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Ask any athlete how they got better and reached the next level in their careers. They will say their “secret” is practice — and really great coaching.
The same is true for making performance improvements in your contact center. You can’t expect agents to turn up one day and be better at a certain skill. There’s no secret formula to improve your call center metrics overnight. But, with a little time and intention, you can help your team members reach their full potential and, ultimately, change your overall call center performance.
Here, we’ll cover why you should include call center coaching in your call center strategy, 10 practices to follow when coaching call center agents, and everything you’ll need to build your own coaching program.
Why Is Call Center Coaching Needed?
The rationale behind call center coaching is twofold: It benefits your agents and your business. This mutual success contributes to the betterment of your customer-facing business functions and the processes within your business.
Benefits for your agents
If you help your agents become better at their jobs, coaching is a win-win for both them and the business. But it also helps your agents enjoy work as they become more successful in their roles. The less stress they face, the less likely they are to experience burnout. Equally, there’s a higher chance that they will be able to help your customers without checking the clock all day to see whether their working hours are finally up.
When agents benefit from call center coaching, you can expect:
- Improved skills and performance: Coaching helps agents refine their communication, problem-solving, and technical skills, leading to better call handling and resolution.
- Higher confidence and motivation: Positive feedback (as well as the removal of negative feedback) and targeted guidance boost agent confidence, while setting goals and tracking progress increase motivation.
- Less stress and burnout: Effective coaching equips agents to handle challenging situations, mitigating stress and preventing burnout.
- Personal and career development: Coaching promotes continuous learning and skill development, opening up opportunities for career advancement.
When applied correctly, effective call center coaching is a powerful step in the right direction to support agents’ personal and business lives. And this can only be a good thing for your business.
Benefits for your business
As humans, we feed off each other’s energy. If your contact center agents are happy and well-trained in their roles, your customers are going to reap the rewards because of the agents’ motivation and competence.
We can all recall specific examples of when a customer called in and was greeted by a miserable agent who had got something wrong on their last call, and the customer’s mood switched to mirror the agent’s. This usually sets the tone for the call, and everything goes downhill.
Agents who are happy to receive calls and feel like they have made the previous caller’s day better contribute to creating more cheerful customers who are patient and feel the agents are there to help.
When your business benefits from call center coaching, you can expect:
- Better customer experience: Improved agent skills translate to smoother customer interactions, happier customers, and higher satisfaction scores.
- Reduced call handling time: Efficiently resolving issues leads to shorter call durations, increased agent productivity, lower average handle time, and higher first-call resolution.
- Improved employee engagement and higher retention: Investing in agent development creates a positive work environment, boosting morale and reducing turnover.
10 Call Center Coaching Best Practices
1. Empowering knowledge
You can’t expect your agents to know everything about every product, but you can create a comprehensive knowledge base for quick reference. This might be an FAQ database stored on your intranet or a help center available to both agents and customers.
Outside of company-wide initiatives, tap into the skills of your most experienced agents. Encourage knowledge sharing and bite-sized learning for continuous skill enhancement. This might mean a one-off coaching session led by a seasoned agent or regular ask-the-expert sessions on a monthly or quarterly basis.
2. Mastering the craft
The more prepared agents are for real-life scenarios, the better they can handle them when they occur.
During agent onboarding, use role-play based on real customer calls for practical training. Make sure you introduce your agents to both fast-paced yes-or-no calls and long, drawn-out troubleshooting with challenging customers.
Another call center agent coaching technique to use before an agent takes their first call is to buddy up with mentors or top performers for one-on-one coaching. Sit your new agent with a pro so they can shadow them for a few sessions. Encourage active listening and questions during wrap-up so agents get the most out of these interactions.
3. Automating when it makes sense
There is more call center technology at your disposal than ever before. With management functions such as analytics, you can understand trends in the blink of an eye and tailor training based on common bottlenecks and frequently asked questions.
For basic queries and routine tasks that don’t need human input, such as providing opening hours or checking account balances, introduce call center automation such as interactive voice response (IVR) or conversational AI.
4. Using integrations for efficiency
Integration features such as click to call and screen pop add a much-needed efficiency boost to physical agent tasks such as dialing and finding account information.
You can eliminate misdials and automatically load customer records when integrating your phone system with a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
5. Prioritizing customer centricity
It’s hard to always put the customer first, especially if you’ve got other things on your mind. While we’re all human, it pays to make customers your priority.
However, that doesn’t mean you must ask agents to become robots. Instead, it means setting and tracking customer satisfaction scores and training agents in empathy and active listening. When you know how customers feel about your customer service and you can see agents respond to encouragement and training, you can double down on what works. It’s a cycle that feeds itself.
Empower your agents to resolve issues promptly, even if they need to go off script. Don’t make it the company culture that every word on a page needs to be read. Let agents judge the situation and make their own decisions about whether the customer scenario demands it.
