Contact center coaching is the key ingredient for improving agent performance and building an increase in overall customer satisfaction. Coaching contact center agents empowers them to learn new skills, receive feedback on their work, and fix any potential problems they experience during customer interactions. Discover the five best contact center coaching ideas and strategies to build top performing agents.
What is Coaching in a Contact Center?
With so many benefits to coaching contact center agents, it’s clearly a wise strategy for growing organizations. But what’s the best approach? What are best practices for contact center coaching?
Straight from our WFM experts, we’re here to unpack all of your questions, and offer contact center coaching examples. Discover how to coach an agent using these best practices, effective strategies, and techniques to propel your agents toward success.
How to Coach an Agent Effectively
1. Contact Center Coaching Through Role Play
One of the most impactful customer service agent coaching ideas is role play. This setting gives agents space to practice their customer service skills, in a low-pressure environment where they’re free to grow, make mistakes, and find strategies that work best for them. An added bonus: Contact center coaching through role play allows for quick feedback, so they can course-correct.
Using role-play for any type of session is extremely beneficial for contact center coaching, but it’s proven to be most helpful during onboarding. If new agents learn how to conduct calls during their formal training through role-playing coaching sessions, it is simple to transition the knowledge they’ve gained to conducting live calls.
First, take a few of the agent’s first solo practice calls and replay the recording with them. Then, have the agent play the role of the customer while you play the role of the agent. In doing so, the contact center agent will get to witness how you manage the call, so they can learn from your example. Then, switch roles so they can play the agent.
It’s important to understand that the agent is new at this, so they may be hesitant or come right out with a statement that’s inappropriate or misleading. But within the safety of the contact center agent coaching session, you can help them find their way through a call that may have otherwise seemed intimidating.
Giving your call center agents guidance as they practice helps them learn how to think and respond like a top-performing call center agent.
2. Make Contact Center Coaching Feedback Palatable
The next of our contact center coaching ideas is to avoid harsh feedback after an agent makes a serious mistake or shows a decline in performance. Not only are they likely nervous about what will happen during the session, but they may also fear their job is in jeopardy.
While it’s important that they take the coaching seriously, fear can cause unnecessary roadblocks. You can relieve an agent’s fear by using a “feedback sandwich.”
The conversation can go smoothly when you approach it with examples. Start by telling the agent something they recently did very well. Give them a specific example of what they did right and explain how it benefited the customer and the company. This lays a foundation of trust and helps the agent see that they’re capable of great work.
Next, discuss the problem or area of poor performance. During agent coaching, it’s important to give concrete examples and explain why it matters.
Finally, do something helpful. Offer advice and next steps, or review if there’s anything you can do to make their job easier. Wrap up the session by letting them know how much you value their efforts and that you’re willing to provide coaching tips as they work to improve their performance.
With a coaching guide like this, your agents are more likely to take feedback to heart, and also understand the practical implications of your notes. It’s a win-win for your agent and your customer experience!
3. Use Self-Assessment When Coaching Agents
You might be surprised to find out that your agents are in tune with their shortcomings, just like you are. Thanks to live customer feedback, maybe they’ve even pinpointed areas for improvement that you hadn’t.
Research indicates that we humans may struggle to answer the “why” question about underperformance. But we’re well-equipped to answer “what” questions, which shift us from subjective to objective evaluation. Translated into the QM space, successfully coaching call center agents means asking questions like these:
- What went well on that call?
- What frustrated your customer during that engagement?
- What might you do differently next time?
- What information could you have shared with the customer?
- What resources do you need from call center leadership to improve?
And, if they don’t recognize where they are underperforming, you need to be able to share the metrics that reveal the weak spots.
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Another effective contact center coaching tool is to create a safe space in which your agents can trust you’re there to listen and help them succeed. Ask them to share details about their difficulties and successes. You might learn something you didn’t know before, either about their performance, their attitude about it, or what they’ve already tried to improve.
With this information, you’ll be ready to help them work on their problem areas and fine-tune their performance, while simultaneously showing them that their opinions and observations matter.
4. Goal-Setting: A Motivating Contact Center Coaching Tool
Another successful practice for agent coaching in a contact center is motivating agents to constantly progress forward. Goals and benchmarking are fundamental motivational tools for providing an extra push.
During the coaching sessions, work with your agents to define actionable goals they can work toward. By establishing and agreeing on goals with your contact center agents, you’ll help them shift their sights to a plan that is attainable.
When you help your agents establish goals, you set a strategic trajectory towards future achievement. Research indicates that setting actionable goals empowers employees to reach new heights.
A contact center coach should use a smart reporting tool to track agents’ performance metric progress and measure how much they’ve improved within the set period of time — and don’t forget to set new goals as you benchmark for the upcoming period.
5. Coaching Contact Center Agents Periodically
Periodic sessions for coaching agents are crucial to their success. Periodic coaching sessions can also serve as feedback sessions and give agents space and time to put their new learnings into effect while setting new deadlines. It also allows them to look back and reflect on their growth over time.
As a contact center coach and manager, be sure to review agents’ yearly performance indicators and identify their greatest strengths. Find where they are continuously having problems. Then, find concrete examples of each.
During the coaching session, talk to contact center agents about ways to improve their weaknesses. They may have ideas on how to learn, but you also need to be ready to provide your own suggestions.
Don’t forget to recognize and showcase their achievements, too. Knowing where they’re being successful not only helps them feel appreciated, but it also ensures they stay on a positive path.
Top-performing agents aren’t born, they’re made. It takes a special commitment to your team to give them the coaching tips they need to learn, develop their skills and correct any problems holding them back. But the investment in coaching contact center agents is well worth it and can result in a true ROI for your organization and its customer experience. By using these contact center coaching tactics, you can provide agents with what they need in order to thrive in your busy contact center environment!