April 17, 2019
Coaching call center agents can be challenging and time-consuming and often produces uneven results, but it doesn’t have to. A contact center is only as successful as its agents. The key to long-term success is continually coaching your agents. A dedicated, consistent approach combined with sound product and process knowledge is desirable for optimal coaching. The main goals of coaching include training agents to reply promptly to customer requests, complying with quality and compliance metrics and avoiding sounding scripted, so they make meaningful interactions with customers. The road to improvement is more complicated than following a playbook. Identifying agents’ strengths and weaknesses are vital for success. Equally important is identifying roadblocks that hinder performance improvement and working with agents to overcome these obstacles. Here are Eight strategies that deliver significant impact:
1. Add Customer Experience to Agents’ Performance Scorecards
The first step in improving customer experience is heightening agent awareness about the critical role they play in influencing customer perceptions of the company and delivering superior customer experiences. By reinforcing essential elements during training and incorporating customer experience as a key performance indicator on scorecards, organizations can connect the dots between the agent and the customer. Using incentives to encourage strong performance, presenting rewards and recognition during company events, and implementing remedial measures and improvement plans when agent performance is below target can reinforce behaviors that lead to success.
2. Take “Customers as Coach” Approach
As experienced and proficient as your supervisor and team leads may be at providing performance feedback, it is the customers’ direct feedback that often has the most significant impact on agent development. Use the following elements to create and implement a comprehensive guide for improving agent interactions:
- Customer feedback
- Supervisor best practices
- Quality coaching guidelines
- In-depth self-assessments
- Space Out Coaching Events to Optimize Feedback
Allow agents time to adjust their behavior after coaching is delivered. Be sure there are reasonable intervals between quality audits to assess if the agent has implemented feedback provided during the last coaching session.
- Allow Agents to Self-Evaluate and Calibrate
It is human nature to be self-critical, and this is true of contact center agents as well. The best way to identify strengths and weaknesses is to have agents observe their interactions with customers. Supervisors and coaches should complement self-assessments with performance calibrations to ensure agents understand customer experience behavior and performance expectations.
- Check-in on Progress toward Goals
Effective coaching requires more than a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Conduct performance reviews regularly to maintain focus on KPIs. The review process will help determine the distribution of incentives, rewards and recognize superior agent performance and commitment to customer success.
- Provide Regular Refresher Training
If you don’t challenge your agents, some may be prone to stagnate and settle into a routine. Given the ever-evolving list of policies, procedures, new products, and services, it’s imperative to assess how well agents understand changes and can communicate them to customers. Refresher training should be conducted regularly to ensure that agents are proficient in the products, policies, and procedures they support and to keep customer experience top-of-mind.
- Incorporate a Closed-Loop Feedback System
Many organizations incorporate a closed-loop system to share feedback from customers and supervisors directly to agents. An industry best practice is to include a mechanism in this process for agents to provide feedback on items that are negatively impacting customer experience or that they are not equipped to solve. This system should also incorporate quality coach audits to provide a simple, holistic feedback system and a 360-degree view of performance. Combining all these components is vital for action planning and removing barriers to customer success.
- Leveraging the Power of “Ideal Call and Chat” Archives
A great way to show agents how to improve is by compiling records of calls, emails, and chats from past interactions that demonstrate a desired skill or behavior you’d like agents to emulate. A repository containing best in class calls and chats is a useful tool for coaching and training to agents. Some agents may not show improvement despite being coached on specific behaviors and need concrete examples in order to implement recommendations from coaching. This process can help bridge the gap for those agents.
Advances in Interaction Analytics technology have made it possible for organizations to speed the cycle of improvement by allowing for a greater number of interactions to be reviewed and analyzed quickly. It is easier than ever to pinpoint successful and unsuccessful actions and behaviors to target for coaching but to fully leverage this powerful technology your coaching practices need to be up to the task. eClerx Customer Operations Customer Experience team provides both consultative and tactical support for companies looking to move the needle on the customer experience using Interaction Analytics solutions, Automation, and Robotic technology.
Coaching is a valuable tool to empower call center agents while allowing for the collaboration necessary to provide outstanding customer experience. eClerx’s eight strategies can help businesses maximize coaching efforts, support call center agents in achieving their goals and ultimately enhance the customer journey.
About the Author
Ramnik Tiwana has 18+ years of experience in the ITeS industry working for leading Indian BPOs and KPOs. After 14+ years in the Operational Delivery roles for US, UK, Canadian, and APAC processes, leading substantial and diversified teams, he now specializes in Client Engagements, helping businesses improve customer experience, quality, and compliance, business metrics through quality monitoring, case studies and automation.