Frontline Coaches
Illustration by Danny Sturgess

Despite the critical role that they play in employee satisfaction and retention, frontline supervisors often are not provided with the training on how to drive engagement through coaching. New supervisors tend to approach agent coaching with the notion that the agents who are underperforming can be “fixed,” says Christine Frishholz, managing director of The Cicerone Group, a firm that provides custom research, consulting and training programs for improving customer and employee engagement. “Their view is generally, ‘How am I going to fix them,’ as opposed to ‘How am I going to fix me?’” she says.

Instead, frontline supervisors should consider the following:

  • What is it that I’m going to do differently to have a more productive and fulfilling relationship with my team?
  • How do I infuse my agents with passion and a sense of fulfillment that they made a difference in their customers’ lives and for the company?

One challenge is that prevailing coaching models are based on “telling”—giving direction and instruction, says Timothy Clark, author of “The Employee Engagement Mindset,” and CEO of TRClark, an international consulting and training organization that focuses on leadership and engagement.

“The traditional coaching model begins with ‘Here’s what you need to do…’” says Clark. Instead, the coach should begin with, ‘Tell me what you see…’ They need to guide the discovery and accelerate that agent’s development by having them participate and figure it out by themselves as much as possible. It requires an additional time investment by the supervisor at the front end, but it will accelerate the employee’s time to competency, and the contact center will make greater gains.”

Practical Pointer: Identify the teams within your center that have high retention, engagement and collaboration among its members. Make those team leaders the model for your supervisor training. “Those individuals have tapped into something. Did they hire the right people? Are they bending the rules in a way that serves both ends?” Frishholz says. “Analyze what works well and what doesn’t, and when you find success, think about how you can replicate it.”