Unearthing Time to Coach Contact Center Agents

Unearthing Time to Coach Contact Center Agents

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Practice makes perfect. We tell our children this all the time. There is no way to become an expert at a task without investing the time to practice.

We suffer from listening to 10 minutes of recorder practice every day so the Christmas concert and the Spring concert are good (relatively speaking, that is). Even as adults, we continue to practice our profession every day and become more proficient at the tasks.

Repetition may not be “good” practice

customers-grade-the-callsWouldn’t it be nice if contact center agents just needed to answer call after call and this practice would make perfect? Practice in almost every case needs to be paired with training and coaching, whether it is music instruction, surgery techniques, project management, banking, or computer programming.

We need training and coaching to cause our brain to change, to further expand an expertise. Training alone is not enough. It must be combined with an effective Coach and consistent coaching practices for positive change to occur.

High performing contact centers do not set agents up to fail by giving them practice (call after call); they support training and commit to coach contact center agents.

They also have team leaders and coaches pulled in several directions, but they do not permit quality coaching time with agents to fall down on the daily list of tasks. Yes they have meetings to attend, fires to put out, staffing issues to deal with, overflowing call queues to help with, but they do not allow the day to run out and miss getting their coaching done.

Flipping time to coach contact center agents

They have flipped the time management pyramid for coaches and team leads. Coaching sessions are not the top of the pyramid but rather at the bottom on the inverted pyramid.

These contact centers are better at time management and more specifically intra-day time management than most. Their schedules are set to protect training sessions and no ground is ceded when call center life happens and gets in the way. While it’s not an easy change to make, it can be done with focused customer-centric leadership.

unearthing time to coaching contact center agentsThe second part of the training and coaching combination may present more of a challenge. Coaching is a catalyst for training and is in the forefront of intra-day management. Spending a minimum of 15 minutes per week in a coaching session is more than just a 15 minute break from taking calls. It’s an agent performance accelerant.

High performing contact centers know that they must coach contact center agents in order for any training to deliver value. They place a very high importance on call coaching as a method for developing their agents.

Coaching should not include counseling

Their call coaching sessions are not about reviewing the scores on call monitoring forms and discussions about adherence to the schedule.

While a coach may review various performance data prior to a session, the focus of the 15 minutes is one of development and building a vital bond between the coach and the coached.

High performing contact centers find coaching time by improving their intra-day management skills. They bring to light smaller segments in their day when call volume dips and fill it with coaching time.

Coaching has high value

Filling time with coaching delivers a higher value impact because it benefits both agents and the company.

Agents:

  • Get the opportunity to connect with leaders and mentors
  • Gain confidence in their abilities
  • Learn to apply previously gained knowledge
  • Feel more valued from one-on-one attention

Companies:

  • Convert down time into productive time
  • Impact morale and turnover by giving focused attention
  • Impact performance metrics through agent skill development
  • Reduce inconsistency in service delivery from agent to agent

Considering that every call has a potential impact to the valuation of your organization, continuous development through the training and coaching combination process must be a priority.

Yes, it’s an investment of resources to coach contact center agents after you have trained them. For high performing contact centers, they just total up their savings from turnover, FCR, escalations, and lost customers to make the investment time well spent.

About Dr. Jodie Monger

Jodie Monger, Ph.D. is the president of Customer Relationship Metrics and a pioneer in voice of the customer research for the contact center industry. Before creating CRMetrics, she was the founding associate director of Purdue University’s Center for Customer-Driven Quality.

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  • Mark Gerson

    Thanks for the great blog on call centers. I own a North Carolina Call Center company. I’m sure some of your readers would find our low cost call center options to be a great value for their company.