By Melissa Pollock & Jim Rembach
What’s the #1 challenge in Call Center Coaching? Well, assuming frontline supervisors are coaching with a consistent frequency, then the #1 challenge is Coaching Effectiveness! If you’re concerned about coaching impact and ROI, then you must master these 5 Steps to Coaching Effectiveness!
How many times have you seen your frontline leaders’ coach over and over on the same things, but their people don’t seem to improve? Or they improve for a short time, then revert? Many of us coach repeatedly, and yet our people continue to be plagued by the same performance problems. Do you know why? We’re going to show you.
But before we share the secrets to circumventing the persistent cycle of ineffective performance coaching, it’s important to understand how and why contact centers continue to struggle!
The most pervasive challenges to effective performance coaching fall within the well-known framework for successful transformation of anything – people, process and technology. We’re going to focus on the procedural, and people-related, challenges to coaching effectiveness, sharing what we’ve experienced in contact centers everywhere, then we’ll discuss how one piece of technology is augmenting both processes and people to unleash incredible new levels of coaching consistency and effectiveness!
Skill gaps are growing – because of the continued digital evolution and increasing necessity for contact center Agents to apply deeper relationship-building, multi-tasking, and problem-solving skills.
In a McKinsey survey of more than 50 senior customer-care executives, 94 percent said that they expected the skill demands placed on their contact center agents to increase over the next five years.
Despite the need for a higher-level of customer-handling proficiency, frontline leaders remain challenged with effectively developing Agents’ skills, in real-time. The best mechanism for achieving real-time improvement is coaching, but there are several procedural challenges that prevent coaches from being more effective, thereby stagnating and even damaging employee and customer experiences.
1. Methods: Many contact centers neglect to define and communicate standardized methods for how to coach in the contact center (Which means frontline Supervisors each do their own thing, ultimately perpetuating inconsistency and Agent frustration). What must be decided:
2. Expectations: Operations leaders often do not clearly communicate coaching expectations: (Which means every Supervisor does their own thing, which breeds inconsistency and increases in frustration) What must be communicated:
3. Logistics: Many operations are not directing frontline leaders where and when to coach: (Which means every Supervisor does their own thing… resulting in inconsistency and Agent frustration). What must be communicated:
4. Visibility: Most enterprises haven’t begun to source solutions so Agents can have direct access to performance data: What must be changed:
5. Tracking: Rarely do contact center leaders have a way to quantify who was coached, on what, or whether it was effective: (Which makes it impossible to hold Supervisors accountable, or to grow their coaching competency) What must be made accessible:
The best mechanism for achieving real-time improvement is EFFECTIVE coaching. But effective coaching is achieved only through a formula consisting of procedural infrastructure – so everyone can consistently operate within known parameters – and people leadership skills, which helps build a culture of development, as opposed to one of compliance.
And that leads us into discussion of the second major challenge preventing us from delivering effective contact center coaching – interpersonal leadership, or ‘people’ skills!
After procedural challenges, the second major component preventing more effective coaching is the level of frontline Supervisors’ interpersonal leadership skills. According to DDI, the #1 reason Frontline Leaders fail is because of interpersonal skills. And, 80% of Agents who leave, do so because of their direct Supervisor.
In contact centers, the environment is often one of continuously changing priorities. On top of that, the responsibility for coaching Agent performance may fall into different operational areas – across training, production, and quality. That means every one of us involved in Agent performance have to become more effective at the more high-value activities – like engaging and developing our people.
Regardless of how small or large your ownership is for Agent development, there are 3 core truths of which you must be aware:
Let’s consider how each of these concepts can be prohibitive to delivering more effective coaching.
Managing the coaching process is about administering and supervising coaching procedures and tools. Although as Peter Drucker once said, “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their jobs done.”
