In this article you will find:
Definition of “contact center coaching”
Coaching call center agents - the process of training them under the supervision of experienced and qualified leaders to improve their skills in providing customer service. The coaching program must include training that improves software knowledge, soft and hard skills, practice for upgrading single skills, such as active listening or patience boost, working in pairs as a roleplay, product knowledge improvement, etc.
All these activities are aimed at enhancing performance issues, and overall call center productivity. The main scores which have to be boosted after coaching are FCR, AHT, customer retention and acquisition, client sentiment, and, surely, CX and customer service (CSAT).
Soft skills are required to be developed as they are vital to furnish higher-level service and make clients more satisfied.
Is coaching a must-have, and, if yes, why?
We can’t put here a better example than this - the total loss of bed client service is 75 billion USD per year. If it is not enough for you to comprehend why furnishing qualitative customer service is essential for every business, then here is another stat - 96% of clients will be more willing to leave your firm if it can’t provide awaited quality of service.
The same thing is with outbound sales if you’re using so. Most agents aren’t ready for every customer several times to achieve the result - no matter if it is a shift from cold to a warm lead or a done deal.
Coaching call center employee is a complicated process that concentrates on improving every aspect of overall productivity, both sales and customer service departments. What significant benefits can be gained by employing effective contact center coaching?
Greater agent engagement
Invest in the employees and they will grate you with a more heightened engagement level and higher motivation to work. When an operator sees that his boss is ready to put effort, time, and resources into his progress as a professional and a person, he will be motivated to show his new skills and perform much more effectively.
Engaged employees are more powerful in problem-solving, they show more empathy to customers, have more patience, and have the skill of adapting to client’s moods or preferences. These skills are the most vital soft skills in the customer support industry and they will be gained faster if an agent will be engaged enough.
We mentioned soft skills gaining for a reason to show engaged customers a great efficiency boost after coaching. As a sample, if you will give more attention to coaching call center agents' problem-solving skills, they will decrease their AHT rate. This leads to faster issue resolution and higher FCR score in inbound calls and a higher number of leads processed in outbound calls per day.
If the overall coaching performance will be about sentiment, the sales rate may increase as well as customer retention rate and client satisfaction. Create a thoughtful and step-by-step action plan to consider which skills of the operators need more attention at the start of a coaching program, and which one can be improved in the future.
Another advantage of these call center coaching techniques is the ability to control the process and note all changes, both positive and negative, in up-to-minute mode. You can notice which agents have a passion for training, and which are scolding or idling.
Build a perfect image
Your image is all about customer experience and their feedback. Your score on Capterra is the first piece of the reputation. And yes, there is nothing more influential than the agent performance issues which can directly affect the image.
We can say without a shadow of a doubt that one negative feedback can beat ten positive feedback reviews. It is enough for a potential customer to see one complaint to decide to avoid the company. And this one negative feedback can be created by one little mistake of an operator.
In summary, the brand’s image is created by customer experience and satisfaction. Satisfied clients are more willing to leave positive feedback, so they are the ambassadors of the company and its service. The goal is to make agents furnish assistance that will encourage customers to share their experiences and agitate others to choose a company.
Coaching tactics, tricks, and tips
Beforehand we have to determine which call center coaching techniques can bring the best results and improve all agents' performance scores, such as engagement, soft skills, hard skills, and problem-solving abilities.
The correctly chosen call center agent coaching form in pair with competently selected call center coaching tools can boost the productivity of the team to unexpected rates. Every team is unique in its approaches to work and characteristics, and there are numeral call center coaching models to fit any firm.
Below we are going to discover the most effective methods of training to ensure that your team will perform as real champions!
Training with real calls
Practice is better than theory, right? This method is perfect for the onboarding period. Recently hired employees are put in a real situation where they need to demonstrate how they have learned the theoretical part of training. They won’t be resolving clients’ requests alone - only under the rule of experienced supervisors who will not only control the performance but monitor how an operator is accomplishing under the stress.
This tip is great to make agents ready for future work challenges and understand their psychotype, the borders of the stress resistance, communication skills, adaptability, and empathy.
Such call center agent coaching sessions have to be organized during all onboarding terms to make call center managers comprehend the abilities of a single operator and notice what is needed to be upgraded.
It works as it is called - a group of new operators is gathered together under the rule of the coach who explains all aspects of the work in a contact center. One call center agent coaching session - one topic to teach. It can cover call quality coaching, discovering most often customer interactions, potential skill gaps, customer journey aspects, soft skills development, product knowledge, extinguishing conflicts, and many other topics.
