Contact center agents are very important to businesses as they communicate directly with customers. They need proper training for voice processes such as inbound and outbound calls, and non-voice processes that include e-mail and chat support. Even though they do receive instructions at the time of hiring, regular coaching sessions are essential to teach new skills and address performance goals.
Training is not easy and can be quite time-consuming and emotionally draining for trainers. However, regular coaching is crucial to ensure good customer experiences. It is the trainer’s responsibility to determine which areas need improvement and plan programs accordingly.
Coaching is important for an efficient customer care team. However, it needs dedicated management effort, consistency, and the right knowledge. Having to tell an agent that the performance is not up to the mark is not a pleasant task. Training sessions, on the other hand, can assist agents in understanding their shortcomings and improving their performance.
Let us have a look at some useful suggestions that can take businesses a step closer to coaching excellence.
Tip 1: Keep it Confidential
Employees do not like to hear that their performance is not meeting expectations. Therefore, businesses need to design one on one coaching sessions to deal with this issue. Once they know their shortcomings are only between the manager and them, they feel more comfortable. Even during side-by-side sessions, try to keep constructive criticism to a minimum and avoid reviewing individual performances.
Tip 2: Use the Sandwich Approach
Most agents become defensive when criticized, even if it is constructive. To avoid such instances, it is ideal to use the sandwich approach in coaching programs. Try to insert the negative feedback between two positive feedbacks. Start with something that the agents do well and gradually move toward areas that need improvement.
Tip 3: Set Coaching Goals
If a business wants agents to perform better, it needs to be clear about what is required of them. Instead of providing vague objectives, try to assign specific targets to enhance performance levels. For instance, a goal that requires the agents to increase their ratings by 4% is far better than one that simply asks them to improve their service.
Tip 4: Be Strategic
All agents need guidance. Do not focus your efforts on low performers alone. To utilize the time efficiently, take the entire team into the loop.
Consider a scenario where a contact center is introduced with a new technology or the staff needs to acquire a new skill, in such cases, it is better to involve all agents even the top performers.
Tip 5: Use Data-Driven Feedback
Statements such as, “customer satisfaction scores have seen a decline in the past month,” and “performance level is below the target,” are not effective. Whereas, incorporating actual figures into these statements makes them more meaningful, for example, “customer satisfaction scores declined by 10% last month.” Providing employees with actual data to supplement performance decrements helps them determine the magnitude of the issue as well as how far they are from reaching their target.
Tip 6: Incorporate Role Play
For better understanding, it is good to utilize role-play in training sessions so agents can practice the new skills and behavior. Make them incorporate their new learnings into their previously recorded customer interactions. Let them play the role of customers while the coach can play the role of the agent. Try to demonstrate the behavioral skills that could have been beneficial for those calls. This exercise will allow the reps to identify the skills required for a successful call and get them instant feedback.
Tip 7: Develop an Improvement Plan
Involving the team in improvement plans can be beneficial for the business. Together, agents and managers can develop an effective plan for two reasons. Firstly, employees can help in setting achievable and realistic goals. Secondly, employees will know what is required of them and how their performance will be evaluated so they will end up improving themselves.
Tip 8: Follow Up
Once a new plan is developed, it is mandatory to follow up with the team to see if it is working well. A plan may seem amazing in a coaching session but may not play out so well in real life. So, do not be scared to drop a plan that is not getting the job done.
Tip 9: Normalize Training
Instead of occasional training, make it a regular part of the routine. Scheduling it after long gaps or right after an unfavorable incident may make agents feel criticized. This can make them defensive. Remember, coaching is all about helping the team to perform better, not penalizing them for their blunders.