Never have truer words been spoken for the effectiveness of your supervisors or others doing Agent skills coaching. If there isn’t a good plan for coaching, your Coaches will be just going through the motions, missing needed sessions with agents or looking at coaching as just an interruption in their busy day.
Many supervisors have every intention of working with their agents on skills, but find that the week or even a month has gone by with just minimal Coaching done. Feeling rushed, their weak Coaching substitute of “telling the agent what to work on” happens instead of an interactive and focused coaching that brings results.
Effective coaching isn’t a once and done effort. Your Coaches need to plan for skills activities time with their agents and the motivation needed to encourage continuous improvement.
Many supervisors tell me that they are buried under reports and meetings scheduled by their manager. In order to help them be successful, we need to be clear on our expectations for coaching and remove any obstacles that our Coaches have. We can demonstrate our interest in helping them succeed by our own planning and review of theirs.
Here are some questions to help in your process:
NOT PLANNING WASTES TIME
What are my Coaching mission and goals? Are they based on a number of coaching sessions completed or focused on results?
Many supervisors are doing a lot of coaching but with minimal results. We must make sure that our supervisors aren’t just going through a coaching checklist to meet coaching “metrics”, but instead are doing what brings results in terms of agent skills development and increased customer satisfaction.
Some Coaches tell me that they see their goal as the completion of X number of sessions. They make sure that they do the minimum required in order to stay in the manager’s good graces. Others say that they often feel that they are spinning their wheels and making no progress. They work with the same poor performing Agents each month, telling them the same things that are needed for improvement. These coaches are frustrated by the lack of results. Their manager just repeats the mantra “more coaching” without giving direction and working hands on with them to assist in developing a good coaching plan for each agent.
The goals for Customer Experience and development of agents must be clear for your Coaches and you must also provide them with the tools to reach those goals in terms of training and working side by side with them for success.
COOKIE CUTTER COACHING WASTES TIME:
Am I holding my Coaches responsible for completion of certain results-based activities related to successful Coaching? Are they personalizing the coaching method based on the agent’s skills, experience and learning type?
Responsibility for results, not just actions is a big key to their success. Agent skills differ, length of time on the job varies and so the time that must be spent with each agent varies as well as the type of coaching done.
Instead, many newer Coaches make the mistake of coaching everyone just once a month, using the same coaching method with every agent. They miss the opportunity to see results from those average or struggling agents who need a boost from increased coaching or approaching the skill needs using more personalized approaches. They will tell me they don’t have the time to Coach more. Often it isn’t more coaching that’s needed but the right kind of coaching to help the agent change skill behaviors.
Managers need to make sure that the Coaches are not just “tellers” but coaching “doers”, rolling up their sleeves and working with their agents. Initially more intensive coaching such as role-play, side-by-side call handling while the agent observes them handling calls may be needed. Once results are seen, the Coach will be able to work on more of a “maintenance” coaching schedule requiring less time with agents who have improved.
NOT SCHEDULING COACHING WASTES TIME
Are they scheduling Coaching activities on their Calendar?
If we are working with our supervisor Coaches on how they communicate with the agent about skills, we may not realize the importance of working with them on their time management for coaching. I find that if it isn’t on the Coach’s calendar or schedule, it isn’t going to have priority. If your supervisor is a Myers-Briggs type “P” (http://www.myersbriggs.org/) who may like to keep plans to a minimum, keeping a calendar with Coaching and alert reminders for it may not come naturally for them.
Recently, I walked a Coach through his calendar to demonstrate how the amount of coaching needed for effectiveness could be possible. We discussed the need to be flexible in case an urgent situation conflicts with the time and how to deal with that.
It was interesting to watch his expression when he realized that scheduling blocks of time for his formal and side-by-side coaching sessions for the month made it seem less daunting a task.
NON-ESSENTIAL TASKS WASTE TIME
Do I help them find the time to Coach?
Holding a supervisor or quality coach responsible for results but not giving them the time to do it is a recipe for disaster. I’ve had Coaches tell me that they have the desire to do more Coaching but their manager always assigns them other activities.
Your goal should be to review how they spend their time, then find ways to free them from non-essential activities so they can spend 50 to 60% of their time Coaching.
We attend a great deal of meetings and often pull the supervisors in to tell them what happened or even have them attend some meetings with us. While communication of information is a key to the success of our business, we should decide which meetings are crucial for the Coach to attend, and which can be summarized in an email you or another attendee sends out to share key information.
Reports are another time eater for many front line supervisors who coach. Once again, prioritizing with your help is key. Can reports be handled by an agent who has potential for moving into a lead or supervisor’s role in the future?
MOTIVATE COACHES TO SPEND TIME WISELY
What am I doing to motivate my coaches to spend the time needed and get results?
Much as our Agents need motivation, our Coaches need to be rewarded for their efforts and results. You get the behavior you reward so you need to make sure that you are aware of their daily coaching activities and observe them in action. If you hear an agent showing improvement when you monitor or if customers give kudos to an agent, it’s a great opportunity to not only praise the agent, but the coach who has been working with them.
Verbal and written praise goes a long way to encourage your Coaches to keep working towards the goals for improved Customer Experience. Monetary incentives if tied to actual improvements and not just activities can be great motivators as well.
You cannot wait to notice and give positive feedback a month or two later when you review quality reports. Take an active role in observing and rewarding good efforts and results on a daily basis.
REPEAT COACHING WITHOUT IMPROVEMENT WASTES TIME
Are any Coaches wasting time Coaching the unwilling or unable? Have I given the Coach the tools needed to be successful?
If your supervisor is coaching the same agent without results, is it because the Agent is unable or unwilling, or does your Coach need coaching themselves to learn some new techniques?
Observe the coaching sessions and coaching activities each supervisor does and then meet with them to discuss. Do they need some coaching skills training?
If your coach is doing all the right things to drive skills improvement and motivating the agent, you need to assess whether that agent really wants to improve or is unable to show further improvement. Your coach needs to know that you will support them and make a decision to change a coaching situation into a disciplinary one if warranted.
Originally published in Contact Center Pipeline in October 2012
Filed under: Call Center, Call Center Manager, Call Center Supervision, Coaching Skills, Contact Center, Employee Development, Employee Motivation, leadership development, Quality Assurance, time managment, Training Tagged: | Call Center, Call centre, Call Monitoring, Coach, Coaching, Contact Center, contact centre, Education and Training, Manager coaching Skills, Motivation, QA, Quality assurance, Supervisor Skills, Time Management