Critical to the success of any call center is a robust approach to the ongoing support and development of its agents. Once an agent has graduated from initial training and is on the phones taking calls, the most critical process to ensure their ongoing success is coaching.
What is call center coaching?
Coaching is the process of a coach partnering with an agent to spend time together to have a conversation about:
- performance and targets;
- behaviors driving performance;
- the root cause of those behaviors; and
- developing action plans and strategies together to achieve and surpass the required level of performance.
Usually taking the form of a 20-30 minute meeting once every week, the coaching session is a critical opportunity for coaches (whether TLs, QAs, or dedicated performance coaches) to influence the
performance of their agents.
What is not call center coaching?
A coaching session is not about spending half an hour explaining why targets must be achieved, or just putting more pressure on your agents. Coaching sessions are also not merely opportunities to launch into a long list of things you think the agent needs to improve.
What is effective call center coaching?
In an effective coaching session, agents will ideally be talking the majority of the session — not you.
You will carefully ask questions to get them thinking about different aspects of their performance and analyze and draw attention to their opportunities. Then together, you build action plans for improvement. Coaching sessions are your chance to motivate, engage, and inspire your team to improve performance, as well as to develop a plan to get there.
When top-performing coaches see an agent not achieving the desired performance levels, they do not get frustrated — they get curious. What is it that is limiting this agent’s performance? What do they need to focus on to improve?
With these questions in mind, they approach the coaching session as a partner – not as a boss. They help the agent to explore their performance by raising awareness of their behaviors and
determining the root causes of those behaviors.
Learn from the best coaches
Think about the world champion in any sport. Do they have a coach? - Of course! Can their coach beat them at the sport? - No, otherwise they wouldn’t be the champion!
Coaching is not about necessarily being able to perform better than your agent and spending your time just telling them what you would do. It is about challenging them with specific questions and offering your support to help them score the best they can while you are cheering from the sideline!
The best performing call center coaches know this. They avoid long dialogues and lists of instructions. They use questions to put the focus on their agents and to ensure they are engaged and actively participating in the session. They know if agents are engaged in the session, they will be far more committed to the improvement actions.
Sometimes coaching will be about raising an agent’s awareness. This could be of their performance, of something they were doing on the phones but never realized, or perhaps of what excellent customer service sounds like!
Other times it will be about giving some training or quick tips to address specific weaknesses in knowledge. Then in the next session, it might be about using role plays to practice a skill they have learned in theory, but have difficulty in applying. After that, your next session might be simply thanking the agent for their continued performance and letting them know you appreciate their efforts and support.
The strategy you use will depend on the root causes that are truly driving each agent’s behavior. This is why coaching is about identifying behaviors, working with the agent to discover the root causes driving those behaviors, and then developing an action plan to give them strategies to improve – in that order!
Learn more about coaching
This section of the knowledge base explores call center coaching techniques, best practices, and tips to help coaches, and those they are coaching, to be successful.