Call Center Coaching has long been a challenge for both BPO / Outsourcers and direct contact centers alike, and for fairly consistent reasons.
As veteran call center executives and experts in performance management, here are the top 10 causes we repeatedly see contributing to stagnant customer experience, waning employee morale, and disappointing performance improvements. Note that only 1 of these has anything to do with limitations inherent in call center operations and customer-servicing!
1. No Availability for Coaching
There is not enough availability in service levels to allow for time off-channels for training or coaching. This is the only uncontrollable reason in the top 10 list; it is the inherent risk in call center operations due to the real-time nature of customer service.
2. No Time to Coach
Call center Supervisors, Team Leads and QA Representatives who are typically responsible for coaching contact center Agents (Representatives/Associates/CSRs, etc.), don't have time for coaching - either at all, or not in the necessary frequency. In many cases, front-line leaders are over-tasked with a multitude of reporting, escalations and performance management duties, and often too many direct reports. Sometimes these competing tasks really do take away coaching time. Other times, it's just that coaching is a personally distasteful task so other work provides easy justification for procrastination and/or cancellation.
3. No One, Commonly Accepted Coaching Model
There is not an actual coaching model being used to structure the coaching conversation. Each coach has strengths and challenges in different parts of the conversation, but without a structure it's extremely difficult for managers to identify these areas, and even more difficult for employees to follow the coaching conversation. Without a common language to discuss, understand, and evaluate coaching effectiveness, employees, coaches and leaders all have limited insight.
4. No Standardized Coaching Process
There is often no standardization of the overall Coaching process - expectations and evaluation of the frequency, methods, behaviors, documentation location or format, follow-through steps, timelines and processes, and individual coaching efficiency or effectiveness. In the absence of well established, well-communicated, and well-supported processes, coaching is a more casual, in-the-moment, consequential, and overly corrective, kind of activity.
5. Under-developed Coaching Competency
Coaching is occurring but the quality of results suffers based on the coaches’ coaching competency. In so many cases, newly promoted coaches (QAs, Team Leads and/or Supervisors and Managers) are promoted from within - a wonderful practice, but ideal only when they are given proper training and tools to grow their employee development skill sets. Being top performers may have earned them promotions, but their prior roles likely had little to do with leading and developing people. Back to Readiness Level 1 if you’re a Situational Leadership fan.
6. Not based on Observing Actual Work Performance
Coaching is conducted without first observing actual work performance, rather is based on KPI/ metric outcomes without any analysis of correlating behaviors, nor discussion of which are successful or unsuccessful in producing the desired metric outcomes. Without behaviors, there can be no coaching given the conversation instead sounds more like a reinforcement of requirements ending with an empty agreement to ‘improve’.
7. Insufficient Relationship / Trust-Building
Coaching is occurring but the quality of the relationship, and subsequently the coaching interaction, suffer based on coaches’ interpersonal skills. If it's all business and there's no time spent connecting - talking, asking questions, listening, and trying to understand interests and concerns - then coaches don't know what is important to each person and therefore cannot demonstrate interest in them or their well-being. And without being able to establish a genuine human connection, there is little incentive for employees to invest much in return. Millennials in particular have voiced desires to be more than just workers, and to matter in the bigger picture.
8. Absent or Ineffective Balanced Feedback
Coaching is occurring but is too heavily focused on corrective feedback or challenges. Appreciation, recognition and praise are not given, or are ineffectively given. Few people know how to praise really well, and without behaviorally-specific positive reinforcement, there is again little incentive to course correct as requested, save for compliance-driven fear for job security.
9. Absent or Ineffective Post-Coaching Follow-Through
Coaching is occurring but the timeliness of results suffers based on coaches’ lack of follow-through. Having a productive coaching conversation but then never checking back, or doing so a month later, makes it quickly clear that there is no accountability that will force change. Even worse, some coaches check back, but focus their comments on the change that still yet needs to be made, instead of first acknowledging and appreciating the progress already made.
10. No/Slow/Limited Post-Coaching Results
Coaching is occurring but not resulting in behavior change or performance improvement. Few contact center leaders can answer who their best, high performer coaches are, and even fewer can speak to the specific behaviors and practices that make that person a good coach. But how many leaders are observing their coaches while they coach, and then coaching their coaches? Beyond that, how many leaders themselves are experienced at evoking willing behavior modification? In the absence of knowledgeable training and mentoring, coaches do the best they can with whatever prior experience they have, and whoever they’re able to watch coach.
There are proven remedies for each of these coaching effectiveness challenges, but as with anything, acknowledging the current state and understanding the causes are always the first steps.
Send us a note or call us if you'd like help - with analysis, planning, designing, implementation, or measurement of any of your call center operations, performance, coaching, or process improvement plans.