Marc Carriere shares his approach to coaching and developing great contact centre team leaders.
Team leaders are the backbone of any call centre.
Yet typically what happens is one of the better team members is made a team leader and thrown into the deep end with little or no understanding of their role, much less comprehensive training or ongoing support.
As a result, all too often, we turn a terrific advisor into a stressed and under-achieving team leader and get frustrated with the results. Then after a few months, or even weeks, we end up replacing them and usually lose a really good team member in the process too!
After doing this over the years, I’ve learned that to create truly amazing team leaders you need to develop an effective training process incorporating the seven pillars below.
Pillar 1 – Get the Right Person
There are common traits, characteristics and practices that set successful team leaders apart.
All team leaders ARE NOT the same, and there are common traits, characteristics and practices that set successful team leaders apart.
The key to selecting the right team leader is understanding these traits, characteristics and practices, so you can look for them in prospective candidates when recruiting from outside or promoting from within.
Obviously, you want the right person from the start; even if you need to help them learn some of the skills they’ll need to be successful, because it’s always easier and quicker coaching someone who has the right basic traits and characteristics to begin with.
Pillar 2 – Establish Effective Time Management
The number-one reason most team leaders give for not providing their team members with on-the-job training or coaching is that they just don’t have the time with all the different administration and HR tasks they have to do every day.
And, to be fair, some have a point, when you look at all the things they do each day and week. If this is the case in your centre, you should have a look at which tasks can be handled by an administrator or someone in HR, rather than your team leader.
After all, a team leader’s number-one priority should be in helping their teams to meet their goals each week. So, you need to make sure they have the time and energy to provide really effective leadership and coaching.
If team leaders aren’t overburdened with too many tasks then you’re really dealing with an excuse, and that’s an easy fix.
Have leaders complete a weekly schedule for the coming week, give you a copy and pin it at their workspace.
To make sure they’re using their time effectively, have leaders complete a weekly schedule for the coming week, give you a copy and pin it at their workspace.
Review their schedule to make sure they’re focused on the coaching tasks you want, and make any necessary amendments if needed.
You also want to build accountably – so check in throughout the week to make sure they’re doing their coaching tasks when scheduled.
Bringing these essential elements together, team leaders will have the time to help their team members perform better because team members are finally getting the coaching they need!
Pillar 3 – Create a Coachable Call Structure
Team members need an easy-to-understand call structure that sets out the key steps, in the proper sequence, they need follow to achieve positive outcomes, whether handling customer service calls, booking appointments or making sales.
An effective call structure crystallizes the steps when handling an inbound call or making a call and, when done correctly, is easy to learn and really easy to coach!
Just imagine how quickly you’d improve the overall performance of your call centre if you had a call structure for your team to follow that team leaders could use to coach them to follow.
A good quality scorecard can help you here. To find out how to develop the ideal scorecard, read our article: How to Create a Contact Centre Quality Scorecard – With a Template Example
Pillar 4 – Get Call Monitoring and Quality Calibration
To be effective coaches, team leaders need to have a clear understanding of the challenges team members are facing when making or handling calls.
The best way to understand where coaching is needed is to listen to team members’ calls and score each area of the call structure in those calls.
It is imperative that scoring guidelines are created and calibrated with all team leaders to ensure consistent call scoring across the call centre.
The best way to ensure scoring guidelines are calibrated correctly is to get all your team leaders on the same video call, listen to a few recorded calls together and have each of them independently score each call. Then compare and discuss their scores to ensure everyone understands the appropriate scoring levels for each call component, to make sure they aren’t too strict or forgiving in the scores they give.
This way team members will generally have the same scores for the different parts of your call structure and you’ll find this really helpful if you move them from team to team to ensure they get consistency on the scoring of their calls.
Find out how to best calibrate your quality scores by reading our article: How to Calibrate Quality Scores
Pillar 5 – Coach Leaders to Give Effective Feedback
Providing positive and corrective call performance feedback is critical when coaching team members to ensure they are protecting your brand and are well trained to be friendly, helpful, giving accurate information and following call-handling processes effectively.
Team leaders need to be trained in providing nurturing and corrective feedback on calls they’ve scored to make sure team members really understand where they need to improve and are open to being coached.
Team leaders should also be coached to identify what was also great about the call they scored.
Aside from providing corrective feedback, team leaders should also be coached to identify what was great about the call they scored. That way when providing corrective feedback, along with call deficiencies, they can highlight positive aspects of a call to reinforce those actions with team members, so they will occur again.
Providing feedback in this way will be seen by team members as an instructive and motivational experience they can look forward to.
For more on giving great feedback when coaching, read our article: How to Achieve Excellent Customer Service Through Coaching
Pillar 6 – Conduct a Soft-Skill Audit
Team leaders need to conduct a skills audit of each of their team members every quarter to have a timely and clear understanding of the coaching and training needs for each of their team members.
Make sure your underperformers don’t feel singled out.
These audits can be done more frequently, particularly if there are chronic underperformers or when new team members join their team. Just make sure your underperformers don’t feel singled out.
Skills audits cover all sections of a call structure and other areas such as product knowledge, systems knowledge and administration.
Team leaders should also add notes to each area to remind them of the coaching and training requirements to help them when they develop coaching plans for team members.
After they’ve completed an audit, discuss the areas in which team members need coaching or training and decide with your team leaders how best to deliver any required training or coaching.
If many team members need help in any specific area it may be better to have a group training session, that’s where keeping notes on each audit section can come in handy.
Pillar 7 – Organize Your Team Coaching Plans
Coaching plans keep team leaders focused on covering the areas where each of their team members needs improvement.
It’s just a simple plan that outlines which areas need work, what coaching is required, when it will be delivered and who will deliver it. This pulls everything into a road map team leaders can follow that focuses on the specific areas of coaching needed for each team member.
Of course, some team members are really, really good operators who won’t need a lot of coaching, but they can still improve in some areas. And you’d be amazed at how many really good operators want their team leader to listen to their calls and work with them because they’re feeling they may be falling off a little.
To find out more about Marc’s seven pillars, check out the online course that he runs for developing team leaders.
For more of our articles on the topic of contact centre leadership, read our articles: