Coaching — Medicine for the Contact Center

“Hey, Mrs. Comer, this is Sally from Dr. Jones’ office. Just calling to let you know your results came back and your levels are too high. Have a nice day!”

What if you got a message like this from your doctor’s office after anxiously awaiting test results? Personally, I would think “Ok, my levels are high. What should I do to correct them? Can I take medication for it? Do I need to change my diet?”

Sure feels like there is a second half of the message that the nurse is leaving out.

However, every day in the contact center, supervisors and managers send incomplete messages to their contact center agents, failing to prescribe what “medicine” is needed to correct their performance problems.

The contact center may have a great quality management (QM) program that provides agents evaluations on their interactions as well as a stellar performance management (PM) platform that gives agents real-time insights into how they are performing against specific goals and metrics.

However, just telling someone how they are doing isn’t enough to correct any issues. The best QM and PM programs in the world won’t drive improved results if contact center agents aren’t receiving effective coaching — the medicine of the contact center.

From my time in the contact center, I know that when things get busy, coaching is the first thing to get pushed to the side — to the detriment of agents and your customers alike.

So how can you effectively “treat” your contact center with invaluable coaching medicine?

Select the Right QM Platform

Coaching in the contact center must be easy, streamlined, and efficient. A great quality management platform should be unified and comprehensive — providing the mechanism to evaluate agents as well as featuring native capabilities to create and route coaching packages to agents, track coaching completion, and monitor performance improvement to understand coaching effectiveness.

Supervisors shouldn’t have to create a coaching document for agents in Word or Excel and then email it to them in hopes that they take time to complete it.

Agents also need easy access to the coaching packages from within the same interface where they handle customer interactions. This way, when they have downtime between customer contacts, they can focus on development activities.

Constantly Ask Yourself “Why” and “How”

Like the nurse that left a message on my voicemail, anyone can look at a report and tell you what’s wrong. It is much harder, and more important, to tell you why it’s wrong and how to fix it.

In the contact center, we might tell an agent “your average handle time is too high.” However, the agent may not understand why average handle time is important and how it impacts both the customer experience and operational efficiency.

Even more so, the agent might not understand how to actually change his or her behavior to improve average handle time. This is where an effective coach comes in.

Through your audio and screen evaluations, have you observed a gap in the agent’s process which is making it longer to capture all the customer information? Or does the agent need help developing his or her ability to ask probing questions to get the bottom of the customer issue more quickly?

Once you have identified “why” his or her AHT is too high, then ask yourself “how” it can be improved.

Again, just telling the agent “you need to ask better probing questions” isn’t going to lead to improvement. An effective coaching package includes specific activities that the agent can complete to understand how to improve.

For example, samples of peer interactions where good probing questions were used, a link to a YouTube training video, or a role-play exercise.

When it comes to coaching, one generic prescription does not fit all scenarios. The type of coaching activity should match and target the behavior that is trying to be corrected and developed.

So just like you would need your doctor to provide you with a specific diagnosis, advice and actions to correct a health issue, your agents need you to provide them with details on where they are struggling, and specific advice and actions they can take to improve their performance.

Start by incorporating coaching into your quality management process and see the health of your contact center begin to improve.