Call Centre Coaching: Turn Agent Potential Into Performance

A picture of two male call centre agents looking at a screen

David Geffen of NICE shares six effective call centre coaching techniques to help advisors reach their potential.

Imagine an aspiring baseball player who is trying to perfect his swing. He spends hours in training sessions. He watches videos of how the top hitters swing the bat and he tries to imitate them. Still, his performance stats aren’t where they should be.

But when a knowledgeable coach works with him, watches him swing the bat, explains what he’s doing wrong, and shows him specific techniques he can use to correct it, he is able to make great strides in improving his swing and his performance. It’s the personal focus and one-on-one guidance that make all the difference.

Coaching call centre employees is no different. While agents receive customer service training, especially at onboarding, these tend to be group sessions designed to acquire or refresh skills, address call centre performance goals, and update agents on relevant policies or promotions.

Once the training sessions are over, you need to coach agents individually to help them master the procedures and techniques that they learned.

Sometimes, businesses shy away from 1:1 coaching because it’s time-consuming and can be emotionally challenging. Having to tell an employee that their performance is lacking is never a pleasant task.

But experience shows that 1:1 coaching is one of the surest ways to help call centre agents understand their strong and weak points, and to help them improve their performance and realize their professional potential.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most effective techniques for call centre coaching.

Employ Effective Call Centre Coaching Techniques

When supported by state-of the-art call centre software, the following coaching techniques can help you propel your agents toward success.

1. Start With a Sandwich

Most people react defensively to criticism – even if it’s constructive. The best way to ensure that agents will be open to your suggestions for improving their performance is to sandwich the negative feedback between two instances of positive feedback.

Use the agent’s own performance data to start the coaching session with a strength – something that they consistently do well. This sets a positive tone. Then introduce the negative feedback and show them how this too can be improved, just like another KPI that they recently improved. Starting and ending on a positive note contributes to the agent’s readiness to learn.

2. Use Hard Data and Real Examples

Employees value clarity and the knowledge that they are being treated fairly. Concrete data lets agents quantify a shortcoming and understand whether this is a big issue or a small issue. It is far more helpful to see real metrics showing a 30% decrease in an agent’s customer satisfaction score than to simply say, “Your customer satisfaction scores have been slipping lately.

When discussing negative feedback, provide specific examples from the agent’s own call recordings. During a call playback, the coach can point out where the interaction went wrong and how it could have been handled better, perhaps by using a specific technique.

You can also play back similar interactions from different agents who have mastered this technique and use it with great success. The more objective and concrete your feedback, the easier it will be for agents to understand what they need to do to improve.

3. Role Play

Practice makes perfect. Role-playing is a great way for agents to practise the skills and behaviours they need to adopt to improve their customer interactions. Use the agent’s own recorded calls to find an interaction that should have been handled better.

Let the agent play the role of the customer in that interaction, while the coach plays the agent. In the “agent role” the coach can demonstrate behavioural skills such as active listening, empathy, and tone, or how to use of positive language to negotiate tricky customer encounters and lead them to a satisfactory resolution.

Then switch roles and let the agent practise the skills they just learned. In this way, agents get to “experience” a successful call and get immediate feedback on their performance.

4. Listen

Often, agents are just as aware of their shortcomings as their managers are. One of the best uses of coaching session is to ask the agent to do a self-assessment. Once agents know that the coach is there to listen, they can explore their difficulties and successes more openly.

Their own KPI and customer feedback metrics may have already given them ideas about areas that need improvement. Chronic shortcomings may be due to barriers that the agent experiences but the manager is not aware of. Once you’ve heard their side of the story, you can better guide agents to decisions and plans of action that they willingly adopt, and you only need to reinforce.

5. Collaborate on Goals

One of the outcomes of any call centre coaching session should be a plan of action with a clear understanding of what the agent is expected to achieve. Setting improvement goals should be a collaborative effort rather than edicts handed down from on high.

When you collaborate to define actionable and doable goals, it shows agents that you are confident in their ability to correct performance issues.

6. Catch Them Doing It Right!

The best time to measure an agent’s progress is right after a call centre coaching session, when lessons learned are fresh and motivation to implement them is high. Within the same hour or at least the same day, live monitor a call and score the agent on those areas that needed improvement. This live feedback reinforces the right behaviours and lets you correct lingering issues on the spot.

Many of the call centre coaching techniques we’ve outlined here depend on the ability to:

  • monitor and analyse real-time agent–customer conversations
  • review the agent’s recorded calls and quickly isolate pertinent examples
  • show agent performance metrics on demand for any time period
  • show how the agent stacks up against his co-workers
  • enable instant feedback loops between agent and manager.

These are just a few of the integrated capabilities that are needed for an effective call centre coaching programme.

Include Call Centre Coaching in Your WFO Strategy

A thumbnail photo of David Geffen

David Geffen

Your contact centre is only as good as the people staffing it. Call centre coaching is one of the best ways to assure that agents know the value they bring to the contact centre as well as their roles, responsibilities and goals.

Performance management solutions give contact centres the tools to continuously improve every aspect of agent performance and to enhance customer satisfaction.

To find out about NICE’s solutions, take a look at the video below.

Author: NICE

Published On: 24th Jan 2020 - Last modified: 17th Apr 2024
Read more about - Business Insights, , , ,

Follow Us on LinkedIn

Recommended Articles

Contact Centre Coaching Models: Which Is Best for Your Coaching Sessions?
Coaching concept with a person in a black shirt that says coach
Top Call Centre Coaching Techniques & Methods
Thumbs down to thumbs up with words turnaround a bad agent
How to Turn a Bad Agent Into a Good Agent
The contact centre podcast cover art for Nick Drake Knight's discussion on 'contact centre coaching: How to sustain learning and make it fun!'
Podcast - Contact Centre Coaching: How to Sustain Learning and Make it Fun!