Why Agent Coaching is the Key to Customer Loyalty

Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson. Walter Payton had Mike Ditka. Look at any great athlete, and you often see a great coach. But it’s not just athletes.

Former CEO Brad Anderson used multiple coaches as he drove Best Buy to new heights. According to a 2013 study by the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School for Business, over half of corporate senior executives are receiving some form of coaching. Yet, it’s all too rare for the people who directly impact your customer loyalty – your contact center agents.

Now, of course managers “coach” their teams on how to improve. But there’s no guarantee that it’s effective. Often, these managers were taking calls themselves not that long ago. And nobody really taught them how to be a coach. As a result, many of these sessions turn into “beat up the rep” time, rather than focusing on what helps improve performance.

Sometimes, it’s easier to create a training program than to try to turn managers into agent coaching superstars.

Unfortunately, this ends up hurting the organization. While training feels good, and some training is obviously needed, you can over-rely on it. In The Effortless Experience, the CEB studied the impact of training versus coaching. They studied 3,600 contact center reps and 300 supervisors, breaking each into one of two categories – those who focused on training and those who focused on coaching. And what did they find?

“Organizations that disproportionately focus on training generally have lower-performing rep populations. Conversely, organizations that place greater emphasis on coaching tend to drive higher performance levels for their teams.”

This isn’t to say that training doesn’t matter. Just that in order to correct behavior, an intervention is needed in real-time – not three weeks later when training is scheduled. That’s why agent coaching works so well. Large-group training by definition happens at regular intervals – not necessarily when the rep needs it most. But effective coaching reinforces behavior on a regular basis, offering course corrections in near-real time.

But not all coaches are created equally, and it comes more naturally to some than others. Rather than leaving it to chance, you need to develop a method to evaluate and coach your coaches to determine how they’re doing today, and how they can best improve.

That’s why I was glad to be given a copy of Intradiem’s “A Checklist for Evaluating Your Coaches.” It offers a great tool to help determine whether your coaches are following best practices, rather than simply acting intuitively. Of course, Intradiem’s Intraday Automation tools are specifically designed to help you find the time for coaching, and automates the delivery of related performance-based tasks.

Take the time to observe a coaching session, and see whether your coaches are following best practices.

And if they aren’t? Then it’s probably time to coach your coaches.

About the author

Jim Tincher is the Principal Consultant at Heart of the Customer, a Customer Experience and Customer Service consulting company. Jim has more than 20 years of experience in driving customer experience from small business to Fortune 500 companies. Jim’s Customer Experience expertise has led to engagements as far-reaching as developing consumer tests at Best Buy, creating a Customer Insights capability at UnitedHealth Group, and consulting with clients ranging from global fast food companies to utilities to international manufacturing and service companies.

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