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Uncovering the Real Reason Your Agent Is Failing


BurnedOutOur quality coaches may be focusing on specific skills without truly understanding what is motivating the agent to improve or not improve.

When observing center coaches in action, I find that some will ask an agent very few questions or often the wrong questions during their coaching sessions.  Questions are not just conversation controllers and great service/sales skills to use during customer interactions.

Supervisors and Quality Analysts must learn how to ask appropriate probing questions to uncover the real reasons for skill issues.

Using open-ended questions that allow the agent to discuss what they think, feel and the “why”of a skill, are most effective. When the right questions are asked, we stop assuming and learn the real why an agent seems to be challenged by certain skills.

These are some examples of skill “why’s” uncovered during recent coaching sessions I’ve observed:

1. Why?… Prior job habits brought to your center. 

One rep had major problems showing empathy.  When asked why:  Her 10 years of military service had conditioned her to think she (and her customers) just needed to “suck it up and quit whining”

2. Why?… Agent Burnout

A long time agent shows up every day and goes through the motions for minimal skills quality.  Just enough skills demonstrated to get by. The agent admitted during the coaching that they were tired of handling complaints and didn’t enjoy the job anymore. Despite the coaches great efforts to work with them, the agent eventually left the center.

3. Why?….Agent was Bad Hire

They did well in the interview.  They were great in training.  They faked it all.  The agent just wanted a job…any job and is waiting for the better opportunity to come along.  They really aren’t interested in improving their skills more than the minimum required.  Asking these agents questions regarding how they feel about the customers, what they could improve in often confirm that they just don’t care and your customers or their job enough to want to make more effort.

4. Why?…Agent Unwilling to Change 

I observed a supervisor coaching with an older agent who refused to engage with callers.  She was flat toned and brusque sounding but never rude.  The coach asked some great questions and the Agent told us that she just knew that the customers wanted to order and didn’t care how she interacted with them.  She’d worked in the center without engaging for a long time so why start now?

This Agent didn’t have a skill problem, she had an attitude problem towards changing her behavior.

Fortunately there was a happy ending as the wonderful coach working with her convinced her to try the new skills and demonstrated them for her.  Once the agent attempted and received feedback from customers about her “excellent service skills” (which she had never heard from them before), the agent continued to improve and connect with her callers.

Teach your coaches to ask more questions during coaching and then discuss the Agent responses in an open coaching.  By creating a positive coaching environment which allows the Agent to speak freely, you not only find out the stumbling blocks to their success, but you’ll learn which Agents want to learn and grow, and which are just a poor fit for your center.

This article was originally posted on Intradiem’s Blog where I’m featured as one of their Call Center Experts.

3 Responses

  1. Asking more questions is terrific advice. I’ve often found agents will tell you exactly what’s getting in the way of their good performance if you just ask.

    • So true, Jeff! Asking questions really is a lost art. Some think training and coaching means talking until you run out of breath. Thanks for stopping by :-)

      > From: “Customer Service Power . . . Turn it On!” > > Reply-To:

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