Featured Image for the blog: 5 data-backed strategies to improve your contact center coaching

It’s 10 a.m., and your contact center is buzzing with phone calls. You have three agents on break, two who need to escalate cases, and a few more with a clear tone of frustration on the phone. Your agents are still taking calls and helping customers, yet you can’t help but wonder what the 2 p.m. rush will look like if this is already the state of things at 10 a.m.

So, how do you nix the problem before it becomes one? Better, more frequent contact center coaching for your front-line employees. Consistently coach your contact center agents to develop a culture of learning. Creating a culture of learning will empower your agents to search for the right answers when they need help. And, it will encourage them to keep a constant pulse on their mood, given that an agent’s mood dramatically affects the customer experience.

In fact, 63% of executives are investing in expanding training and coaching to keep employees more engaged and informed. It’s typical to spend training budgets on a one-day workshop here, or a week-long conference there. But, your agents need more than bi-annual technical training. They need to be coached. It’s a vital part of improving the agent experience.

In CCW’s 2018 Digital Winter Executive Report, 47 percent of people surveyed said improving coaching and training was their number one priority to improve the agent experience. And 61 percent agree that coaching is at least on their priority list to improve agent experience.

Your agents’ motivation and empowerment are directly linked to how you coach them. The more you train your agents, the more willing they will be to create fantastic customer experiences and outperform standards.

Here are five can’t-miss tips to improve your contact center coaching.

1. Clearly define goals and metrics.

Let’s picture a scenario to gain some perspective. We’re taking a trip to an ice cream shop for this scenario (because who doesn’t love ice cream?) Okay, here it goes.

A 16-year-old is working her first job at an ice cream shop. She showed up for work her first day, got her uniform and a tour of the freezer, and then she was on the front line. She puts in her best effort every day, but she gets fired after 3 weeks because she’s moving a little slower than her manager wants. Her manager wanted her to scoop 250 scoops of ice cream every day, but she only made it to 175 while her coworkers picked up the slack.

What’s the problem here? First, she didn’t have the proper training, so she never knew she had a goal to meet. Second, since she wasn’t aware of her goal, she wasn’t keeping an eye on her performance. She didn’t think she needed to pick up the pace because she didn’t know she was falling short in the first place.

Define goals for your agents so they know what they’re working toward. Then, create metrics so they can track their performance. Creating these goals and metrics gives agents a reference point to look back to after every customer interaction – helping them constantly align their actions with contact center goals.

Craft goals around service level and first contact resolution to make sure agents have quality conversations with customers. Then use metrics like average time on hold and average handle time to be sure those quality conversations are still moving swiftly.

When agents can see the results and progress of their daily efforts, they’re more motivated and confident. Metrics give agents tangible proof of how they’re contributing to your contact center goals. According to the CCW winter report, 41% of companies want to make metrics more clear and transparent to improve the agent experience. As an agent, knowing where you stand and if you’re crushing your goals will get you amped up to perform at ultimate levels.

Head over to our free, in-depth guide, Your Call Center Manager Playbook, to get pointers on how to prioritize goals and set the right metrics.

2. Coach frequently with microlearning exercises.

Microlearning lets you deliver shorter lessons, more frequently. This kind of constant learning provides a richer context for your agents, making your coaching more effective and increasing your agent retention rates. Create lessons that have a specific objective in mind. And make the lesson readily available for your agent right after a customer interaction that needs attention. When agents have a customer interaction top-of-mind, it’s easier to process coaching feedback and identify specific moments that need improvement. (Or to soak in all the praise after they’ve delighted a customer.)

With quick, contextual lessons, you can customize and individualize your contact center coaching, so your agents can be more effective. Plus, they won’t go without answers for long stints of time. The brevity and hyper-focused nature of these lessons engage your agents and create experts. It’s better to watch our teenager scoop a couple of scoops and help her with her technique scoop-by-scoop rather than letting her go at it for a week, then asking, “remember that Rocky Road cone on Tuesday?”

3. Use the feedback sweet-spot – Focus on your agents’ strengths.

When it comes to focusing on employees’ strengths, this topic is the icing on the data-backed cake. There’s even a target ratio that identifies how often to talk about your agents’ strengths. There are tons of facts and figures to back up the logic behind praise vs. criticism, so we’re rattling off some of our favorite stats.

  • Managers are thirty times more likely to actively engage workers when they focus on an employee’s strengths.
  • 52% of Americans who use their strengths for three hours a day are less stressed.
  • The more hours per day a person can use their strengths, the less likely they are to experience worry, stress, anger, sadness, or even physical pain.
  • 67% of employees whose managers focus on their strengths were actively engaged at work. Only 31 percent of workers were actively engaged when managers focused on weaknesses.
  • High-performing teams share six times more positive feedback than average teams.

It’s much more encouraging and motivating to hear what you’re doing right rather than being constantly pestered about what you can do better. Now, of course, contact center coaching requires teaching moments about areas where agents can improve, too. But give your agents genuine praise more often than not. There’s nothing like a good pep talk to cheer someone up and empower them to keep crushing it at work.

4. Be proactive, not reactive.

Go beyond traditional training methods and occasional check-ins with your agents. Be proactive and use your access to insights and data to help predict future outcomes, then act on the information you find and coach your agents. More effective coaching means giving timely, relevant feedback.

Use in-line training and contextual feedback. This coaching method lets you point out specific customer-facing moments agents should or shouldn’t replicate. Then agents can easily “dig” through their archive of remembered calls and pick out those repeatable interactions for future use.

Invest in agent experience. Improving your agent experience takes top-priority on your to-do list. Your agents MUST be happy and empowered to deliver happy customer experiences. Focus on your internal customers, first. You’ll create a team who’s dedicated to serving your customers and finding solutions to any problem. Plus, companies that invest in employee experience are four times more profitable than those that don’t.

Get to know your agents on a personal level. Coaching needs to happen on a daily basis, and it needs to be tailored to each agent’s individual experience. Recognize your agents’ efforts more often when you see improvements, like upticks in customer satisfaction and call volume. Pop by their desks after listening to a call to give quick feedback, and schedule sync-ups if you need to go over some more in-depth interactions. Be a constant resource for your team, and keep encouraging your agents on a personal level. Truth be told, continuous conversations will inspire your agents to work harder, too. 69% of employees say they’d work harder if their efforts were better recognized. Better coaching equals better agents.

5. Invest in coaching tools for your teams.

Advancements in technology have paved the way for more connected, productive teams. But teams need their coaches to cheer them on and teach them along the way. Free up your time for more one-on-one coaching moments with tools that let you push training moments to your team as they come up. New developments in automation and IoT go beyond contact center tools and can connect all the functions of your business with whole-enterprise solutions. Bots can monitor your agents’ queues based on pre-determined criteria, push coaching moments to you, then you can send lessons to your agents. Choosing the right tools for your contact center is making a promise to your agents. You’re promising that they’ll have access to the information they need to succeed.

If agents need to talk to the marketing team about a promo that’s going on so they can discuss it with customers who have questions, they can do it instantly. If your agents’ need to reach the product team when a highly-technical question starts circulating the contact center, they’ll have the tools in place to do it – without hopping in a bulldozer to break down the roadblocks. Picking the right tools will help you coach better, faster, and more often.

Empower your agents to be constant learners. Amp up your contact center coaching. Give your agents actionable insights and focused lessons while emphasizing the importance of positivity in customer interactions. Giving your agents the tools to succeed will ultimately make them happier, more effective problem solvers for your customers.

…and maybe take them out for ice cream once in a while.