6. Crafting a winning culture
If your call center team is genuinely a team, it’s only going to become better and better with time. By recognizing group achievements and hitting shared goals, everyone feels supported. Create opportunities to celebrate your milestones together as a team.
Ensure that your team members have open lines of communication with each other and call center managers and supervisors. If someone has an idea based on customer feedback, make sure there’s a way to ensure that suggestion is considered and a method for follow-up.
An environment where there are no bad ideas encourages people to speak up instead of hiding new winning strategies out of fear of negative consequences.
7. Celebrating your agents
As well as rewarding team efforts, it’s also important to acknowledge individual contributions. When it’s clear that an agent is making steps toward professional growth, congratulate them in person, online, or as part of your monthly all-hands meetings.
Be aware of how different people respond to group celebrations. Some agents may be more introverted, so an e-gift certificate may be better received than a presentation in front of your entire organization. Using apps such as Bonusly helps build a culture of appreciation by enabling supervisors and peers to send rewards based on an allocated balance.
8. Building resilience and well-being
Winning isn’t everything, so you must also focus on employee well-being. It can be tough listening to customer complaints all day, so providing stress management resources and flexible work options goes a long way.
It might be as simple as allowing remote or hybrid work. Given that cloud call center software makes this possible, the only change to the work is the physical location. Agents can benefit from the removal of commutes, the ability to take their dog for a walk on their break, or the chance to make a healthy lunch for a change.
Even when in the office, regular breaks and scheduled off-call activities help maintain a healthy, engaged team. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, either. Staff can spend time writing new processes, helping out with call center training, or contributing to community or charity projects.
See Also: 10 Data-Backed Methods to Overcome Remote Work Challenges
9. Measuring and iterating
Call center best practice dictates that what gets measured gets managed. If you’re not monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) and conducting regular reviews of agent performance, you’re working in the dark.
When you move to being led by call center KPIs, you embrace a culture of continuous improvement. Instead of finger-in-the-air training based on hearsay and gut feelings, you can review and tailor coaching sessions to focus on the right areas.
10. Learning from every interaction
Working in a call center means you have a unique experience every time the phone rings. Every piece of data can be turned into information that helps your agents and your business.
Start by analyzing calls for coaching opportunities. Your quality assurance or quality management processes should lean into discovering opportunities that identify bad calls and encourage better outcomes next time and identify great calls that can be used to showcase the right way to serve customers.
You can also gain valuable insights by asking agents how they think calls went. Listening back to call recordings (or listening in in real time) is one thing, but sometimes those recordings lack the rationale or emotional explanation that only agents can provide.
Remember to Coach Yourself
There’s a lot to be said for top-down coaching. Sure, it positions you as the coach and the person entrusted with bettering your call center. But coaches are only as good as their mentors and trainers.
Abide by these three coaching principles to ensure your coaching style is that of a leader rather than an enforcer.
Leading starts with self-leadership
To some, leadership is a natural trait. If you led the soccer team or were cheer captain, you’ve grown up with responsibility for group success. For others, it’s a skill that they need to learn.
People can be high achievers when it comes to individual contributions. But that doesn’t always translate to effective management or coaching.
By investing in your own growth and development, you become a better leader for your team. Consider taking external courses on leadership and add the following books to your reading list:
Coaching is a journey
You won’t be perfect immediately. You can’t expect instant change. But, when you’re patient with yourself and celebrate small wins, you can make incremental changes that make you a better coach and help your agents progress, too.
By sharing your new skills with fellow staff members, your knowledge becomes vital to the success of the business. As one agent becomes a master in their field, you both level up, freeing you to continue learning and progressing in your own career.
Modeling what you preach
When people look to you for help and leadership, your own actions and commitment to personal growth set the tone for your team.
If your agents see you’re giving your all, working smart, and encouraging others while looking after your physical and mental health, they will follow your lead.
Think about the way you wish to be perceived and the message you want to convey to those you’re responsible for. Always remember that what you show is what people will see.
Empowering Your Team With Call Center Software
Contact center coaching isn’t a one-and-done thing. It’s a learning journey for you and your agents. Incorporating regular coaching and auditing existing processes are extremely important to the success of your call center and wider business.
The introduction of call center software that gives your agents all the tools they need to be successful at their jobs can make the lives of your agents and the work of your business easier during continuous improvement. After all, it’s no good having the best call center agent on the planet if their tools stop them from showcasing their talent.
Nextiva’s call center platform gives your agents the tools they need to be successful.
From features such as CRM integration for increased agent efficiency to call flows that allow the best-suited agent to handle a client’s call, Nextiva has your agents’ needs covered.
Likewise, coaches are looked after. Recording and monitoring come as standard features that can be fed into your speech analytics so all your data are interpreted and presented in easy-to-digest formats.
When combining high-quality coaching and the power of cloud call center software, everyone wins — especially your customers.
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