12 Tips for Effective Coaching


12 Tips for Effective Coaching

Why is coaching important? Coaching has a direct impact on individual agent performance. But it also affects overall customer experience (CX).

One poorly coached agent can frustrate customers and result in low Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for the company. For instance, a single agent who lacks the necessary skills and knowledge will be unable to help their customers.

As a result, those unhappy customers return their products or cancel their services. These irate customers may also complain on social media, which causes reputational damage to the company.

In comparison, investing in coaching helps agents improve their skills so they can create a great CX.

Coaching does not have to be difficult. Here are 12 tips to do it correctly.

1. Establish a coaching cadence

Sales trainer Zig Ziglar once said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” The same is true for coaching. It must be done on a regular basis.

Make coaching a priority. Establish a rhythm or cadence by having coaching sessions on a weekly or biweekly basis. Make that a goal for your team leaders.

Investing in regular coaching helps agents develop their skills. That means better customer service. But providing regular coaching can also lead to improved employee retention. It makes agents feel valued and supported with skills growth. That creates a positive coaching culture.

2. Focus on one specific skill

Covering several coaching points in one session can overwhelm agents. There is too much to remember. It can also make agents feel like nothing they do is right! Instead, focus on one specific skill.

Narrow your focus so it is easy for agents to remember exactly what was discussed. For instance, instead of coaching on the overall skill of asking questions, narrow your focus to like “Three diagnostic questions to troubleshoot printer issues.” Doing so allows you to pinpoint specific ideas to solve a particular challenge. Your agents can then apply them on their calls, chats, and emails this week.

3. Customize your coaching for each agent

One size does not fit all! The approach you take with a new hire agent should be different than what you would do with a veteran staff member.

So, plan ahead! Create individualized coaching plans for each agent on your team. Tailor your approach for each agent’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth.

4. Differentiate between skills and product knowledge

Coaching and product knowledge sessions are different interactions. They should be approached differently. Blurring the lines between them can lead to frustration and confusion for agents.

Product (and process) knowledge is focused on information. For example, how long is your product’s warranty and how do you process a return? It is about WHAT you say to a customer!

For product (and process) questions, there is usually only one right answer. It is simply a matter of learning the rules (or knowing where to find them in the knowledge base).

However, coaching is focused on skill; it is about HOW you communicate, diagnose an issue, show empathy, and how you make the customer feel. And there may be no right or wrong answer. For instance, there are several ways to show empathy for your customer.

Equipping team leaders with the knowledge and skills to handle both types of conversations effectively is vital for successful agent outcomes.

5. Reduce information overload

In addition to differentiating between coaching and product knowledge training, team leaders also need to avoid overwhelming agents.

For instance, some contact centers rely on email to convey new processes or product information. However, agents may miss an email or not read it carefully.

Instead, team leaders can leverage pre-shift team huddles to highlight pertinent information. If they spot a knowledge gap on a call or chat, they also can address it during a coaching session with that specific agent.

Training departments can help team leaders by designing microlearning with quick content pieces, followed by quizzes to check comprehension. That is more effective in ensuring agents receive and retain important information.

Bottom line: by finding innovative and engaging ways to deliver information, contact centers can avoid overwhelming agents and encourage effective knowledge transfer.

6. Make coaching a positive experience

Coaching should not be seen as a place where agents go to get criticized. So, instead of focusing on the problem, focus on the solution.

For example, if an agent did not ask enough diagnostic questions to solve a customer’s problem, focus on what the agent could ask next time to diagnose faster. Give them an opportunity to brainstorm those diagnostic questions. Help them to decide upon the most impactful ones. So, they walk away feeling better equipped to handle that situation.

The takeaways? Creating a positive coaching environment makes agents feel supported. That can also lead to improved agent retention!

7. Make coaching a two-way conversation

If you want to ensure agent buy-in, ASK rather than TELL. In other words, guide your coaching conversations using questions that help agents with self-discovery. Bear in mind though, this refers to SKILLS coaching, where there is more than one right answer.

Coaching should not be seen as a place where agents go to get criticized. So, instead of focusing on the problem, focus on the solution.

For example, if an agent struggles with active listening, you could ask: “What would help you listen more effectively to your customer?” If they say, “Eliminate distractions”, ask a follow up question such as, “What are some of those distractions?” Then, help the agent reduce those distractions. The point is to encourage your agent’s thought process and help them grow their skill set.

8. Actively listen to your agents

Nothing sends the message that “You are not important” more than a coach who checks their phone every five minutes, looks over their agent’s shoulder at the Service Level board and fails to acknowledge what their agent just said. Instead, actively listen to your agents. And take these steps.

  • Reduce your own distractions by putting your phone away.
  • Make eye contact with the agent if they are in the same room with you. Or if they are virtual, face towards your webcam and stop glancing at your email while they talk!
  • Role model the right behavior. Show the same respect and courtesy towards your agent that you want them to show your customers!
  • Paraphrase agents’ key points. Ask pertinent follow up questions.

In short, make your agents feel heard and understood. That will help you build a strong coaching relationship with them.

9. Coaching is an opportunity to build relationships

Whether your team is remote, hybrid, or onsite, each coaching session is an opportunity for a team leader to build relationships with their agents. They should invest part of their coaching time getting to know their agents.

Here are a few more steps.

  • Spending a few minutes at the start and end of each session making “small talk” can build rapport.
  • Show you care. Engage team members in conversations.

Finally, look for common interests to chat about, in addition to your work conversations.

10. Recognize and reward positive behavior

If you want to make coaching a positive experience, recognize and reward agents when they do something well!

Think about a typical agent’s day. They interact with customers complaining about a product or service. Then, their team leader meets with them and tells them what they did wrong. How do you think that makes the agent feel? It demoralizes them!

So, boost morale by recognizing some of the things that went well. You should also discuss ideas for improvement. But it is important to have balance during your coaching conversation. Recognizing their strengths will build their confidence. It shows them they are appreciated. That can build morale and increase employee engagement!

11. If your team is remote only, train team leaders on how to effectively use their communication tools

Videoconferencing, screen sharing, whiteboards, and other interactive features help create engaging coaching sessions. Whatever platform you use, train team leaders on how to make the best use of those tools for coaching.

12. Do not cancel coaching sessions, if possible

Canceling coaching sessions sends a message that coaching is not important. Agents can also interpret cancellations as showing THEY are not important!

While cancellations can happen because of unexpected contact volume, canceling more than one session a quarter shows coaching is not a priority. On the other hand, coaching can help during busy periods! It can provide agents with skills and product knowledge to handle busy periods more effectively.

I hope these 12 coaching tips help your contact center provide better coaching for your agents. Focus on your agents’ development. Help them improve their skills and product knowledge. Make them feel appreciated. Help team leaders build solid relationships with their agents. Together they can result in increased engagement and retention of these valued individuals and with it improved CX!