We take you through three useful coaching models to help improve continuous training, before highlighting how they can improve real-time coaching.
Attitudes to Coaching
In the contact centre, the focus of coaching is too often on the process of call monitoring and quality analysis (QA), instead of simply working together with the advisor to help them meet their full potential.
Coaching shouldn’t involve just telling someone what they need to do and where they need to improve, it should be about working collaboratively…
This is according to Kim Ellis, a contact centre training specialist from GO GINGER learning solutions, who says: “Coaching shouldn’t involve just telling someone what they need to do and where they need to improve, it should be about working collaboratively to enhance the advisor’s performance.”
For many years, coaching has been used as a way to tell people what is wrong, but if we want advisors to be enthusiastic about learning, training needs to be a positive and, as Kim says, a collaborative experience.
With this in mind, here are three common coaching models to help build a more positive outlook around your contact centre one-to-one coaching.
1. The GROW Model
The GROW model helps advisors to realize their own coaching opportunities, as you ask them questions just like the four in the graphic below.
This model uses lots of open questions, which makes the advisor take control of their self-improvement. So you’re not just telling the advisor what they could do differently, you’re helping them get to a stage of self-realization.
By doing this, the advisor is fully aware of their skill gap, as they’ve drawn their own conclusions – they are not just taking your word for it. This increases their motivation to improve in this area.
Yet, Kim Ellis warns that “while this can be a very helpful tool in helping advisors to realize where they can improve, it is easy for the coach to stick to this model too rigidly, rather than adjusting to suit the individual advisor’s needs.”
What we mean by this is that it’s easy just to stick to the four questions above, without becoming more creative with your questioning to help advisors see their mistakes.
Sometimes what’s obvious to us is not obvious to others, so asking the right questions, without telling the advisor directly what’s wrong, can often be a tricky task.
2. Two Stars and a Wish Model
The Two Stars and a Wish model involves giving the advisor “two stars” for two things that they did well when handling a contact, alongside “one wish” for an area in which they can improve.
As opposed to the GROW model, this coaching aid includes direct feedback, which forces both parties to look at the positives, rather than just the negatives.
Finding positives in the advisor’s performance is important if you want to develop more positive attitudes around coaching in your contact centre.
So, if we follow this model, we are looking for two positives for each negative and this negative is “gift-wrapped” as a wish to avoid sound overly critical.
It is for this reason that in the image above we suggest that you introduce the wish with a line like: “It would be great if you…” or “It would be even better if you…”.
However, this model also has a drawback, as Kim says: “It mostly uses statements, it doesn’t use open questions. This means that the advisor often doesn’t have time to respond to anything, which can limit coaching opportunities.”
With this in mind, the advisor may disregard the coach’s “wish”, believing it to be a “one-off” and therefore become less proactive in changing their behaviour.
So, this model is best in terms of giving written feedback, as it’s just giving the advisor information, it’s not so much of a collaborative model.
3. The THINK Model
The THINK model acts as a checklist for you to consider before sharing your feedback. This is to ensure that the advice that you are giving is as beneficial as possible.
It is critical that the feedback you give is well thought out. After all, we want advisors to be investing their time and energy into developing the skills that matter most, both to customers and to the advisors as individuals.
So, when offering advice, following these guidelines enables us to offer feedback that is constructive, meaning that this model is great to use in combination with either of the two above.
It’s also easy to remember as everyone know the classic “think before you speak”, which is always a good policy, no matter what or how we feel.
But again there is a key pitfall to avoid when using the THINK model, and that is to avoid using it by itself. What we mean by this is that the model can be very limiting if it’s just used by itself; it is better used in conjunction with another.
With this being the case, let’s take a look at where this model and the others can be used to their greatest effect by taking a look at some real-time coaching techniques.
Applying These To Real Time Coaching
These coaching models are great to apply to real-time coaching, as this is a time when advisor engagement and self-awareness are at a high level.
Also, it’s great for the coach because, by working closely with advisors, we get more of a personal understanding of the contact’s context, which will – over time – improve both our coaching and communication skills.
