Published: February 18, 2015 | Comments
Nothing tanks quality scores faster than service reps who lack confidence. There's also a direct correlation between rep confidence and AHT. Hands get raised and customers, sensing the doubt, begin to question and double check everything they hear. Of course there's also the repeat call syndrome. Some customers don't get past a weak opening before they hang up and call back hoping for someone who knows what they're doing.
It's vital to build competent reps. Be sure you're also deliberate in building up confidence.
How to Build Service Rep Confidence
1. Create an Environment of Deep Respect
When I see a center with confidence issues, there's almost always a correlating respect issue. Sure, I get that chicken and egg cycle here, but great leaders don't play that game. I see too many team leaders acting superior and treating reps like they're pawns to fix rather that human beings to inspire. To build confidence, look them in the eye and see their true potential. Believing in your reps is the best way to get them to see how great they are capable of becoming.
2. Streamline Your Metrics
When I see a center full of reps lacking confidence, one of the first things I look for is how they're being measured. If reps feel overwhelmed by all the ways they can fail, they won't succeed. Sure you need to look at quality, efficiency and financials-- and that leads to a lot of metrics.
If you’ve got more than 3 “ways to fail,” you may want to consider an index that pulls the performance together as an initial indicator (you can easily weight the most important metrics). Then use the sub metrics for a deeper dive to get underneath behaviors that need improving. Always coach to behaviors not numbers.
3. Help Them Nail the Open and Close
Particularly on complicated calls, there's just so much to remember. The anxiety begins as soon as the call drops in. Have your reps rehearse (or pre-record) a really powerful opening, identifying themselves as an expert. Also have them come up with their go-to power close. For example, "Thank you for calling ____ I'm _____your fix-it genius." And to close, "You have been so much fun to work with." "I'm so glad we fixed your problem, that made my day."
I learned the powerful impact of power statements from a rep I was invited to recognize for rock-star level performance and the center's annual big-deal recognition. After she stepped off the stage, she pulled me aside to share her story.
Last year I was almost fired. My metrics were a disaster.
Everyone kept telling me that I needed to be more confident, to be the expert for our customers. But the problem was I just wasn’t FEELING confident. And I didn’t THINK of myself as an expert.
And then one day, my team leader gave me an opportunity to re-record my opening greeting. I decided this was my big chance to sound absolutely energetic, confident, and convey my expertise. I recorded it again and again until it sounded just right.
And then a miraculous thing happened. The customers heard that greeting. They began to greet me with comments like, “Wow, you sure sound cheerful for so early in the morning.” Or, "I am glad that I got the expert, I should be in good hands.” Well, after that I just had to stay cheerful, and began feeling more confident. And you know what, I had to be an expert. Turns out, I am one.
After thousands of calls, only once have I had a customer respond to this in a negative way. My customers are getting a great experience because I know I can deliver it.
And now, here I am.
4. Isolate Desired Behaviors
When working to teach a new behavior, one of the best ways to build confidence is to isolate that behavior as much as possible. Even when people have the skills, if they don't feel confident and excited about their ability to be successful in the new arena, they will be reluctant to try.
You can build more confidence and competence on your teams by training them in intervals, or short confidence bursts.
The idea is to create a full court press on a given behavior during a finite period of time (usually one day) to prove what is possible at an individual and organizational level. Scaffold people with lots of extra attention, skill building, fun, recognition and celebration. The risk is low it's just one day, it doesn't feel like a big commitment to change. Once people experience success with the behavior, their confidence improves and the ceiling of what they perceive as possible moves a little higher.
Every time I have done this, the results have been head turning and remarkable. The best part comes in the after-glow discussion if you (and we) can make this much magic on this day, why not every day?
How To Build Confidence In Bursts
- Pick one or two tangible behaviors to work on (e.g. a powerful opening on every call or asking every customer if they're familiar with your latest offering)
- Schedule the "special day" and create anticipation
- Begin the day with energy and fun, make it feel like a holiday
- Set specific, measurable goals that can be achieved that day
- Hold training and focused skill building throughout the day
- Have your "experts" work side by side with those still learning
- Celebrate every little success in a big, public way
- Communicate specific success stories including the "how" behind them
- Celebrate and debrief at the end of the day on "what worked" differently on this day and what was learned
- Begin the next day with a reminder of key learnings
Building confidence is a marathon. And sometimes, finding opportunities to train in small bursts of confidence can be a good part of the plan.
5. Use Their Ideas
Your reps know how to improve the customer experience, how to streamline the training, and how to make your tools 100% easier to use. And yet, this is a scene I see in almost every center I visit.
I do a focus group. A BRILLIANT idea is presented by one of the reps. The center director loves it and agrees to implement it. When I go back to the rep they say, "I've been telling my team leader this for a year. How come they'll hear it from you, and not me?"
It happens at the team leader level too. In a recent call center visit, one of the strong team leaders said, "We want to help and we have great ideas. The problem is, I'm starting to feel like a nagging wife, and the company is a husband who won't listen." Ouch.
Build confidence by listening to your people and letting them help you improve the business.
Overall building confidence starts by building trust and connection. If you'd like some additional ideas to improve confidence and engagement, you can download my FREE ebook, Talking Teams: 9 Easy to Implement Activities to Inspire Confident Humility and Achieve Breakthrough Results.