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A Strong Culture of Coaching in the Contact Center

5 criteria to assess in training candidates Contact centers are great at measuring things. We have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for nearly every role, and we have technologies designed to make their measurement ever more automated and available in real-time.

We've all heard it - "This call may be monitored or recorded for quality and training purposes." Even call quality is being automated using speech transcription and analytics tools. This advance is significant because listening and scoring individual calls is both time-consuming and often of marginal value due to sample size constraints.

But measuring call quality has never, and will never, increase agent performance, at least not alone. Call quality is simply a measure of performance the same way that AHT (Average Handle Time) is a measure of performance. Improving performance is the result of good coaching. Good coaching is a result of a culture of coaching.

So what does a culture of coaching look like? Here are six signs of a strong culture of coaching.

Specific Behavior Gaps are Identified

The primary purpose of listening to calls (whether it's a human or a machine doing the listening) is to identify behaviors. The absence of a good behavior or the presence of a bad behavior is a behavior gap. These gaps should be specific and observable, not an interpretation or opinion. For instance, "being rude" is not specific and observable; it's an interpretation of specific behaviors that leads us to have the opinion that someone is rude. Specific behaviors that lead to this opinion might include talking over a customer, audibly chewing gum, responding with one-word answers, or audible sighing.

Coaching is Part of a Strategic Plan

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

You might think quoting Sun Tzu is going overboard, but if a quote is still famous nearly 2500 years later, there's a reason for it. Individual coaching sessions are tactical. Without a strategic plan, they are simply noise. In a culture of coaching, monthly plans for each agent are developed to achieve goals that are set jointly between agent and supervisor.

Time for Coaching is Scheduled

We schedule meetings on a calendar for a reason - it reserves that time for a specific purpose. So many different tasks fall into the laps of frontline supervisors and team leaders that they can neglect the coaching that improves business performance. Time management is often a skill that requires development for first-time leaders, and scheduling coaching is a great first step to developing that skill. Coaching time should be scheduled with specific individuals to be coached and, ideally, be tied to one or two specific behavior gaps that have been identified.

Coaching is Focused

“If everything is a focus, then nothing is a focus.”

Bruce Herwig is a photographer, but this insight applies to coaching just as much as photography. Don't work on more than a couple of behavior gaps at a time; it takes focus and time to change behaviors. If you cover 14 behavior gaps in a single coaching session, the chances of even one of them improving approaches zero. A strategic plan is a great place to prioritize behavior gaps.

Progress is Celebrated Regularly

We can learn a lot from the way good coaches in sports interact with players. Even during practice, when someone executes a play well that they've been working on, there's usually public recognition of that progress by a coach - a few claps, a pat on the back, or even a verbalized "nice work!" This positive reinforcement in a culture of coaching uses a series of small victories to achieve larger victories. In fact, it's easier to do this in the contact center because the game is never "won" but small victories can happen every day.

Coaches Get Coached, Too!

In a culture of coaching, everyone receives coaching, not just the agents. Everyone has a job to do in the contact center and everyone can get better at it if they receive regular coaching. Some people, especially if they aren't used to being coached, perceive coaching as an indication that they are failing. When they see that everyone gets coached, regardless of performance, then it becomes natural, accepted, and even desired.

Culture is constantly evolving so even if your culture doesn’t quite resemble this today, it can in the future if you’re willing to make the change.

Topics: Best Practices, Coaching And Quality Management, Leadership