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Five Tips for Coaching Your Agents to Success!

July 26, 2016

 Every teCXM Co Image.jpgam needs a coach; someone who can provide a strong program that leads to well-trained agents and better customer-client interactions.  Start by understanding the unique characteristics of your team and specific challenges of that job.  Customer service, sales, reservations, information services, collections, online retail, medical product support, or IT support positions require specific training and unique skills in order to be successful. Regardless of whether your team is highly tenured with leniency in process or entry level with very strict processes, important improvements can be gained from effectively and coaching your team. 

Here are five great tips that apply to any team:

Don’t tell, ask questions  The first rule in coaching is to help the agent develop through self-realization. The agent has already been trained on the right answer, so have them tell you the best response and then teach from there.  This allows them to take ownership in getting it right.   When coaching, highlight the benefit to the company and to the agent and have the agent respond with the right answer.  This creates a strong association with the agent between the activity, the importance to you, and its value to the agent and/or the business.

Feedback:  “Next time remember to ask them for their email address.”

Coaching:  “That call went well, what could you have asked that would have help us better communicate with them?”

Timing Is Critical  In order for Coaching to be effective, it must be timely.  Standard agent evaluation practice is to pick five out of over a thousand interactions and review them at the end of each month.  When interactions are not fresh in the minds of the agent, there is less ownership of the interaction. If too much time has passed, they may not remember these calls or the details of what may have gone wrong.  If it is a training or process error, then they may have continued to make that error a thousand more times.  Coaching provided the same day or within 24 hours of the interaction, creates a stronger mental association and better retention of the new skill or corrective action.

Grade what matters  Grading forms should never be standardized. They must be customized to your business and reflect the critical components of a successful interaction.  Grading forms should accommodate your agent’s varying levels of experience. For example, new agents might be graded on the basic mechanics of the call and need more coaching on processes.  Experienced agents need to be coached on higher level concepts such as missed opportunities to make a stronger connection with the caller.  Keep in mind that what you chose to evaluate will change the agent’s behavior.  Once example is that using the caller’s name creates a strong connection and a positive customer experience.  Rather than confirming it was completed, managers counted the number of times the customer’s name is used.  They even required the agent use it five or more times.  This led to agents using the caller’s name more than was natural for the interaction.  This created the opposite of the desired effect.   So start with the desired goals and then create the lowest number of questions that ensure you meet those goals.

Listen to your agents.   Great Coaches are great listeners. Listen to agent’s recorded calls when you are grading, listen to agents while they are live on calls, listen for key words around the call center, and listen to them in the halls.  If there is something that is making their job more challenging, there is usually a simple solution.  An agent’s mindset has a direct impact on how they work on the phones.  Listening for words in the hall that are negative, even if not directly related to their work, can give you a heads up that the agent may need attention.  You do not need to ask about the situation, but you can redirect their attention.   Listen for calls with excessive pauses, agents talking over the caller, or other soft skills issues, then measure against what you know about the agent.  Is this typical or not, could there be more going on with your agent than just remembering their training.   Most importantly, if an agent takes the time to tell you something, treat the agent the same way you want them to treat the customer.  This will reinforce good processes and help boost a positive work environment.

Reward Success  Catching the agent doing things right and rewarding it is much more impactful than catching them doing things wrong.  Agents want to succeed and success breeds success.  Make sure that you recognize and reward good behaviors.  You should also make sure that any evaluations recognize the agent for being above average.  If you have asked an agent to work on a particular aspect of their call, make sure to reward them when they get it right.  Rewards do not have to monetary, just acknowledge the success.  There are many other ways to provide rewards with entire websites on ideas specifically for the contact center. Sometimes verbal recognition is all the agent really needs.

Coaching is critical to building a strong quality assurance program.  Without a good process for coaching the agents, you are only providing feedback.  Most trainers will tell you that you can get a skill to become second nature if the agent can explain it, instead of just telling the agent the correct response.  You are also making sure the agent understands the right words to use or proper procedure.  Through using these best practices, you can enhance your agent’s performance and ensure a positive work environment.