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The 7 Fundamentals of All-Star Agent Coaching

All great coaches have their signature plays. Like most games, however, call center coaching isn’t a one-play game. It takes ongoing dedication to a set of tried and true tactics, the basics that will win over time. Read on for seven fundamental plays that are the hallmarks of great coaching in the call center.

#1 – Ensure It Is True Coaching. What gets called coaching on many teams is really managing without much guidance on improvement. Eighty percent of executives in a study by Intradiem indicated that they do not believe supervisors have all the right skills for coaching. Because they lack the experience and often the training to do so, supervisors rarely have the skills to coach for improved performance and behavior change. Improving the coaching skills of the front-line supervisors with targeted training is critical to making an impact on agent performance.

#2 – Make It Targeted. By its nature, coaching should be targeted, but it’s difficult for supervisors to keep up with all team members’ performance and individualized coaching plans. By linking to KPI’s, coaching instances can be targeted to performance trends that indicate problems as well as those that indicate opportunities for enhanced performance.

#3 – See That It Is Frequent. The demands on a supervisor’s time are many. And often the lower performing agents take up a disproportionate amount of that time. To meet the needs of all agents, time must be made for both agents and coaches to interact on performance problems as well as enhancement opportunities. Worried that you can’t find enough time to schedule this amount of coaching? Frequent coaching can be achieved through intraday management technology by finding periods of call volume downtime for agents and available time for supervisors to meet and work on coaching plans and activities.

#4 – Make It Actionable. Unless it is actionable, much of what is called coaching is merely advice, perhaps applicable, perhaps not. Basing coaching on the call flow creates actionable coaching. The steps to this process are:

1. Break the call down into key steps.

2. Identify the step where the agent struggles.

3. Identify the behaviors needed to execute the step successfully.

4. Develop a plan to change those behaviors.

#5 – It Better Be Consistent. Because most coaching happens on an ad-hoc basis, similarly performing agents can receive very different types and levels of coaching. Nearly 50 percent of supervisors surveyed cannot define their coaching process. Creating standards and baking them into center processes ensures that similar agent performance needs are addressed with a consistent, proven set of action steps.

#6 – It Has To Be Measurable. Even though it is one of the greatest points of leverage with the agent, coaching is largely unmeasured, an anomaly in the call center. By embedding a measurement system that shows how much, who and that is getting coached as well as its link to performance, constant improvement through coaching becomes systemic in the center.

#7 – Require Individual Accountability.Without a mechanism to take ownership for increasing performance, agents may be left adrift, becoming satisfied with the prospects for improvement and/or advancement. There are areas where agents can work independently to improve, and in others, where they may require more hands-on supervisor intervention. Creating a partnership for performance between the agent and the supervisor provides the ownership needed and establishes a framework for creating and sustaining improvement.

All great coaches have their signature plays. Like most games, however, call center coaching isn’t a one-play game. It takes ongoing dedication to a set of tried and true tactics, the basics that will win over time. Read on for seven fundamental plays that are the hallmarks of great coaching in the call center.

 

About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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