To empower our people to perform better, we have stop focusing on the wrong things! Marcia Daszko, a protégé of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, and author of PIVOT DISRUPT TRANSFORM, says we must stop setting numerical goals and targets and expecting individuals to meet them. The unfortunate reality however, is that most call center coaching programs are deeply rooted in holding agents accountable for meeting goals and targets (and less so for the behaviors that drive attainment.)
The resulting effect is that employees operate with checklist-style, compliance-focused adherence, rather than as empowered, engaged and innovative contributors who share ownership for customer experiences and business outcomes.
Ultimately, we must create a system, and leaders, that enable our people to collaborate, develop skills, and effectively serve customers. If you find you’re not getting the results you want, look to what you’re focusing on first, versus assuming your people are the problem!
The higher goal of our coaching programs should be to facilitate a coaching process, and encourage a coaching mindset, where frontline agents and supervisors own their performance and their contribution towards serving customers.
Jim Rembach, President of CX Media
In his book, It’s the Manager, Chief Scientist of Workplace and Well-Being, Jim Harter, shares that our brains are hardwired to critique others. And traditional contact center coaching programs reflect these instincts; they’re designed to rate employees and to “correct” their weaknesses.
While we may be wired to give criticism, we aren’t wired to receive it. The approach to correct weaknesses often fails to actually improve performance – just 21% of employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.
In order for a contact center coaching program to create a development culture instead of a compliance culture, coaches must be careful not to turn ongoing conversation into ongoing criticism.
Constant criticism makes it almost impossible to build trust, which makes it difficult for employees to accept critique with an open mind, and makes engagement highly unlikely. This is why a standardized model and methods, and training on those methods, are essential for coaches to deliver on the relational needs of their people – and keep them receptive to hearing corrective input when needed.
What best differentiates actively engaged from actively disengaged employees? It’s the time Supervisors spend focusing on Agents’ strengths, compared to the time they spend focusing on their opportunities. Harter points out that there are times when giving constructive feedback is needed to help agents improve their performance – but coaches need to ensure the feedback they deliver is heavily tilted towards what employees do best.
Managers who excel at coaching have learned how to lead strengths-based and engagement-focused conversations
Although distinctly different, “manager” and “leader” are often used interchangeably. But those responsible for managing the contact center coaching program also have to lead the engagement, performance and development of people!
MIT defined coaching as a sophisticated management style that requires developing a relationship that empowers employees by building confidence and competence.
Leadership is that intentional relationship between the leader and the led. Respect, confidence, caring, and meeting needs are all required in order to build trust with team members so we can help them see their opportunities while ensuring they remain open and receptive to hearing feedback and discussing alternate approaches.
“Our contact center glosses over development for frontline leaders,” is something we commonly hear from senior executives. But you can't build a great contact center by allowing or tolerating mediocre leaders. Everyone responsible for Agent development must also be developed themselves!
In one study, DDI reported that business outcomes of mediocre leaders in leadership roles can be devastating:
Let’s be clear, everyone responsible for the performance improvement of people is in a leader role. But being a leader, and developing leadership competency, are two different things. If we want to empower our people, develop them to their potential, and engage them to put forth effort and innovation, we cannot continue to enable and tolerate mediocre leadership skills.
Remember, the best mechanism for performance improvement is effective coaching. And effective coaching requires a formula consisting of defined and communicated Procedural Infrastructure + interpersonal leadership skills.
And when you put together a proper system, and develop interpersonal leadership, then you can transform your contact center into one that delivers effective coaching within a culture of development, not just compliance!
There's good news for contact-center leaders. Once they understand the issues that hamper coaching effectiveness, new digital tools can help address them by improving the availability, targeting, and delivering of coaching inputs.
How do you develop coaching competency and consistency, at scale, across your programs, teams, sites and at home environments? You leverage technology to augment both your processes and your people!
There are 5 key People & Process Steps that will increase your Coaching Effectiveness:
And while enterprise leaders certainly have to define and communicate the system of procedures, approaches, and expectations in order to create a consistent operating framework, there are now innovative technology tools that can carry out that system, and support the remaining steps.