So, without further ado, below are three methods for real-time coaching, as we discuss their pros and cons to identify how we can best use them in alignment with the coaching models above.
Face to Face
Face-to-face coaching involves listening back to call recordings with the advisor, typically in a private room, and discussing their performance.
This is a direct approach, meaning that you are offering direct feedback which is likely to be fully absorbed by the advisor, as you are speaking to them on a one-to-one basis.
We can read the advisor’s facial expressions and body language, making it much easier to gauge their response to our feedback.
From this direct conversation, Kim says: “We can read the advisor’s facial expressions and body language, making it much easier to gauge their response to our feedback. This helps us to foster a better advisor–coach relationship.”
However, the drawback with this strategy is that advisors may at first feel uncomfortable listening back to their own voice, which can make for quite an intimidating scenario – unless managed properly.
In addition, being in the private room and receiving negative feedback, if the latter is indeed the case, it is easy for the advisor to feel as though they are being called into the teacher’s office for a telling-off.
With this in mind, if you employ this coaching method it is best to use the GROW method, to encourage open conversation, in alignment with the THINK model, in order to cultivate a positive discussion.
Side by Side
Side-by-side coaching is when you sit next to an advisor and listen in on one of their live contacts, before sharing your feedback once it comes to an end.
This coaching technique can be great because you’re giving advisors feedback directly after the contact, so it’s very relevant, and these immediate learnings are most likely to “stick” in the advisor’s mind. It also helps to blur the lines between the training room and the contact centre floor.
Another benefit is that you can get a good feel for how advisors react in different situations because you can see it in real time. Their facial cues may give you insights that would otherwise go unnoticed.
You can get a good feel for how advisors react in different situations because you can see it in real time. Their facial cues may give you insights that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Yet this coaching technique also has its downsides. Kim says: “An advisor may feel intimidated by your presence during the call and may overlook your feedback, believing that their performance was negatively influenced by having you sitting next to them.”
This might well have been the case, as it is understandable for an agent to become nervous in such a scenario and make mistakes that they ordinarily wouldn’t.
So, it is good to use the GROW model to facilitate open conversation. If the advisor tells you that they realize that they’ve made the mistake, but it was only because they were nervous, do some remote listening – as explained below – to find out if that was indeed the case.
Remote listening involves listening to an advisor’s call recording and offering feedback after. This is how most contact centres score calls during quality monitoring.
With this option, Kim says: “You can really go through calls one after the other – to find the one that provides really valuable learnings, without having to discuss each one with the advisor, who you have taken off the phones.”
So while it’s great for finding specific types of calls, it is also a great coaching tool for training homeworkers, to help ensure they are continuing their learning and development.
We just need to be careful when we are using this coaching method that we don’t fall into the trap of just looking for “coaching opportunities” and focusing too much on the negatives.
There is also the issue that, without there being a one-to-one conversation, there is no “instant learning”. So, the advisor may have forgotten about the contact that you are trying to coach them on – obscuring any feedback they receive.
To help avoid these two issues, we firstly want to employ the Two Stars and a Wish model to guard against being overly negative and the THINK model to ensure that the feedback we’re giving is constructive.
Then, alongside any written feedback we share with advisors, we should share a copy of the original call recording, to ensure the advisor hears the context behind your comments. The DAS contact centre in Caerphilly does this.
To find out more tips from DAS, read our article: 15 Things You Can Learn from the DAS Contact Centre
There are three commonly used coaching models within the contact centre industry; the GROW model, the Two Stars and a Wish model and the THINK model.
They each have their pros and cons, but they can all enhance the quality of real-time coaching in the contact centre, if used correctly.
For face-to-face coaching, it’s usually best to use the GROW model in conjunction with the THINK model.
For side-by-side coaching, it’s usually best to use the GROW model on its own.
For remote listening, it’s usually best to use the Two Stars and a Wish model in conjunction with the THINK model.
But while this might generally be the case, who’s to say what works best in your contact centre? Give each of these methods and models a go and see what works best for you.
For more on contact centre coaching, read our articles: