Featured Image for the blog: Boost Employee Engagement by Creating a Coaching Culture Where Your Agents Thrive

Phones are ringing back to back. You’ve got an inbox full of unread emails. Agents are calling out to you, escalating calls with upset customers who will only speak with the manager. Some days it seems like your agents can’t solve a problem on their own. You’re struggling to keep your KPIs up and your turnover rates down. The stress levels are high, the service level is low.

Where do you even start?

Imagine the difference in your contact center if you could focus more on growing your employees and less on losing them. Imagine if your agents were so driven in their own work that you rarely had to deal with busy work or escalated calls. Your KPIs could take care of themselves and you could truly coach your team. That’s what agent engagement and empowerment looks like.

Gallup reported that only 33% of the American workforce are engaged at work. There’s a need in the workplace for greater engagement. One of the primary means of pushing your agents towards engagement is better coaching and training. Most contact centers have a quality assurance program or track metrics, but coaching steps beyond performance management.

With coaching, you push your agents past daily KPIs. You work toward larger goals and delivering stellar customer service, every time. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Empowering your agents and keeping them engaged enough to deliver on the promise of an exceptional experience takes holistic, intentional work.

Effective coaching doesn’t just happen. If you come in one day and start telling agents what they did on a call was just wrong, you’ll be lucky to end the day without a riot. For coaching methods to make an impact, ingrain them into your practices. Coaching needs to be a part of your culture.

What on earth is a coaching culture?

Coaching expert and CEO of Cylient, Dianna Anderson, calls culture your way of being. She’s said, “When we have a coaching culture, we integrate coaching approaches into any conversation with anybody about anything. It becomes the way that we communicate with each other.”

If engagement and coaching is part of your office culture, it’s welcomed into every conversation.

Having a culture of coaching makes your contact center a safe environment for people at all levels to be open with their ideas and concerns. It encourages your team to collaborate and create together. It pushes your employees to step into new kinds of problems and conversations with the desire to learn from them.

Learn how to build your coaching culture and lead your team to success with Your Call Center Manager Playbook: A How-To Guide to Better Call Center Coaching. 

What’s a manager’s role in coaching?

Beyond the culture you create, coaching is more than just a once-a-year performance review. It’s a two-way conversation that happens frequently between a manager and an agent, and sometimes from agent to agent.

What should coaching conversations look like? A place to share actionable and relevant feedback on your agents’ performance and professional development.

What should coaching conversations not look like? A forum for telling your employees what to do.

When we tell agents what to do, we train them to wait for our signal before making a decision. We encourage them to use someone else’s brain rather than their own, discouraging them from taking risks or initiative.

That’s a recipe for disengagement.

Gallup found the link between engaged managers and engaged employees to be incredibly powerful. In fact, employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. Agents will perform better if there is motivation and care built through regular, intentional conversations.

What does coaching do for employee engagement?

It shouldn’t be a shock that coaching efforts positively correlate with employee engagement. Just think about it! Coaching requires intentional conversation and feedback. When agents are poured into deliberately, they’re more inspired to invest in their daily work. Professional development is at the core of employee engagement.

Often when we think of methods of employee development, we think of taking a class or attending a conference. But the most effective professional development — where employees can truly identify individual strengths and weaknesses, target goals for improvement, and receive feedback on their progress — come from you!

Your agents need daily feedback. If your agent answers an email with incorrect etiquette or consistently struggles with first contact resolution, coaching enables you to step alongside them and offer advice. You can expect them to grow from their mistakes and accomplishments. And, as they do so, they’ll become less dependent on your guidance. You can trust them to handle themselves and their work with greater confidence.

Engaged employees are more motivated to go the extra mile, and more likely to produce high-quality results. In fact, organizations with employees who are coached effectively and frequently improve their business results by 21%, compared to those who don’t coach employees.

Beyond helping employees work productively, coaching helps improve self-confidence and morale. It’s been reported that 80% of professionals who received coaching reported an improvement in their self-esteem, and 63% saw a positive change in their overall wellness.

Coached employees find greater meaning in their work as they perceive their own growth every day. They will be more likely to stay in their seats, serve customers better, and strive for future goals.

Want to coach more, but don’t feel like you have the time? Here’s a recipe for coaching agents in 30 minutes per day.

Building your own Culture of Coaching

Set the standards for coaching in your contact center. What kind of results are you hoping to see from your agents? Know what your standards are for etiquette, KPIs, and customer interactions prior to building out a coaching method. With your foundation set, there are some fundamental attributes in a strong coaching culture. Let’s take a look:

Know how to give and receive feedback.

When managers are good at this, they show employees how valuable feedback can be to professional development. Feedback needs to be proactive, timely, specific and easy to apply.

Enter into feedback sessions with an open mind. Maybe your agent just had a slip up while interacting with a customer and forgot a procedure. Maybe they had a frustrating morning at home, or were stuck in bad traffic on the way to work and brought some of that grumpiness into a phone call.

Finding the root issue of a poor performance prior to heaping on criticism establishes an empathetic tone while coaching. Remember, also, that coaching isn’t a one-way street. Be humble and invite your agents to give you feedback and guidance, so you know what they need from you to grow most effectively. Work on your own active listening skills so you can gather the information you need to develop better coaching practices. When feedback is welcomed among everyone on the team, it becomes a part of team practices and culture.

Motivate employees in the style they need.

Every one of your employees is different. Look at them as the unique individuals they are, and you’ll help them grow in a way that works for them. Sit down with each employee and write down their personal goals for the quarter or year. Learn how that specific person hopes to grow and change. Identify what drives each employee through personal surveys and personality tests and discover the individual’s strengths. Be sure to know their work and communication style, and how they feel motivated before stepping into a coaching session.

Maybe you have one agent who only needs you to give a weekly report card to help them grow. Or, one of your agents really needs individualized time for affirmation in order to adopt best practices. Gallup found that 67% of employees who say their manager focuses on their strengths are engaged. Compare that to the 31% of disengaged employees who say their manager focuses too much on their weaknesses. Be adaptable to their needs and meet them where they are so they can grow best. Building this foundation will help you work effectively with each agent, so you can engage them the way they need.

Build a process your agents’ appreciate as much as the results.

Coaching will not be infectious if employees love the results but hate the process.

Growth is a journey.

Your agents won’t just go through onboarding, swallow information, and be able to consistently spit out perfect results.

Your job isn’t only to get keep KPIs high and customers happy, but also to build a successful team and support your agents in their careers. And, if your agents view coaching sessions as drudgery or a necessary evil, they won’t get anything out of it. Show your agents how performance reviews and coaching teaches soft skills like how to have a professional conversation, too.

It’s important to know how to receive feedback in a professional context. Show your agents how you build out a process for feedback, and show them the key competencies you look at during their reviews. If they’re ever in your position as a manager someday, they’ll thank you. When the process itself is valued by yourself and the agents, your coaching becomes a cultural element. It becomes a way of life and being in your contact center.

Don’t get overwhelmed with the task of building a coaching culture. Take baby steps and start having more frequent conversations with your agents, and you’ll get there. And if you need a jumpstart, there are tools that can help (like ours). In-line training and coaching tools help you automate coaching tasks and let agents dive into lessons directly in their queue. It saves you time, and it gives you a powerhouse of data and robust analytics to keep your team at peak performance. Know that there are tools out there built specifically to help you. Take advantage of tools available to make coaching smooth and consistent across your team.

With the right tools, and the right foundation, coaching can be a natural part of life in your contact center. And with that, I guarantee you’ll see an impact in the engagement, development, and the efforts of your employees.

Still looking for ways to motivate your agents? Check out our blog post on that very topic.