Lauren Maschio of NICE discusses how to support work-from-home agents with coaching and quality management initiatives.
The workforce is going through a seismic shift as COVID-19 puts work-from-home employees to the test. And the trend is only expected to increase.
Experts predict that more than 75 million US employees will be working from home before the crisis is over, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
It’s a large-scale experiment, but one that has very real consequences for contact centres as they are forced to adapt on the fly to a work-from-home environment.
As organizations transition, they are facing technological challenges – e.g. getting webcams or headsets to their agents and ensuring off-site access to the solutions needed to do the job.
Agents, many of whom are under great personal stress themselves, are handling conversations that are unprecedented in nature. Consider, for example, the spike in calls to banks from customers seeking a forbearance on mortgage payments after losing their jobs due to COVID-19.
Customers’ expectations, meanwhile, hold steady: They expect the same high level of service they’ve had in the past.
All of this creates a significant risk that can impact customer satisfaction at a critical time, making it imperative for quality teams, supervisors and coaches to work together to manage this transition and help agents adapt to change.
The quality and coaching programs contact centres have in place today can be adjusted to meet the needs of work-from-home agents. The actions needed encompass two general areas: implementing quality management best practices and leveraging a five-step coaching and quality collaboration model to improve communication and coaching effectiveness.
Quality Management Best Practices
First, implement quality best practices to help maintain agent engagement, leveraging the people, process and technology you have in place to make this happen. The goal is to improve existing quality processes that so that you can deliver specific and objective feedback on agent behaviours quickly.
This includes automating quality assessment elements, such as:
- Interaction selection: Send interactions to an evaluator’s queue so the quality team can save time and avoid skewing the results that can occur when sampling is left to each individual.
- Calibration preparation: Distribute interactions to the quality team, have the team complete an evaluation form and measure the scoring variance prior to your calibration session.
- Audit the-evaluator: Measure the quality team’s productivity and ensure scoring accuracy
- Reporting: Create scorecards to measure KPIs, scoring averages by team and agent, coaching effectiveness and more with on-demand reports or dashboards
By automating as much of the quality program as you can, you can quickly understand the conversations agents are having with customers on new topics relating to COVID-19; this will allow you to establish procedures to help guide agents in these discussions.
You may need more calibration sessions between the quality team and operations so that you are all in agreement on how to proceed.
Also, consider that agents are all adapting to the new normal at different times. Compare an agent’s calls before, during and after the transition, and benchmark their performance not against metrics like AHT – this is bound to go up in the near term – but rather against their peers.
In this new working environment, a formalized Voice of the Employee (VOE) program increases in importance. Organizations no longer have the luxury of informal water cooler conversation or in-the-moment coaching; a VOE program helps organizations be more systematic about how they get feedback to the agent and help them adapt.
Collaboration Between Quality and Coaching
Quality teams, supervisors and coaches have a key role to play in this transition to help the agent adjust to change.
A five-step quality and coaching collaboration model can help contact centres be more effective at delivering coaching, particularly with at-home agents who lack opportunities for real-time, in-person feedback.
1. Analyse and Assess Performance
Most quality programs select and evaluate interactions randomly, but this approach misses critical interactions that have a big impact on contact centre KPIs. Instead, consider taking a metric-driven approach, one that puts your business goals at the centre of performance assessments.
Define your objective, then select interactions for evaluation based on what you are measuring. Use analytics to assess 100% of interactions and look for new indicators of performance, like how responses to COVID-19-related questions are handled or whether background noises, like dogs barking, are distracting agents on calls.
Quality and coaching can then collaborate on evaluations so that they focus on the behaviours that empower agents to be successful. Agent performance may decline during the transition, so it is important to compare agents in a stack-rank report so you know who really needs help.
Artificial intelligence (AI) predictive analytics models such as NICE ENLIGHTEN with Quality Central can identify and score behaviours for you more efficiently and accurately than manual listening and interpretation. They can provide an objective assessment of the soft skills so critical to providing great customer service, such as friendliness or demonstrated ownership.
2. Prepare for Coaching With Best Practices
As agents adapt to a work-from-home model, they’re under a lot of pressure, and research has shown that a stressed brain learns less effectively.
To combat this, coaches should double the frequency of coaching during this transition period, focusing on one or two behaviours at a time instead of a longer coaching session that covers more. Repetition will help agents retain the information and incorporate it into their behaviours.
Consider how each agent learns best and personalize your coaching to the individual; quality teams can help by providing ways to engage agents, for example by doing a self-evaluation prior to coaching sessions.
3. Improve Coaching Effectiveness Through Trust-Building
With agents no longer working from the same location as their managers, face-to-face time can be replaced with video coaching sessions.
Coaches should ask open-ended questions to create a dialogue and provide examples in advance. Quality can play a supporting role by providing agent dashboards, libraries of best practices and remote calibration sessions. Both coaches and quality should continue to celebrate success.
4. Agree on Next Steps
At the conclusion of each coaching session, coaches should set out an action plan with attainable steps toward incremental improvements. Having the agent summarize next steps elicits buy-in and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Quality teams, for their part, can ensure that coaches have access to data that shows whether agents are making progress toward their goals and provide a way to track and manage the improvements agents make before and after they have transitioned to working from home.
5. Follow Up to Ensure Success
Coaching isn’t limited to scheduled sessions, regardless of where an agent is working. Ensure that coaches follow up in between sessions to ask about progress and any barriers an agent may be encountering. This can be done via a quick check-in via email or online chat.
Quality teams can track and report on coaching effectiveness, paying particular attention to trends that emerge following the work-from-home transition.
This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of NICE– View the original post
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