We recently sat down with a group of contact center executives to discuss their plans and challenges over the next year. While many topics were covered, one thing was clear. What started as a necessity to deal with the challenges of the pandemic has become the new norm.
Remote work is here to stay for contact centers.
The last few years have taught us that contact centers can be just as efficient – if not even more efficient – working remotely than from an office space. But that doesn’t mean the work-from-home transition has been easy for all call centers.
When we talked with these companies seeing significant success with the WFH life, they all said that coaching – or in this, case tele-coaching – was critical to their success.
So what’s the best way to coach call center agents remotely?
We asked a group of call center executives from companies that met or exceeded the previous employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction scores. These executives agreed that tele-coaching is essential, but it also has challenges.
Without in-person meetings, the sporadic meetups in the lunch area, or passing each other on the way to meetings, understanding and connecting with someone’s personality is harder.
Some understanding can be lost without seeing a person’s behavior and body language. Plus, there are technical logistics to deal with. Internet availability, phone and computer issues, or the dreaded “You’re on mute” struggle can be a challenge.
Despite all this, these successful companies said the biggest challenge they had to overcome was change. Change is hard. And when people are told to do things a completely different way, it’s natural to feel a little lost.
Once the companies accepted their new remote work reality, the challenges became a lot more manageable.
Even without factoring in remote work, there are many reasons contact center coaching can fail. But when it comes to tele-coaching, we want to highlight three aspects.
Now is the time to review your company’s current coaching process. Look for any aspects that are incompatible with WFH. Update these steps or add new ones as needed.
Take the time now to review this process with the contact center teams. Don’t assume every frontline team member – supervisor or agent – knows your coaching process. Be sure to highlight anything new or updated.
Working remotely can make it harder for agents to know where they stand against their peers. The same can be said for supervisors.
Share the details related to KPI targets and goals as soon as possible, and be transparent with team members if these need to be changed. It can be very frustrating to think you’re doing well only to find out you’re looking at outdated numbers.
With frequent emails, messages, and notifications with associates, remote work can sometimes make a supervisor feel that they don’t need to take the time for a coaching session.
Coaching sessions are imperative to agent success. These sessions are not only to talk about where an agent is struggling and excelling, but they’re also the place to check in on an agent’s progress since the last meeting.
Keeping all your remote team members engaged can be trickier when you move to a WFH model. Here are a few tips for creating a more engaging tele-coaching experience.
Phone calls are fine. But when you’re already lacking in that in-person connection, a virtual meeting is a big help. Instead, host your coaching sessions with virtual meeting tools.
Meeting tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams allow the use of cameras. Cameras can help fill some of those connection gaps. Plus, these tools let you share your computer screen. Discussing targets, numbers, and goals can be difficult when everyone on the call isn’t looking at the same thing.
Working remotely can lead to some technical difficulties. Not everyone’s remote office space is ideal. There can be internet or phone connectivity issues. And people can be distracted by the continuous message notifications and email alerts during your coaching session.
During each coaching session, pause and ask the frontline employees on the call if there are any questions. Often people don’t know when to interject to say they missed something, so they don’t. Give them that opportunity.
When people’s homes become their offices, sometimes there are new coaching factors to consider. The traditional reasoning behind a frontline associate’s decreased KPI scores might be an issue related to their WFH setup.
To keep remote contact center employees engaged, team leads and supervisors might need to look at things from a different point of view. Maybe the reason an agent’s AHT is so long is that their internet moves too slowly. Perhaps their CSAT is low because they’re using an older company headset that cuts out frequently.
People thrive on recognition. But without everyone together in the same place, it’s easy for that recognition to get lost.
While recognizing an employee for achieving a specific target or goal is great, don’t save recognition for only these specific times. Leaders should recognize and reward employee improvement when a commitment has been met.
To make sure recognition isn’t lost, turn the process into a game. Maintain a progress leaderboard that employees can check and follow on their own. This helps them identify how they’re tracking versus their peers and encourages friendly competition. Then each week, recognize the employees who are making the biggest progress.
It can be easy to spend the entire coaching session talking about KPI performance. But to keep employees truly engaged, leaders need to show they care about their employees as people – not just as workers.
In every tele-coaching session, save time to talk about things beyond the workplace. You don’t need to get too personal. But ask how associates are doing, if there’s anything you can do to support them, and what they enjoy doing when they’re not at the virtual office.
One of the biggest challenges with managing a WFH work environment is remembering that the faces on the screen, the numbers on the reports, and the names in the inbox are still real people with real lives beyond our companies. This is critical to creating a positive employee experience in a remote workplace.