Best Practices for setting up call center agent performance coaching programs.?

What are best practices for setting up call center agent performance coaching programs?

Answer

Steven Williams (Client Service Coordinator, Restoration Hardware)
The first thing you need to do is to break the a customer service call into 5 components.

1. The Introduction

2. Fact Finding

3. Resolution/ Problem solving

4. Checking in

5. Closing

Then you focus on the core competencies of each component of the call. And then coach on each of these 5 main compentencies.
6 Additional Answers
Lee Anne Wimberly (Specialist in Demand Generation, Knowlagent)
Best Practice Coaching
The foundation for coaching outlined here ( http://www.focus.com/ugr/research/customer-service/best-practice-coaching-call-center-agents/ ) is based on the key principles needed to change behavior though coaching in the call center in order to improve performance, satisfaction and retention. Too long for a comment, but a few takeaways are:
Your Coaching Check
Key Questions:
- Are my supervisors prepared to coach?
- How targeted and actionable is coaching?
- Is coaching consistent across supervisors?
- How often do supervisors coach?
- Do agents have a mechanism to take ownership for performance improvement?

Key Measurements:
- Compliance to coaching processes
- Time spent in coaching
- Problem coaching vs. enhancement coaching
- Performance changes directly linked to coaching
- Proficient agent attrition
Connie Smith (President, SpotOn Enterprises)
Great question!
I happen to believe that performance coaching, or a lack of, is the missing link to agent performance. Setting up a performance coaching program is more then scheduling weekly and monthly coaching sessions talking about done wells and do betters. A coaching program should be integrated into the lifecycle of your organization. Here are some high level questions which need to be answered in order to develop a well thought out documented program:
1. What are the goals of your coaching program? What do you hope to accomplish?
2. What are the guiding principles of your program?
3. Who will be coaching and what specific skills are needed of them?
4. Who will coach the coaches?
5. What methods of coaching will be used? i.e. side by sides, fly-by’s, peer, behavioral, quality monitoring etc.
6. How often will each employee be coached?
7. How will you evaluate and track your coaching programs success?

I have a great presentation entitled “Coaching: The Missing Link to Agent Performance” which I just gave to contact center professionals at the Quality and Training Connection (QATC) conference in Nashville. It has a ton of coaching best practices and statistics that validate why coaching is so important to contact cetners. I am happy to share it if you send me an email at ConnieSmith@SpotOnEnterprises.com.
Nik Kellingley (HR, Training and Development Consultant, Self-Employed)
Not sure I'm wholly in agreement with anybody here.

The first step for me, before beginning any coaching program is to work out the behaviours and skills that lead to success within your environment, which will be unique. Find your best people and work out what it is that makes them so.

Then before you leap into coaching, which is an intensive and expensive exercise. Ask yourself what could be trained out? And then train it. For example poor systems skills, can be much more effectively trained out than coached out. What's left after this is where you want to focus your coaching, again though you may find it best to lead some subjects with training to be followed by coaching.

Then work out what kind of coaching you intend to implement, will it be formal/informal or a mix of both. Is it the 'voyage of discovery' style coaching currently favoured in many organisations, or the more practical style of coaching employed by football coaches (try this, let me see it, try it again... until you get good) or a half way house between them?

Now you have a goal and a method by which you intened to achieve it. You need to ensure you have the skills in house for a coaching program, and if not either train for it, or hire for it.

Then you need to keep track of your coaching, and work out whether it is effective or not. And more importantly if it is effective, is it having the impact on the bottom line you want - after all if your staff are nicer, more effective etc. then surely this will show in retention figures or call hold times.

I know one call centre in a high volume sales environment that abandoned a customer service program half way through because though it achieved greater levels of customer satisfaction it dramatically reduced revenues from customers who essentially didn't care about service, they just wanted it cheap and now....

Maggie Klenke (Founding Partner, The Call Center School LLC)
We believe an effective coaching program is the third element in a series of task aimed at improving performance. The first is to set the standards of behavior clearly and communicate them to the staff. Then diagnose any performance issues using the Don't Know, Can't or Won't model. If they don't know what you expect or don't know how they are doing, you need to educate them. If there is a roadblock in their way, you need to remove it. But if neither of those are issues, it is probably a won't - I choose not to comply. That can only be affected by consequences - good ones for doing the right thing and bad ones for doing the wront thing. With the proper diagnosis, you are ready to begin the coaching process knowing if you are educating, giving feedback or applying consequences. We have a 3 part web seminar series on these topics beginning May 20 and also have elearning available if interested. www.thecallcenterschool.com
Vasudha Deming (V.P. of Global Learning, Impact Learning Systems)
I frequently consult with contact centers, and would add to the following to the thoughtful answers your query has already received...

* Train your coaches to accurately and thoroughly assess agent performance and do lots of calibration to make sure that all coaches are assessing fairly and consistently.
* Establish guidelines related to how often to assess each agent and what coaching method to use in various situations, (e.g., fly-by, two-way conversation, etc.).
* Be sure to inform agents of what's in it for them. If coaching is done well, the agents will welcome it because they'll see that they get lots of praise and are constantly learning and improving.
* Teach coaches to use positive, effective, and motivating feedback models whether they're praising, refining, or correcting performance. (I use the ones at http://bit.ly/9eKx4K ).
* Hold your coaches accountable for coaching well--and reward them for it. Don't neglect to 'coach the coach'!
Robert Watson (Learning Manager, Sitel Corporation)
It is imperative that our Coaches and Team Leaders understand the adult mindset. So often we try to employ the same tactics with our employees that we do with our children at home. If you want the most for your time and energy create and maintain a truly collaborative Coaching environment within which your employees feel as though they have an active role in their own development. When we intriduce the WIIFM variant into this equation we create a dynamic development environment that builds confidence and does away with Learned Helplessness. Make sure that all of your Leadership from Executive (VP, SVP etc) all the way through Agent, understand SMART action planning. We sometimes guard against explaining this process to our front line employees when they need to understand SMART and how to develope action items therein. Collaborative Coaching is an amazing, impactive and hands-on style of coaching. When everyone understands the goals and the path that leads to them we have an opportunity to create an environment that takes on a life of its own.

Let's review:
1. Train all of your Leadership exec - Coach in collaborative Coaching and SMART Action planning.
2. Train your Reps in SMART Action planning and Goal setting.
3. Nurture the environment with weekly team meetings and goal setting activities and scenarios.
4. Monthly follow-up meetings with Leadership to review action plans in a group setting and to share best practices. (this needs to be a very structured but allow the creativity of the group to shine.)

You will be pleasantly surprised by how involved and creative your Coaches and Team Leads become.
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