with the units or training sections you identified. Next deploy a “train the trainer” program that focuses on how to teach. Cover adult learning, education, and how to present. Those who can “do” now can teach too.

Once you apply your SME force to the training, watch as both take off. You will have fresh faces to help train, they will have more experience, and the organization has more qualified instructors in the pipeline. An SME alone is not always ready or able to train, but a well-prepared SME can be a knowledge force multiplier.

QATC Board Member Marshall Lee is Director of GWFM at ttech. He may be reached at  Marshall will be presenting several sessions at the QATC Annual Conference, so register today to see these amazing presentations:  Whose Class is it Anyway? Improv for Trainers, Home Alone:  Training Without Trainers (about SMEs!), and Generation WHAT? Understanding Generations and their Impact in the Modern Contact Center.