The goal is to create an action plan to see what skills agents have to gain after training sessions. For the collective type of training, there can be numerous coaching methods - competitive, game mode, working in pairs or teams, roleplay, etc. But how to be if the company implemented remote or hybrid mode and some new employees have no chance to be present in live sessions? We can bet you know the answer, but anyway we have put it below.
Our favorite online mode!
We have written about remote and hybrid scheduling here. These mods have enough advantages to prove their popularity all around the world. But here the problem appears: how to organize coaching sessions to be confident that remote agents will be as fully prepared as office-based ones?
The way out is entirely manageable: just organize collective sessions via video conferencing and use the same call center coaching models as are used for office-based workers. Live competition during the session, work in pairs, interactive games and other activities are not difficult to organize during a video call. The main objective of online coaching is to ensure that remote employees will gain similar knowledge as those who train in the office.
Another great type of other call center coaching model. Set an expert for every new or unpractised operator to organize a close person-to-person communication that will help such agents to achieve new knowledge and get constructive feedback from an experienced professional. Regardless of the efficiency of this approach, contact center managers can face a problem of a lack of highly qualified specialists to mentor other operators. Thus, you required a thoughtful plan on how to select employees who need such leadership. Classify agents by their performance and choose those who do not reach good rates. This point approach allows us to save effort and reach higher results.
Tet-a-tet coaching sessions
This model differs from the previous one by the personality of a mentor. If the preceding paragraph was about connecting a new agent to an experienced operator, this method is about personal coaching provided by the coach himself. It is a very expensive, long-term, and effortful way of training, but the result is worth it.
Even the meeting dialogue between coach and agent can point to the employee’s features of character, manner of communication, type of psyche, and already available soft skills. The crackerjack coach can create a personalized plan of training in a few minutes based on his experience and the agent’s tale.
If you are interested in the fast development of the agents’ abilities and qualifications and the perspective of big investments doesn’t scare you, then this approach looks like the suitable one.
It’s clear how the coaching works, but what aspects require the greatest attention?
No one can focus on all processes at the same time. Thus, we have gathered the points which seem to be the most perspective to put effort on. These skills and training spheres in the complex can powerfully boost overall productivity and every agent as a professional. After the development of the areas which are described below, the secondary objectives can be achieved.
The first hard skill to improve is knowledge of the products and services provided by the firm. Even agents who are working for years in the same niche or even the same company can know nothing about the peculiarities or nuances which can be faced by a client. This leads to misunderstanding, the unhappiness of customers, and worse customer satisfaction and service provided.
The solution is simple: let those who are responsible for designing and assembling the product or service describe agents all its specifics, pros and cons, possible issues, and dissimilarities with competitors. Provide such sessions regularly, implement special surveys or meetings where operators will have to explain the product’s positioning, main advantages and disadvantages, customer problems which it is solving, main features and characteristics, etc.
Be aware of giving less attention to new hires who seem to know very little about the company’s service. The onboarding process must contain product learning and the final test to ensure that new operators have learned everything to furnish qualitative assistance.
Learn good manners
Operators’ work is all about communication. And if the goal is to furnish excellent service, there is no way to do so without good etiquette and manners - in all aspects of these definitions.
If the agent has to stop the call for a while and says it will take one minute, then he has no right to come back later. If the call is recorded - and they almost always are recorded - then the agent has to stop recording when a customer tells potentially secured or personal information. If a customer is angry and shouting agent can’t allow himself to be impolite. Agents should avoid negative connotations which can upset a client.
Only polite, positive, and literate communication can bring an awaited level of client service. We have mentioned call recording for a reason it is your trump up the sleeve to control every operator and not allow them to do mistakes. Control should be enduring to evade relinquishing clients and the brand’s image because to get them you spend months while to lose them one little misapprehension is enough.
Boost client interaction abilities
The two main skills to interact with a customer on the right path are active listening and comprehension of the client’s opinion.
Active listening is about giving all attention to a customer’s issue and being fully engaged in a conversation. Well-coached agents are not only hearing the customer’s story but asking leading questions and clarifying the circumstances. Such operators make a client collaborate with them to resolve problems faster and in the most comfortable way for a buyer. This soft skill is vital for an agent and its learning should be a priority for managers.
