From elevated productivity to increased morale, better performance, and heightened engagement, the benefits of successful call center coaching are plentiful. And yet, coaching in contact centers is often times executed ineffectively or neglected.
In this article, we’ll outline 5 principle elements of coaching success to help make coaching in your contact center more effective. We’ll start with building trust and credibility and I’ll provide you with guidelines for when you should be training and alternatively, when you should be coaching. We’ll emphasize the positive impact of involving the agent in the coaching process and provide you with techniques in order to do so more constructively. We’ll remind you that coaching needs to be regularly prioritized in order to be most effective and that coaching to celebrate is just as important as coaching to correct.
Build Trust and Credibility
In order to be successful, your coaching session needs to be built on a foundation of trust and credibility. If your agent doesn’t trust you or feel safe to communicate problems and roadblocks, the effectiveness of your coaching session will be dramatically stifled. Take the initiative to connect with agents on a personal level, always keep training sessions confidential and remember that learning is unable to take place in an environment where failure is unaccepted. It’s also helpful to establish your credibility, highlight your experience and explain why you’re qualified to be a coach because if the agent you’re coaching believes you know what you’re doing, they are going to be much more receptive to your coaching.
Training vs. Coaching
Sometimes we try to coach on something that we actually need to provide training on first, this makes our coaching less effective. Training and coaching each have their own important place in the process of learning and development and it’s helpful to know when it’s appropriate to use each. Here are few generalizations to help you know which to apply; training usually comes first and coaching second. This is because training is most effective when the aim is to transfer knowledge, while coaching is more effective in enhancing or reinforcing skills. Training is typically done in a group setting or via e-learning, and coaching is typically done 1-on-1 and face-to-face. Training is also usually delivered more formally and consists of a lot of “telling”, while coaching should be more informal and consist of more “asking”.
Involve the Agent in the Process
Coaching sessions should have a conversational format. Be sure to give your agents the opportunity to evaluate themselves, listen to calls together and ask what they thought went well and what aspects of the call they could improve. This should be insightful to you as a coach, helping you to determine for instance if there is simply a knowledge gap or maybe more of a motivational issue. Prompting agents to evaluate themselves will also encourage self awareness and likely increase receptiveness to your feedback as well. A popular technique with opportunity to involve the agent in the process is in side-by-side coaching, in which you physically sit next to the agent and coach before, during and after a call.
Prioritizing Coaching Sessions
If you aren’t making coaching a priority in your call center, it’s not going to be very effective, obviously. So this one really just requires some dedication. It may be easy to push off your next one-on-one, but doing so is ripping off your agent and isn’t going to yield the results you want either. So, get your coaching sessions on the calendar and make them a priority. Urgent issues do arise, and can be unpredictable, but the more you do to get out ahead of problems, the less they will interrupt you moving forward.
Coaching to Celebrate
Please, don’t limit your coaching to just correcting negative behavior. This is a common pitfall of inexperienced coaches and by only focusing on the negative, you miss so much opportunity to celebrate and encourage more of the positive behaviors you’d like to see. Plus, agents will really dread coaching sessions if all the focus is on their shortcomings. Or worse, if they feel their efforts are never good enough, they will be much less inclined to strive for improvement. This also means you should not be neglecting your top performers. They deserve coaching time just as much as the rest. Recognition can go a long way!
Learn More About Coaching
Good coaches also take their own personal development very seriously. By constantly sharpening your coaching skills, you will become ever better at coaching. Ways to improve your coaching skills include exchanging coaching tactics with other coaches, getting coached by a more a more experienced coach, or taking more formal training on coaching. If you are interested in the latter, The Call Center School has just released a program, The Art of Coaching, dedicated exclusively to the topic of coaching in a call center or customer service environment. It covers coaching best practices, how to structure coaching sessions, techniques for doing side-by-side coaching, and methods to adapt your coaching style to specific employees. The program is designed for both those new to coaching and those more experienced in coaching who want to brush up their skills. Learn more about The Art of Coaching course.