Recruiting for Agent Coaching Success Across Channels

Regardless of the channels we’re hiring for, some principles remain the same. I firmly believe that these two points are necessary for providing the best customer experience:

  1. We need to recruit agents who are open to change, willing to learn and committed to offering great service.
  2. Agent coaching only works if all parties (agent, supervisor and coach) are engaged.

We must hire the best and most coachable agents and future agent coaching leaders who will learn the skills needed to work with our customers and prospects across channels. Here are four pointers to keep in mind as you recruit coachable agents:

Be careful that you don’t become the company’s “orphans” drop-off spot

Oddly enough, some contact center managers still seem to be encouraged and even forced by the C-suite to hire company employees who aren’t suited for a contact center role.

Often these are long-time employees who may be doing a poor job in another department or perhaps not getting along with co-workers. Some are up to the challenge of joining your center; however, some are just taking the seat while they look for something else or wait to retire.

They may have years of company experience and know your products inside and out, but if they have been working outside the customer world, how will they feel about daily contact with often not-so-nice callers? Will they be able to multi-task calls and emails as your center might require or handle social interactions? Do they really want this opportunity and are willing to be coached and trained on something new and very different from their past jobs?

Make sure new hires are screened for the right coaching attitude for your customer channels

The most coachable agents are those who are open to feedback, willing to learn and flexible. There’s lots of debate regarding the benefits of hiring primarily for attitude or for skills, but in my experience, poor attitude often isn’t coachable. Decide which channel skills are absolutely needed upfront and what you are willing to train, but be clear about what is the right personality to engage with your customers.

An agent has to be able and willing to learn and improve. And their coach has to make the right approach to motivate and reward even the smallest improvements to gain their trust and make agents feel appreciated for their efforts.

Blend candidate testing with good old-fashioned eye to eye contact (and over the phone) discussions.

Ask open questions and sit back and listen. The more they talk, the more you learn about what they really think, much as we do when we listen to our customers.

Review email/chat skills versus resume skills

Candidates have access to lots of books and information online telling them how to design the perfect resume or they pay to have someone else write if for them. Written tests for spelling and accuracy only go so far. Be sure to exchange emails with a candidate as part of your screening process. Does a positive and friendly personality come through? Remember that accurate information delivered in a curt, canned manner doesn’t make for a “customer delight” moment.

Always remember, our customers are judging channel interactions based on agent interest in their issue and getting the answers or help they need.

Recruit for coachable agents who have the right attitude and really want to be a part of your center and create great service experiences. Hire agents who want to learn how to be the best they can be and your customers will love you for it.

About the author

Since 1983, Melissa has partnered with Contact Centers and Retail Teams to help them develop strategies, operational processes and skills to successfully blend People, Process and Technology for Customer Experience success.

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