Understanding of client’s interpretation of an issue helps to avoid conflicts or deal with them without serious consequences. Patience and politeness are essential for call center staff as they can’t provide good customer service without these characteristics. Invest in enhancing stress resistance and problem-solving skills of your team members to make sure they are ready for any challenge on their way to furnish client assistance.
Teach newbies on a living sample
It is linked with mentoring, but this method has another purpose. While mentors perform more as teachers than as an example of a successful agent, this tactic is about showing the work of experienced agents. Such professionals don’t have a task to teach new employees - they have to do their work while rookies will look at their performance. A living example is the most reasonable form of familiarization with routine tasks and challenges of an operator.
Newbies are allowed to ask questions and get all the information they need to understand what their future work will look like. Thus, they will not only have a real image of what is awaiting them but they will have an opportunity to form the questions to managers and understand what things they have to teach before the start of the work.
Soft skills improvement
We have touched on some soft skills in this piece of article, but haven’t mentioned the significance of developing all of them. Soft skills have a wide range of various abilities which can be linked with communication skills, personal characteristics, and abilities to notice and fix important aspects of a problem.
The main goal of this paragraph is to make you comprehend the value of soft skills improvement. No matter is it about conflict extinguishing or resolving issues, every skill will be used during agents' work.
The most essential skills are to find out the main issue, adapt to the client’s mood and talking style, do all things quickly and notice significant details. The customer has called in the cause of assistance but has carelessly mentioned that he hurries up to a travel agency. Do you see opportunities in this fact for a sales department?
Train operators to fix such things and transfer them to relevant specialists - and if you will succeed in this field, we can congratulate you - the agents are true professionals!
Areas of focus are set - but what tactics are better to use?
It is not enough to know where your attention is needed more. The objective is to know how to transform attention and efforts into a result. In our industry, it is vital to know how to achieve goals with the least amount of spending of resources, time, and energy. The efficient call center coaching techniques are described, explained, and compiled as a list below - for your comfort and convenience.
Use qualitative instruments
We live in an era of technology and it looks strange when some firms avoid using the benefits of technology development. The call center industry is a high-tech industry where hundreds of developers put effort to automize all possible actions, improve data collection and report forming, ease the agents' and managers' work and, finally, and enhance customer service.
Multichannel and omnichannel solutions have brought diversity in communication between the customer service team and clients themselves. Now the client can choose the most liked contact line and solve his issues on his own without the agent’s help. Self-service has become extremely popular, and automized tools like IVR or webchat bots are our best friends for a while.
Time trackers are designed to control employees and don’t let them idle. Call scripts have been developed to assist operators to provide brilliant client service while CRMs are designed to track customer interactions and control clients’ journeys.
Select the rates which are priorities
There are so many various call center metrics that we doubt it is possible to put them all on 10 pages. But we are here not to study all metrics names, but to find out which of them are vital for a call center. Although every business is unique in its goals and solutions, there are a few scores that have the same importance for any contact center. What is more, they all are easily measured and can be improved by wise call center coaching techniques.
The most essential rates are FCR, AHT, CSAT, CX, ATiQ, ASA, etc. Put more effort to improve these rates before focusing on secondary scores.
If you are going to criticize or compare, then do it confidently
Constructive criticism and feedback are must-haves in any process of training. No idea people have been born for a whole history, so take this fact into account as well as avoid criticizing employees when someone can hear it - they can take it as bullying, but not adequate feedback.
Avoid using recordings of other operators’ calls to coach agents - they can recognize their colleagues and this may have an unpredictable influence on the working environment.
Leave critics for tet-a-tet coaching sessions when the atmosphere and ambiance suit better for the honest dialogue. Such an approach will be appreciated by the operators as it is more respectful of their personal life.
Be more precise
We mean that the sentence “your performance is a bit worse this week” is too blurred to be comprehended. Use exact numbers like: “your FCR decreased by 7% by the last two weeks, you should give more attention to training your problem-solving skills and visit a coaching session regarded to active listening”. Such exact feedback will do its function absolutely: an agent will know where he performs worse, he will get a way out of this situation, and feel the manager’s engagement in their productivity.
Use real samples
Call quality coaching can’t work on the right path without examples. We’re talking about examples of the agent’s solutions and actions during his real calls. Show these recordings and point out which customer interactions the agent has made the mistakes. Try to find samples for all possible customer interactions. If it is impossible to do with the agent’s recordings, you may use recordings of other workers, but it will be more tactful if these recordings are made by the operator who is not acquainted with the one who is taking the coaching session.
