By Melissa Pollock
Call center coaching has long been a challenge for both outsourced and corporate contact centers alike. Here are ten top causes that contribute to stagnant customer experience, waning employee morale, and disappointing performance improvements.
1. No Agent Availability for Coaching: Given the inherent pressures in call centers to achieve high agent availability and reach service-level targets, there is little time available for off-line training or coaching.
2. Lack of Time to Coach: Call center supervisors, team leads, and QA representatives who are typically responsible for coaching contact center agents don’t have time for coaching—either at all or not in the necessary frequency. In many cases, frontline leaders are over-tasked with a multitude of reporting, escalations, and performance management duties. Plus they often have too many direct reports. Sometimes these competing tasks take away from coaching time. Sometimes coaching is a personally distasteful task, so other work provides easy justification to procrastinate or avoid it.
3. No Commonly Accepted Coaching Model: There is often no coaching model to structure the coaching conversation. Each coach has strengths and challenges in different parts of the conversation. But without a structure it’s difficult for managers to identify these areas. It’s 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. These include a lack of expectations, evaluation, frequency, methods, behaviors, documentation location and formatting, follow-through steps, timelines, processes, and individual coaching efficiency or effectiveness. In the absence of well-established, communicated, and supported processes, coaching becomes a more casual and overly corrective kind of activity.
5. Underdeveloped Coaching Competency: Coaching occurs, but the quality of results suffers based on the coaches’ competency. In so many cases, newly promoted coaches (QAs, team leads, supervisors, and managers) are promoted from within. Though this is a wonderful practice, it only works when coaches receive proper training and tools. Being top performers may have earned them promotions, but their prior roles likely had little to do with leading and developing people.
6. Not Based on Observing Actual Work Performance: In this scenario coaching is conducted without first observing actual work performance. Instead it’s based on metric outcomes without any analysis of correlating behaviors; there is no discussion of what actions are successful or unsuccessful in producing the desired outcomes. Without behaviors, there can be no coaching. Instead the conversation sounds more like a reinforcement of requirements, which ends with an empty agreement to improve.
7. Insufficient Relationship and Trust Building: Coaching occurs, but the quality of the relationship and subsequently the coaching interaction suffer based on the 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’s important to each person and therefore cannot demonstrate interest. And without being able to establish a genuine human connection, there’s little incentive for employees to invest much in return. Millennials, in particular, say they want to be more than just workers; they want to matter in the bigger picture.
8. Unbalanced Feedback: Coaching occurs, but it is too heavily focused on corrective feedback or challenges. Appreciation, recognition, and praise aren’t given or are given ineffectively. Few people know how to praise well; without behavior-specific positive reinforcement, there’s little incentive to course correct as requested, except for compliance-driven fear over job security.
9. Ineffective Follow-Through: Coaching occurs, 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 clear there is no accountability to force change. Even worse, some coaches check back but focus their comments on changes that still need to be made instead of first acknowledging and appreciating the progress already made.
10. Post-Coaching Failure: Coaching occurs but does not result in behavior change or performance improvement. Few contact center leaders can answer who their best high-performing coaches are, and even fewer can speak to the specific behaviors and practices that make those individuals good coaches. But how many leaders observe their coaches while they coach and then coach 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 approaches for remedying each of these coaching effectiveness challenges, but as with anything, acknowledging the current state and understanding the causes are always the first steps.
Melissa Pollock is a practitioner of human and organizational learning and development and operational process improvement. She has twelve years’ experience with contact centers, specializing in creating transformational change through communication, alignment, and structure of processes and employee development practices. Her joy and skill in evolving leaders into better communicators and coaches has resulted in turnaround performance in centers around the nation. Mrs. Pollock is known for inspiring and organizing positive vision and change; she has a stellar record of strategic interventions that have strengthened engagement and improved overall performance and quality. Visit AmplifAI.com to learn how AI and machine learning are driving improved coaching and performance.