Coaching versus criticism: How to drive peak performance in contact centers

Hand-Rich-174By Rich Hand, RCDA Consultant

In most call centers within which we work, there is usually an operations team responsible for immediate performance goals and a quality team listening to calls to analyze the entire call to determine whether or not the agents are mastering the required call components and behaviors.

The quality teams generally work from a checklist and listen to every detail to critique around very specific behaviors. Because quality is subjective, we often observe calibrations which become passionate discussions about whether or not a specific behavior happened or not. The quality team sees their role as making sure agents get credit for the right behavior, deductions for bad behaviors and auto fails for behaviors deemed critical to perform on every call. The teams usually have the right intentions since many organizations tie quality scores to compensation.

The peril of focusing on bad behaviors

Many of the quality teams we have observed bring a checklist of behaviors that were monitored and go down the list one by one critiquing the call and what the agent did. Supervisors often use a similar approach focusing on the bad behaviors and ignoring the good behaviors. There could be a dozen behaviors or more discussed with the agent, and the agent leaves the session feeling like they have failed miserably. Even if there were some good behaviors on the call, they are drowned out by the barrage of criticism they received. They go back to the phones beaten down and disheartened.

Building agent confidence with a positive coaching experience

The stronger supervisors we observe work with their agents and coach real-time to ensure the behaviors are producing the performance goals in place for their teams. When the coaching is done effectively on the floor, the interaction is focused on the key behaviors that lead to success. In sales environments, supervisors are often coaching agents to find the customers wants, interests and needs. In a retention environment they may be focused on empathy. The goal is to coach to a behavior which can have the most impact.

When we train our supervisors to coach, we use a 12-step model that builds an agent’s confidence and highlights and reinforces the behaviors they are doing well. We utilize a questioning technique to get the agent to self-assess their performance. The key to a supervisor’s effectiveness is to demonstrate one behavior that is expected from the agent, have the agent replicate the behavior to the supervisor’s satisfaction, and give feedback. The model has other details but the key is that the agent receives a skill they can use back on the phone immediately to improve performance. It is a positive coaching experience for the agent.

The role of any contact center agent is to provide an excellent customer experience. It is a tough job to stay positive when customers often make it difficult to do so. The way you coach your agents makes the difference between continued improved performance, better sales, higher satisfaction rates and more saved customers, or not. If we take a positive approach every coaching session, we are more likely to hit our goals.

Pinpointing opportunities versus failure

The approach we train promotes a positive learning environment highlighting positive behaviors and pinpoints the opportunity that will have the most significant positive impact for that agent when they take the next call. It is designed to be linear within the call flow to ensure the agent sees results immediately and is a building block for improved agent development.

Anyone can criticize behaviors and check boxes on a list. The best QA teams and supervisors don’t criticize, they coach. Great coaching leads to a contact center that runs at peak performance consistently and agents that look forward to their next coaching session.

Learn more about RCDA and customized Quality Conversation programs.