Unite positive and negative reports
How to sweeten the piece of a negative that has been taken got by an agent? Give him positive feedback at the same time. A too little number of employees can perform so badly that there is nothing good in their work. If you want to avoid moral problems and lack of motivation, then use this method. Firstly say negative things, and then the agent has felt all bad emotions, say him where he has functioned greatly. This feedback will overshadow previous negative emotions and encourage an operator to do his best to achieve more positive reports from a manager.
The easiest example of this tactic is roleplay. After analyzing the agent’s calls, select the situation where he has done a mistake or just functioned worse than it could have been. Invite the agent to a personal coaching session and propose to him a simple game where he is a client, and you are the operator. Then set a similar topic of your game as it has been in the past agent’s call where he performed badly. Voilà! The training begins.
After showing the agent the example of excellent service, switch roles and make the task more difficult - change the topic, escalate the dialogue, and behave yourself like an angry client.
Such sessions will make the operator understand how should the service be furnished.
Let agents evaluate themselves
Unexpected? Even though you may doubt agents’ ability to be professional critics or determine their imperfections, this method can help in comprehending their characteristics. Maybe problems lie not in professional skills, but the necessity of personal training. Or maybe agents feel attrition or burnout? Or do they just have not enough stress resistance and can’t deal with toxic customers?
Honest answers to the question “What would you improve in your performance and why?” can surprise you, but they are essential for building a strong and confident team.
Create a training plan with the agent together
There is no better way to achieve absolute understanding and engagement than working together as partners. Make the operator be allowed to propose his thoughts and ideas to upgrade the coaching plans, shuffle goals and session topics, choose methods of training, and so on. An operator will feel that you hear his thoughts and are ready to collaborate with him. As this approach is paying great attention to the agent’s personality, he will be pleased enough to put maximum effort into achieving the goals set - especially as they have been set with his participation.
Train them all!
Even though we remember that we’re talking about contact centers and this article is 90% agents and managers, don’t remember about other team members. All of the squad is involved in improving overall performance, so all the team members have to work on the same course. Let other workers, such as couriers, back office members, marketing staff and others take part in a training session which concerns their responsibilities too. Why not let them be present in the soft skills training? Communication skills are necessary for everybody.
Use the strengths, tackle weaknesses
Average managers can work on improving operators’ performance. What’s more, they may even succeed. But a real professional knows how to use the strengths of every worker to achieve perfect team performance. An operator perfectly extinguishes conflicts but can’t sell anything? Customize routing to let him work with calls he easily deals with. An is a perfect salesman but achieves only negative reviews from clients who request him for technical support. Let him avoid support calls. Another one is always sleepy because he prefers to do everything at night. Put him at home and let him work in another timezone.
Measure progress between sessions and talk about it
It is an easy option, but many people forget to do so. Is it so difficult to measure the operators’ progress from a one-to-another piece of training to understand the overall situation and tempos of growth? Not. Doing like this you will get the data about the most efficient “students”, average progress between sessions, skills that are trained with less or more effort, etc. Another significant thing is that you should not only evaluate the progress and put it away but discuss it with every agent. We have already explained how personal sessions work, and this is exactly about them.
VoIpTime Cloud for coaching: how can it assist?
Our cloud-based call center solution has been designed taking into account the need for permanent agent coaching. The options which are offered include:
- Call monitoring in three modes - barging(both client and operator hear you), whispering(only operator can hear), and listening
- Call quality monitoring scorecard - after-call dashboard where you can score the operator’s performance. And yes, scores are customizable
- Call recording - record and save calls to control agent’s productivity and gather data for future coaching
- Overall performance online monitoring - four unique dashboards which are updating in live mode: Resources - number of logged-in operators and their statuses; Daily stats - number of inbound, outbound, and lost calls and requests, average and maximal handle time, waiting time, and number of clients in query; ACD Stats - stats for inbound calls for 5, 10,15,30 minutes, an hour and 24 hours; TM Stats - tats for outbound calls for 5, 10,15,30 minutes, an hour and 24 hours. Average Talking Time, Line Unload, Agent’s Unload, Number of Calls Processed, and other metrics can be exported into an Excel file.
These features are not the only ones that are offered by our cloud call center solution. We can bet you are interested in complicated, well-designed, wide optional, and intuitive software that will be a fundament of your customer service and sales department. Want to discover what further functionality we can offer to you?
Contact us to discuss your needs and see Voiptime Contact Center in action!