A contact centre is a constant hub of activity that requires leaders to be nimble, think on their feet, and coach agents on how to engage with customers in email, text, social media channels, and on the phone.
In an optimal setting, effective coaching requires leaders to consider the personality and learning style of each employee, and to tailor the message so they can motivate agents to take action or make behavioural changes.
With more contact centres shifting to hybrid or remote workplaces, coaching has an added challenge. Leaders must continue to nurture the performance of agents related to quality, compliance, soft skills, and customer experience, while physically being located away from their teams.
This got me thinking about how to effectively coach remote contact centre agents. I compiled this list of six ideas that you might ﬁnd helpful if you’re looking for ways to inspire your remote agents to continue performing at the top of their game.
1. Be Intentional
Being located in different places means leaders must be even more intentional about communicating with their teams. Gallup reports that only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work. Having remote agents makes it even more important to be intentional about what you share with your team and when you share it.
It’s easy to see how you might go for periods of time without interacting when you aren’t physically in the same place as your employees. After all, they’re busy serving clients and you’re busy leading the team. But by being intentional about establishing a regular cadence, you can prevent communication gaps, and make it easier to establish a rapport and provide consistent feedback.
2. Be Clear
The kitchen table is the new ofﬁce desk in today’s workplace. The dining room is the conference room. And, water cooler chatter has been replaced by kids and dogs in the background. Our work and home lives are blended more than ever, and as the team leader, it’s critical that your agents have a clear understanding of workday expectations.
For example, is it okay that they leave for a half-hour each day to pick up their kids from school? Remote employees encounter distractions at home that they don’t in a traditional ofﬁce. As the leader, you must clearly communicate what’s okay by company standards.
It’s also critical to be clear about performance expectations. Typically, coaching conversations are best had in-person. But when that can’t happen, it’s critical that leaders are clear when verbally communicating about an agent’s goals, where they’re excelling, and their opportunities for growth.
After talking with your agent about their performance, consider detailing what you shared in a follow-up email. Based on the employee’s response, you’ll know right away if anything from your conversation was lost or misinterpreted.
3. Be Collaborative
Fostering a spirit of community and collaboration in a remote workforce is not as easy as calling a quick meeting in a conference room or scheduling an in-person team-building exercise. But coaching doesn’t always have to come from company leaders – sometimes the best coaching comes from our peers.
You can encourage collaboration and peer coaching with tools like Motivation, which has a community wall. Solutions like these bring agents together to exchange ideas, share best practices, recognise and motivate each other, and to foster a sense of (virtual) belonging.
4. Be a Champion
There are a few ways you can be an advocate for your agents and build their loyalty in the process. First, the best coaches go beyond helping their agents navigate opportunities for growth; they also celebrate their wins. Don’t stop recognising your agents just because you aren’t in the same location.
In fact, because your team isn’t together, many agents may have a greater urge to feel “seen.” Raises and bonuses are always welcome but don’t underestimate the power of smaller gestures. A nominal gift card can go a long way toward celebrating a win or making an agent feel appreciated.
Another way to champion remote agents is by giving them the chance to lead a department initiative. Then, get out of the way! Let them take on a stretch project they may not typically have the opportunity to do.
You may both be surprised when a new strength is revealed that can help the team, other areas of the business, and the agent’s career.
5. Be a Teacher
Learning can’t stop simply because the workforce is remote. In fact, it’s critical that professional development continues and potentially even increases. A remote workforce doesn’t have the beneﬁt of face-to-face interactions where they can observe and learn from their teammates.
With a learning solution, you can easily create online courses and quizzes for all generations and learning styles.
Remember, learning doesn’t have to be boring. More contact centres are embracing gamiﬁcation as a tool for educating teams. Gamiﬁcation can break up the monotony, spark healthy team competition, and provide feedback and progress toward individual goals.
6. Be Human
The blending of home and work life that’s become the reality of the remote workforce can leave your agents feeling mentally taxed. The lack of boundaries between job and family demands may have tensions running high.
At a macro level, many remote workers say they’re working longer hours and don’t feel like they’re ever off the clock. The result is that nearly 30 percent of remote workers say they’re burned out, which impacts everything from their long-term health to their on-the-job performance.
Keep this in mind when coaching your remote contact centre team. Look for ways to ease the pressures they may be feeling and be sure to model the behaviour. For example, if you set a team policy to not send emails after 7 p.m., make sure you honour the rule.
The team will follow your lead and won’t feel pressured to respond when they’re technically off-the-clock.
Today’s contact centre leaders must ﬁnd ways to motivate and inspire their teams with the added challenge of not physically being in the same place. But with these six tips, you can effectively coach your remote customer service agents and ensure they continue to perform at the top of their game.
Thanks to Jennifer Waite at Playvox for this article.