Of all the coaching processes, strategies and tips that we have seen or introduced throughout our client base, this one tops them all. “On-The-Fly” coaching is unrivaled by other coaching techniques, even if your supervisors and floor managers are not great coaches at the outset.
Importance of Coaching in General
In other articles we have introduced the importance of investing at least one hour each day in proactive coaching on the center floor. During this time, a supervisor will have at least 5-10 coaching opportunities. Some observations may be extremely positive (e.g. the telephone associate made a sale using a technique endorsed by the supervisor). Some observations may be more critical (e.g. the supervisor overheard a telephone associate using slang with a caller). In general, most observations will have one or two positive points and one or two improvement opportunities. In all these cases, immediate coaching will reinforce the positives and eliminate the ineffective techniques.
What Is On-The-Fly Coaching?
Coaching On-The-Fly simply means that coaching conversations are implemented on the call center floor. There are three important components for effective On-The-Fly coaching. The coaching should be:
- accomplished immediately after an observation
- on the floor, right at the telephone associate’s desk and
- limited to no more than one or two minutes.
1) Accomplished Immediately after an Observation:
If a telephone associate did something very positive, he/she is much more likely to continue using this technique if the reinforcement takes place immediately. Additionally, telephone associates are much more likely to eliminate negative or ineffective techniques when the supervisor speaks up about it right after a call. Waiting until a regularly scheduled coaching time won’t have the same developmental impact. It may have no impact at all. Nothing takes the place of immediate coaching.
2) On the Floor, Right at the Telephone Associate’s Desk:
Although this may scare some hesitant coaches, this component of On-The-Fly coaching pays great dividends. When a telephone associate has done something well, “public” feedback will inspire that associate. It will also motivate others that heard the feedback. Other associates will want to get in on the compliments, and they know that the way to do this is to use the same effective telephone techniques. Even skill-based, critical coaching can be done right there at their desks. For example, a telephone associate that forgot to say, “Thank you,” or that hesitated when closing the sale can be coached immediately. When others hear the feedback, they will remember not to do the same thing. Since all coaching can be done with a positive discussion, critical feedback doesn’t have to be embarrassing or inappropriate for the center floor. There are, of course, some “dysfunctional” behaviors that should be treated in private. We have included some examples of these in the next section.
3) Limited to No More Than One or Two Minutes:
On the call center floor, long coaching dialogues will lose their effect. Since telephone associates have to jump back on calls quickly, we have found that limiting dialogue to a minute or two will effectively complete the coaching, yet will not lengthen average handle times. The best way to accomplish this is to limit the skills on which you intend to coach to one or two. If the supervisor observed the telephone associate doing nine or ten things very well on one call, he/she should pick the top two and focus the coaching on these prioritized items. The same applies for the critical coaching. Having to maintain a short dialogue will also teach supervisors how to speak concisely and eliminate lengthy litanies that could be confusing or send the wrong messages to telephone associates.
What Types of Coaching Should be Delivered in Private?
Not all coaching can be implemented using the On-The-Fly approach. Any critical coaching that will focus on “dysfunctional” behavior should be done in private. Dysfunctional means that the supervisor is dealing with bad attitudes or behavior that can be disruptive to other telephone associates because it is so negative. Examples of dysfunctional call center behavior include continually returning late from breaks, speaking very negatively about the company, swearing, excessive personal calls, disconnecting angry callers just because they are difficult to deal with, etc. It is important to note that none of the examples above deal with telephone skills. All telephone skills should be coached on the floor, On-The-Fly.
Remember to Employ Balanced Feedback
The only danger to on-the-fly coaching is when supervisors only use it to focus on improvement opportunities. Balanced Feedback means beginning with one or two positive comments, and then moving on to the improvement discussion. Since most calls will have at least one or two positive items, we strongly recommend beginning with these. “Mark. I really liked the way you greeted the caller. It was so upbeat and friendly. Thanks for doing that. On future calls, one thing I’d like to see you improve on is..” Using Balanced Feedback for critical coaching discussions will help prevent the telephone associate from feeling “picked on.”
Benefits of On-The-Fly Coaching
When supervisors employ on-the-fly coaching for at least one hour each day, telephone associates thrive. This is because they see their supervisors in a developmental capacity, not just when there are fires to put out or escalation requests to transfer. Telephone associates gain respect for supervisors and improve their telephone skills as a result of the coaching. Supervisors build confidence in their coaching ability and build stronger, closer ties to their employees. The center thrives because everyone is on the same page regarding behavioral expectations and because the new “closeness” will always bring positive results.
Call Center Floor Management
Call Center Training Solutions’ Call Center Floor Management workshop introduces the specifics of On-The-Fly Coaching, as well as the most important coaching tools needed by supervisors when they are on the call center floor. If your supervisors spend all their floor time putting our fires and do not currently provide associates with proactive coaching, call us today. Whether you focus on sales, customer service or quality, we can help you build a coaching strategy that will improve your center’s overall performance and the job satisfaction of your telephone associates.