That means you don’t have to try and solve each of the steps individually, rather you can apply a collective solution that systemically supports all the steps within the overall operation and its people.
As an example, we’re going to explore AmplifAI's coaching effectiveness capabilities, and show you how we’ve been creating increased coaching effectiveness, resulting in rapid, turn-around engagement and performance for direct and BPO contact centers alike!
Automate supervisors’ administrative tasks! Many of the activities that keep supervisors and team leaders off the contact-center floor are prime candidates for automation
AmplifAI is a cloud-hosted, AI-powered, all-in-one Performance Acceleration Platform for Sales and Service.
And while AmplifAI’s solutions include data integration, performance analytics, gamification, learning, coaching, and quality, we’re going to focus here on the platform’s ability to drive more effective coaching!
1. Creating a Standardized Coaching System – We start by building your coaching methods, tactics, and behaviors, into a standardized coaching form.
From there, AmplifAI manages an automated, full-circle workflow that drives Coaching Effectiveness:
1. For Agents –
2. For Supervisors –
3. For Leaders –
2. Training Your Coaches & Developing Coaching Effectiveness – Coaching best practices are housed in AmplifAI and are proactively pushed to Supervisors to help them increase coaching competency.
We’ve worked with some of the best and most innovative customer care organizations over the last two decades to build a set of simple but powerful coaching guides and tools that empower frontline supervisors to be better coaches and leaders.
We streamlined that content into a set of short, engaging Micro-learning videos that are ~5-minutes in length, single-skill specific, and incorporate video, animations, graphics, audio and captions, to deliver precise bits of learning that quickly build skill and spread best practices.
Example: Inside Sales Micro-Learning; Behavior: Following The Inbound Script; Skill Set: Collecting Customer Information; Series: Effective Inbound Phone Calls
Our foundational Introduction to Performance Coaching Series includes six titles, and best of all – we are offering this series complimentary, to the first 100 organizations that sign up – so sign up today to secure your place in line!
3. Providing Visibility into Performance & Coaching – Few organizations have scalable mechanisms across onsite and at home teams that give visibility into who coached, who got coached, metrics and behaviors coached, and whether performance improved or not.
AmplifAI provides all that visibility and more, in dedicated views for each level of user, displaying individual, team, site and program level trends on coaching activities and results.
Visibility into coaching activities allows you to:
Coaching Export showing behaviors and sub-behaviors coached, by manager, with effectiveness
4. Measuring Coaching Effectiveness – Even fewer organizations have any insight into which coaches are actually helping people improve, and which are not.
AmplifAI supercharges Coaching Effectiveness, with:
Having visibility into coaching effectiveness is absolutely essential to evolving your operations to one of higher engagement, elevated experience, and improved performance – because you can’t improve what you can’t see!
5. Coaching Your Coaches – The #1 way to boost engagement and performance across your enterprise, assuming the procedural infrastructure has been put in place, is helping your coaches improve their coaching competency and effectiveness.
Evaluating your coaches’ coaching effectiveness is so critical to your operations, that if you don’t have this process in place today, we’ll help you build it as part of your AmplifAI implementation.
AmplifAI supports evaluating coaches, with:
AmplifAI has freed up managers from manual analysis, interpretation, and distribution of performance data, resulting a return of up to 40% more-time spent coaching and developing people!
The future of success in your contact center is contingent on how you impact performance in ways that are both immediate and sustainable. And it doesn’t matter whether your agents are on-site, at-home, full-time, part-time, or temporary – you must deliver on performance.
Coaching is one of the most significant tools we can use to deliver on the engagement and performance of our people – but we must develop our processes, our people and leadership skills, and our technology tools, in order to overthrow the pervasive challenges to achieving greater coaching effectiveness and supercharging contact center performance!
Unlock the potential of your employees and skyrocket your ROI with cutting-edge coaching.
Melissa Pollock Customer Success at AmplifAI
Jim Rembach President at CX Media