Coaching your contact center agents on their performance can either fill everyone with dread or be a productive activity that you and your agents look forward to. Either way, it needs to be done, and arming yourself with a full set of coaching tips for contact center agents will ensure the sessions are productive.
Agent coaching has long been a method for improving contact center performance and the customer experience. In fact, McKinsey estimates that “the average 500-agent call center in North America allocates around $2 million of staff time to coaching activities every year.”
When performed effectively, agent coaching can improve conversion rates, average handle times, first contact resolution, customer satisfaction, customer experience consistency, and other KPIs. Good coaching can also improve agent retention. One business in a McKinsey study experienced twice the average retention rate in teams where coaches spent more than 60% of their time on the contact center floor.
This isn’t just one-off anecdotal evidence of the power of coaching and agent development. A LinkedIn study revealed that “94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.”
In addition to improving agent retention and performance, coaching is a powerful way to build and strengthen relationships between agents and supervisors. Realizing all these benefits depends on the skill of the supervisor, the receptiveness of the agent, and the strength of the trust between the two.
Having the following contact center agent coaching tips in your toolbox will help you be prepared for just about any coaching situation.
Effective Coaching Requires Trust
Before we dive into the coaching tips for contact center agents, we need to talk about trust. Trust is the foundation for successful employee development. All the tips in the world won’t help a supervisor be a better coach if agents don’t trust them – and vice versa.
Trust begins with getting to know your agents. What are their goals? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are they sensitive about? What is the best way to communicate with each person?
A one-size-fits-all approach to coaching won’t work. Getting to know your agents and letting them get to know you will help establish stronger relationships and help you know how to personalize coaching sessions.
Once that trust is established, supervisors can maintain it by being open and honest, treating agents fairly and with respect, and acting with their best interests at heart – every day.
CTA: Check out the on-demand webinar full of tips and tricks to make coaching contact center agents more effective.
Coaching Tips for Contact Center Agents
Now that you have your agents’ trust, you can use these contact center coaching tips to effectively develop your team and improve the customer experience.
1. Have a Full Toolbox
Coaching sessions are more effective when you use multiple techniques to get your point across. One agent may find a particular development tool engaging and fun, while another agent might think it’s ho-hum.
Supervisors should have the following coaching tools in their toolkit:
- Demonstration calls
- Self-coaching through review of interactions
- Role playing
- Skillset checklists
In addition, supervisors should use rewards and recognition to reinforce great performance. If agents focus only on weaknesses, they’re in danger of losing their strengths. Rewarding those strengths is a good way to remind agents that all aspects of their performance are important.
2. Keep Your Development Tools Fresh
Keeping your toolbox full is important, but so is freshening up those tools to prevent them from becoming stale. If an agent has to role play the exact same way for twenty weeks in a row, she’s eventually going to tune out, and the tool will lose its effectiveness.
Try mixing things up from time to time to keep agents engaged. For example, switch places when you role play so the agent is the customer and you’re in the agent’s shoes. Or have the agent evaluate one of your customer interactions. This will give you the chance to model CX best practices, and the agent is sure to enjoy (and learn from) wearing the supervisor hat.
Related resource: How Customer Service Agents Get the Most Out of Coaching Sessions
3. Record, Listen to, and Evaluate Your Coaching Sessions
There’s a good reason call recordings are used in coaching sessions. Listening to one of their own calls can be enlightening to agents, who may not have realized they were speaking so fast or sounding so bored when interacting with customers.
Similarly, you may inadvertently do things during coaching sessions that are decreasing the effectiveness of the coaching. Try recording some coaching sessions (with the agent’s consent, of course) and self-evaluating your performance. It will make you a better coach and send a positive signal to your team.
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4. Treat Development Like a Team Sport
For professional sports coaches, it’s in their best interest to develop every athlete so they reach their full potential. They also need to create an environment where teammates learn from each other and hold each other accountable. This is the way players improve and sports teams win.
Supervisors should emulate this model by treating agent development like a team sport. Agents should know that you’re always in their corner and you’ll tackle development opportunities together. Additionally, tap into the skills and knowledge of the rest of your team. Peer mentoring can be an effective way to improve individual performance.
5. Show Your Human Side
The last coaching tip for contact center agents may be the most important. Remember that coaching can only be effective if there’s trust, and trust is only possible if the agent and supervisor know each other.
Being distant won’t enable you to build relationships with your team members. It’s okay to show your human side. Being able to say things like, “I really struggled with that, too, and here’s what I did about it,” will help agents understand that you’re human and that you empathize with their challenges.
When you spend much of your day coaching agents, you want that time and effort to result in better team performance. Building trust will put you on a path to better outcomes.
If you liked these contact center coaching tips, you’ll love the webinar that inspired them. Watch our on-demand webinar, “Coaching: Tips and Tricks to Make it Effective,” for even more tips for making your coaching sessions successful.