Wednesday, February 11, 2015

10 Tips for Successful Call Center Agent Coaching Sessions

As a Subject Matter Expert, Nesting Lead or even Mentor Coaching call center agents can be challenging, time consuming, and frankly, emotionally draining. But it doesn't have to be. With the proper knowledge, application of new skills and tweaking of existing skills, you can hold more successful call center agent coaching sessions in no time. Heto na.

Tip 1. Keep it confidential

No agent likes to hear that they aren't performing optimally. Take this into consideration and make sure that your coaching sessions are held in a private space. When conducting side-by-side coaching sessions at the agent’s work-space, keep constructive feedback to a minimum and then discuss these points more discretely in one-on-one coaching sessions. Also, if you would like to use a call recording to demonstrate what not to do, make sure that agents can’t easily identify their team member in the recording. Keeping things confidential will enhance your team’s comfort level when receiving managerial coaching as they will be confident their mistakes won’t be broadcasted. And when agents are more comfortable in coaching sessions, they will be more likely to receive your feedback. Remember PRIVATE COACHING = PUBLIC COMMENDATION.

Tip 2. Sandwich negative feedback with positive feedback

Want to enhance the likelihood that your agents will take your constructive criticism into consideration and make the suggested changes? Start the coaching session with something they have recently improved, are consistently doing well, or a strength. This will put the agent at ease and increase the likelihood that they will be receptive to what comes next. After you provide negative feedback, make sure you end the coaching session on a positive note by again highlighting something they are doing well. This will ensure that your agent leaves your office motivated and ready to make improvements.

Tip 3. Tie performance feedback to data

“Your customer satisfaction scores / edr are declining this month” is not as helpful for the agent to hear as, “Your customer satisfaction / edr scores have declined 34% this month”. Giving your agents concrete data to support performance decrements will help them understand the magnitude of the issue. This sends a clearer message as the agent can quantify the decrease in their performance. Incorporating data into your feedback sessions is essential to informing your agents of just how far off they are from their target.

Tip 4. Provide specific examples

When discussing performance issues provide the agent with specific examples that support your feedback. Play interactions from call recordings and point out exactly where the interaction went wrong. You can also play interactions from other agents who excel at that skill to drive home your point. The more concrete you can make your feedback using call recordings, the easier it will be for the agent to understand.

Tip 5. Role play

If you want your agent to have a comprehensive understanding of how they can enhance their performance, there is no better way than to role play. Start by selecting a recent interaction that they had with a customer that could be optimized. Then, role play that scenario making the agent the customer and you the agent. Once the agent has an understanding of what you would say in that situation, switch roles. When they are role playing the agent, provide them with helpful feedback so they can tweak their approach accordingly. This will allow the agent to practice their new skill before they hit the phones again.

Tip 6. Have your agents assess their own performance

Sometimes the best way to improve a skill is to be your own critic. As a coaching tactic, ask the agent to scrutinize their call recordings and identify areas for improvement. They should bring these recordings to your coaching sessions and explain exactly what went wrong, where they should improve, and how they can improve. Asking agents to conduct comprehensive self-assessments prior to coaching sessions will enhance their motivation to improve and expedite the learning process.

Tip 7. Collaborate with the agent when formulating an action plan

Once you have identified an area for improvement, work with the agent to establish an action plan. Involving the agent in this process will enhance the likelihood that the established goals are attainable and that the agent will be motivated to achieve their goals. It also ensures that the agent knows exactly what is expected of them, how they will be evaluated, and when they are expected to make the suggested changes. Finally, it gives them the opportunity to discuss any difficulties that they are having and engage in pre-emptive troubleshooting. Involving the agent in the formulation of the action plan will go a long way to reducing confusion down the road by ensuring that the agent knows exactly what is expected of them.

Tip 8. Discuss roadblocks to enhancing performance

A good manager will identify strengths and weaknesses in their agents and coach them to enhance their performance. A great manager will do the same and also identify roadblocks to enhancing performance and troubleshoot with the agent to remove them. Is the agent finding it difficult to hear the customers due to background noise? Provide them with noise canceling headsets. Does the agent love to handle technically advanced calls but cringes when customers call in for a return? Utilize skills-based routing so that the agent receives primarily tech support calls. Sometimes drastic improvements can be made with just a little troubleshooting, saving your team headache and frustration.

Tip 9. Check in on progress towards goals

Coaching requires much more than a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Before your next coaching session, stop by the agent’s workspace to assess their progress towards their established goals. You should also listen to live and recorded calls to see if they are making the suggested changes. If they are straying off course, provide them with this feedback before your next coaching session to allow them time to adjust their approach. Giving your agents consistent nudges will help guide them in the right direction, setting them up for success for your next coaching session. 

Tip 10. Discuss progress towards goals

In the coaching session subsequent to the session where an action plan was formulated, discuss the agent’s progress towards their goals as well as any difficulties they are having in achieving their goals. If the agent needs a bit more time, identified roadblocks, or needs a bit of extra support in achieving their goals, adjust their action plan accordingly. Being flexible before deadlines can pay dividends down the road as the agent will be more likely to meet your expectations.

Conclusions

Coaching agents is often a dreaded task by some managers. But it shouldn't be. With the right knowledge, a bit of effort, and perseverance, you’ll be a coaching expert in no time.