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Call Center Floor Management: Coaching Fundamentals

The following fundamentals come directly from our Call Center Floor Management workshop. Each one will help you with a different aspect of coaching on the call center floor. Please e-mail us when you have had success with any of the tips that follow.

Tip No. 1: Set specific, developmental objectives with agents.

The first step of coaching is setting a developmental objective with the employee. Setting objectives is essential for achieving results. Setting a goal or objective provides a target on which to focus our daily behaviors and activities. Objectives should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound (set for a specific time period).

Tip No. 2: When setting objectives, always make time to analyze the agent­s performance.

In order to asses performance accurately, supervisors should watch observe employees while their working. In addition to allowing you the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of the agent­s skill level, it also lets employees know that their performance is important to you and you take the time to observe their work. Also, when supervisors are on the floor coaching, everyone is more focused. This is a reason in itself to spend as much time as possible on the floor coaching your agents.

Tip No. 3: When observing behavior (while coaching) take specific notes on what you heard the associate actually say.

Sometimes, we don’t even know where doing a certain behavior until it is pointed out to us. Your feedback and advice are going to be much more impactful if it is based on specific, observed examples of their behavior. Agents are more likely to disagree with feedback if it is given immediately and based on written observations noting specific words and phrases used by the associate.

Tip No. 4: When giving feedback, utilize Balanced Feedback.

Balanced Feedback is the supervisors most useful tool. Although it is sometimes difficult to receive feedback, it offers agents a road map to follow as they continue to develop. Remember to first share what the associate did well (Motivational Feedback) and then follow up with possible areas of improvement (Formative Feedback).

Tip No. 5: After giving feedback, always Contract for Improvement.

An associate will typically agree with your feedback if you deliver it effectively. The next step is to make sure that he/she is going to do something with the feedback. Ask the agent something like, “So, what is it, then, that you’re going to work on or improve?” Questions like this will make the associate recap your feedback and, in the process, require the associate to make a verbal commitment to carrying it through.

Being “Too Soft” or “Too Tough” on agents: The next several tips focus on a very common problem in call centers. Many supervisors are “too soft,” not holding agents accountable for their expectations and feeling a little too bad for them. Other supervisors are too tough, never offering a softer, slightly nurturing side when working with agents. The following few tips can help in these areas.

Tip No. 6: If you are too soft as a supervisor, try focusing a little less on the agents’ feelings and more on goals and performance.

Although it’s sometimes hard to push employees beyond their comfort zone, you are actually showing them you care. By holding the associate accountable and encouraging them to improve, you are making them better. As they are pushed to set and achieve goals, their self-esteem will steadily improve, and as their skills improve, so will their career. Feeling bad for an associate doesn’t help them. The longer you let an associate do something wrong, the harder it’s going to be for they to change.

Tip No. 7: If you are too soft as a supervisor, help agents by listening a little less and facilitating performance improvements a little more.

The best thing supervisors can do is be on the floor to listen, observe and coach. Although it is important to listen to the employee in order to understand his perspective, it should not be the major focus of your coaching. Agents count on your to notice their deficiencies (as well as their strengths) and help them improve.

Tip No. 8: If you’re too soft as a supervisor, follow up on performance goals and hold agents accountable.

When an associate is not performing up to par, it is important that you communicate that things are going to have to change. There needs to be a benchmark, a standard that agents are expected to achieve. Without focus and goals, it is easy to do less than your best. Agents need clear, specific expectations that they can count on being held to. Most people find comfort in having clear expectations and being able to trust managers to consistently hold them accountable to those expectations.

Tip No. 9: If you’re too tough on agents, try asking more questions and really listening for the answers.

Better-informed coaches make better decisions. Take the time to slow down and actually listen to where the associate is coming from. Before offering your opinion, ask questions and be ready to listen to what she says. Listening and seeking to understand your agents will strengthen their trust and loyalty to you. By getting to know your agents, you will be better able to assess what motivates them and, find yourself with higher-performing agents.

Tip No. 10: If you’re too tough on agents, begin to use “thank you” as a good conversation ender.

Being polite is a good first step in softening up. Saying “thank you” makes people feel appreciated and ends the conversation on a positive note.

Tip No. 11: If you’re too tough on agents, start asking for feedback on a regular basis.

The confident coach will always ask agents for their feedback. Let them know that you’re interested in their opinion. Although it can be hard to open yourself up to possible constructive criticism, it will only serve to make you better. Whether you believe the feedback is valid or not, it is another’s perception of you which is useful to recognize. Also, agents will be much more willing to receive feedback from you if you are open to receiving it from them.

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