Tried-and-true techniques to help you focus more of your time on agent development.
Customer experience, employee engagement and sales results are driven by effective coaching. Coaching helps develop your agents’ skills. Done right, it also improves morale and employee retention. However, coaching needs to be done on a consistent basis. You wouldn’t exercise just once in a lifetime and say that you were done. The same is true for coaching agents. Frequent coaching is more effective than one big monthly or yearly review. However, where do you find time to coach? Here are 12 tips that can help:
1. Shorter, More Frequent Sessions
Save time by having shorter, more frequent, coaching sessions. Rather than a single 90-minute session each month, conduct two 30-minute sessions. That automatically frees an extra 30 minutes in your schedule.
During these shorter sessions, only focus on one or two key skills. Anything more confuses your agent and makes the session unnecessarily long. You wouldn’t combine parallel parking, merging onto a freeway and driving at night into a single lesson for a new driver. Avoid overwhelming agents with too many items per coaching session. If you need to cover several skills, coach the most important one first. Then, book a follow-up session a week or two later to introduce another topic.
Give your agents bite-sized coaching pieces. Let them apply those tips in between coaching sessions. That makes coaching session more effective. It also makes scheduling easier because two 30-minute sessions are easier to fit in your calendar than one 90-minute block of time.
Defend your time. There are only so many hours in the day.
2. Leverage Speech Analytics
Save time by leveraging speech analytics to find the most appropriate customer interaction per agent. For instance, if an agent struggles with upselling a certain product, leverage the power of speech analytics to find calls with that product. Finding the “right” interactions to coach is a major time challenge for most quality assurance coaches and team leaders. Speech analytics can help.
3. Ask Agents to Self-Evaluate
If it makes sense from a human resources standpoint, ask agents to evaluate their own calls. Once a call has been selected by you, or your quality assurance team, ask the agent to score it him- or herself. Agents often are harder on themselves than any coach. They also spot challenges you might miss. As a bonus, coaching becomes more collaborative since agents are bringing their own challenges to light.
4. Identify Group Training Opportunities
Leverage training to help your agents. Determine what needs to be coached one-on-one and what could be “coached” during a group huddle or team meeting. What are the most common trends? How widespread is a particular knowledge and skill gap? If everyone makes the same mistake, save time by addressing it as a group. In addition, leverage online learning resources. See if agents can attend an online course to learn that skill. Then, reinforce it during your coaching sessions.
5. Put It on Your Calendar
Book coaching sessions in your calendar so that they are part of your daily routine. A question I ask during my coaching workshops is, “Raise your hand if you think coaching is one of the most important tasks for a team leader or quality assurance coach.” Every hand in the room goes up. Then I ask, “Have you ever been side-tracked by other tasks and failed to do enough coaching sessions per month?” Most hands go up. If coaching is one of your most important tasks, book it into your schedule. This may not save time, but it will ensure that it gets done.
6. Don’t Cancel—Coordinate Best Times with WFM
Don’t cancel coaching sessions unless absolutely necessary. Canceling sends a message that coaching is not essential. It also sends a signal that agent skills development is not important. I saw one company cancel coaching for six straight months. That killed all the positive coaching momentum they had built up. Once it had been reinstated, agents (and coaches) felt awkward doing them again. Also, agent skill levels had atrophied so the initial coaching sessions had to focus on eliminating bad habits rather than growth.
Canceling coaching and then playing catch-up takes more time than just doing it in the first time. Instead, coordinate coaching sessions with your workforce management team. Coaching times should be compatible with queue coverage. They should also be scheduled for when you are less likely to be forced to cancel it due to other tasks. For instance, if workforce management says Wednesday afternoons are good for coaching, but you tend to get a lot of escalations that day, try to find a different mutually compatible date/time for coaching. Otherwise, you may end up canceling those Wednesday afternoon coaching sessions at the last minute.
7. Spread Your Sessions Throughout the Month
Spread coaching throughout the month instead of trying to squeeze it in at month’s end. Here is a common scenario: An emergency pops up so you put off today’s coaching session. Then, something else pops up and you cancel tomorrow’s coaching sessions. Then, you decide to avoid scheduling it for next week because of other tasks. Suddenly, the end of the month is here and there are a dozen one-on-ones left to do. So, you rush through them while feeling stressed out about other tasks that week.
To prevent this type of situation, front-load your monthly calendar with coaching so that you can get ahead of the game. If your coaching is done by the third week of the month, you have flexibility in case any other tasks pop up. This may not save time, but it will make you more effective.
8. Write Coaching Logs During the Session
Write your coaching log during the session rather than doing it afterward. This will save time. It will also improve your note-taking accuracy since you are capturing ideas as they happen versus trying to write down the details later. Check with your human resources department regarding the types of notes you are allowed to write.
9. Look for Ways to Protect Your Time
Defend your time. There are only so many hours in the day. Some team leaders are reactive and spend their entire day putting out fires. I even heard them say that is their whole job! However, actual firemen spend much of their time doing training, maintaining equipment and preparing for future fires rather than fighting them. They understand the importance of investing in training and preparedness.
Look for ways to protect your time. If escalations are taking up too much of your day, see if you can reduce the root cause of these escalations. If you spend all day answering product questions from your agents, show them how they can use your company’s knowledge base to find the answers for themselves.
10. Delegate Tasks to Create time
Create time by delegating tasks. Ask agents to share tips at huddles rather than creating them yourself. Coach and empower agents to defuse potential escalations so that they don’t become escalations for you to handle. Not only does that free time to coach, it helps your agents develop their skills.
11. Automate Tasks Wherever Possible
Automate as many tasks as possible. Even little things can help save time. For example, ensure that call quality forms automatically calculate the total score versus manually adding it yourself. If you create your team’s scheduling, there are new software programs to make scheduling easier and faster. A third example is automating reports. For instance, your CRM (customer relationship management) system may have automated sales reports so that you don’t have to track them manually. Or if you still use Excel to compile results, macros can help to automate data gathering. Look for ways to save time on mundane tasks so you can focus on high-payoff activities such as coaching.
12. Organize Your Inbox
Organize your inbox. Use email folders, filters and automated responses. Set up folders for each agent so you can easily find their emails. Use filters to prioritize incoming email so you can focus on the most important ones first. Set up automated responses for common inquiries, such as confirming that you received a shift change request and will look into it. This will save time so that you can do more coaching.
Invest Your Time Wisely
Being a team leader or manager is a tough job. There are many demands on your time. However, coaching is a priority since it affects customer and employee satisfaction. Use these tips to free up time for coaching. Invest in your team’s skills so that your agents can provide a better customer experience.