No matter how skilled a front line customer service agent is, they can always benefit from coaching. Coaching equips a less experienced agent or poor performer with the tools to improve, and motivates high achievers to stay at the top of their abilities. It also lays out a clear path for them to keep challenging themselves to improve.
1. Focus on How, Not Why
When coaching for the customer experience, focus more on how the call center agent sold, versus what they sold. What skills did the agent use to ensure that they:
- heard the customer the first time
- gave the customer choices
- valued the customer
- helped the customer
- saved the customer time
- made it easy for the customer
- amazed the customer
2. Harness the Power of Positive Reinforcement
Since our first quality program in 1990, best practice here at CSR has focused on positive coaching techniques. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, after all! For the past 25 years, we’ve seen this prove to be true over and over again. Positive reinforcement is the key to transforming your agents’ current behaviors into the behaviors your company needs.
3. Teach them ‘Happy Words’
Some of the happy words all agents should familiarize themselves with are:
Agents with positive attitudes are more in tune with the happy words involved in customer service, and are able to more easily internalize them.
4. Coach as a Partner
By approaching coaching from a partnership perspective, you can help your agents determine for themselves what they’re doing well, and in which areas they can improve. Ask open-ended questions to get your agents to review some of their calls on their own, such as, “How do you think it went?’ and, “What would you do differently, if you could do the call over again?” Coaching isn’t about taking notes in a lecture hall: open-ended questions challenge agents to find the right answers themselves, which further reinforces the right action.
5. Aim for a Successful Self-Critique
The most successful coaching session is when your agent does a self-critique and arrives at the same conclusions as you. But if that doesn’t happen, be ready to offer the feedback they need to grow, in a constructive way.
6. End on a Positive Note
Always end every call center coaching session on a positive note. While even the best agents always have room for improvement, everyone gets a boost from having their strengths recognized. Every agent will leave the session with specific goals to pursue, but the confirmation that their past efforts haven’t gone unnoticed will help fuel them to achieve the new targets you’ve set for them during the session.
7. Be Consistent
Concerning timing, coaching should be consistent. A regular schedule that combines coaching and accountability will keep your customer service agents performing at their best. Inconsistent sessions leave the impression that coaching is happening due to a failure to perform, rather than a regularly-scheduled event designed to optimize outcomes.
8. Invest Today—Reap the Rewards Every Day Thereafter
Coaching also shows your agents that you are willing to invest in them – not just for the good of the company but for their own personal achievement. This investment can make them more inclined to go the extra mile in their daily interactions with your customers when the need arises. Ultimately, the stronger their customer service skills and the better equipped they are for the job, the more likely they are to be engaged and to truly enjoy their work—a difference your customers can hear.
What coaching techniques have you found work best in call centers?