Call Center Training Solutions

Call Center Training Solutions Blog

Floor Management and Coaching Archive

Analysis: 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Sales Center ± Tip Three!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

It is 5:02pm and an Underperforming Agent is Leaving the Center

What should you be doing right now to improve your sales? Deliver a Pep Talk that Will Pay Dividends Tomorrow.

Brad is one of your agents. He has rarely had a truly successful sales day in his eight months with the company. Usually, his numbers are close to the bottom. As far as you can tell, he is worth keeping because he tries hard. You do not sense laziness, but, at some point soon, this agent needs to come off the bottom and move to the middle and stay there.

What should you be doing right now? It is time to talk with this agent. Do not let another day go by where low performance is considered acceptable. A simple pep talk can be the ticket to higher performance.  Read More »

Analysis: 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Sales Center ± Tip Two!

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

This is the second post in our five-part series that answers the single most important question,  What should you be doing right now to improve the overall sales performance of your agents and your center?

Tip # 2: Killer Pre-Shifts

It is 8:00am and Your Team is About to Hit the Phones.

What should you be doing right now to improve your sales?  Deliver a killer pre-shift meeting. 

A Pre-Shift Meeting.  Really?  But–.

When we watch pre-shifts, we are often left with that feeling,  If this had never occurred, would anyone have missed it?

At the beginning of a shift, the pre-shift meeting is a great way to get your agents focused for the day, even if you have a group of veterans who have heard you deliver them for years.  You can involve the agents in an endless number of ways, including asking one or two to offer the rest of the team some of the best practices they use on the phones to net their results. Read More »

Analysis: 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Sales Center ± Tip One!

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

(a.k.a.  What Should You Be Doing Right Now to Improve Your Center?)

In this series, we will answer the single most important question,  What should you be doing right now to improve the overall sales performance of your agents and your center?

Tip # 1: Conduct Your First Performance Check of the Morning

It is 10:00am and You are in the Middle of Your Morning Shift

What should you be doing right now to improve your sales?  We can assume your pre-shift meeting is done and you have already met with your own boss and senior center leadership.  Let­s also figure that you have finished the slew of e-mails you have received and you can probably take a break from that until after lunch.

So what should you be doing right now?

Check in on your team­s performance.  Some people will call you a micro manager, but you are only a micro manager if you do this more than six-seven times in a day, which most supervisors do not have time to do. Read More »

Easy Center Improvements: Thank Your Agents Every Day

Friday, March 18th, 2011

The only person in a call center that works harder than the agent is you, the supervisor.  You signed on to deal with fifteen to twenty personalities and your work ends each day when you, well, go on vacation (unless you packed your Blackberry). 

Your agents are the other super hard workers.  They deal with a hundred customer complaints a day or just as many hang-ups, or some type of weird customer behavior on every call. 

Because supervisors work so hard and sometimes do not hear thanks for the efforts from their own bosses, they often forget to thank their agents.  Agents who feel appreciated usually work harder, stay more positive, have fewer sick days and get back from breaks on time.

Whether it is during the day or as they leave at the end of their shift, tell your agents,  Thanks so much for everything you did today.  I appreciate your effort and I appreciate your willingness to give this job your all.  Tomorrow, thank them in a different way.

Supervisors do not always have budget for a pizza party or a night out at the bowling alley, but they always have their hearts and feelings and can express thanks in an infinite number of ways.  Even a Post-It note can make a great canvas for painting a few words of appreciation.  Most of the time, the best way to keep an agent motivated is to share the two words that we so often forget.   Thank you.

Coaches Can Get Back on the Phones to Improve Their Coaching Effectiveness

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Sitting in my hotel room, I contemplate the day­s events and the management program I provided for a group of floor supervisors at an inbound call center.  In general, most were pretty good coaches and could demonstrate the coaching skills well enough.  The problem was that their sales skills were lacking.  They were not effective at responding to different sales and phone challenges I was giving them.  I cannot help but wonder.  How are they going to provide the right coaching to agents if their own selling skills are not up to par?  How will they be able to recognize whether the agent took the best action or not?  How will they be able to provide the best advice if they are not masters of the skills they are coaching?

If you are running into this same situation, you have two choices.  One will seem more painful than the other initially, but it will be far less painful in the long run.  The choice I am talking about is to get the supervisors on the phones for about thirty minutes each day until their personal sales skills get better.  Talk about building respect with your agents, too.  Agents always take and apply advice from supervisors they do respect.   My boss was willing to get on the phones and do my job, right next to me.  She rocks.

This is a timeless remedy for a common problem.  As supervisors­ sales skills die off, their recommendations become weak and even pointless.  Supervisors who have recently been on the phones stay current and their coaching is much more fruitful for everyone.

Watch the way your supervisors coach.  If their suggestions seem dated, it might be time to revisit the phones.  If their coaching is so general that they do not offer specific suggestions that agents can use on the very next call, this is also a good indicator that they may not have the right stuff to offer agents. 

As a general rule, we recommend that supervisors get on the phones and practice thirty minutes per day, three times each week until you feel they have become just as effective as the better agents.  Once they do this, their coaching will become significantly better and their agent­s results will improve quickly.

What was the other choice, if your coaches and their coaching have become stale and outdated?  The only other real choice is to continue on ± same old, same old – and watch your center fall into decay.  No one wants that.  Other attempts at improving performance will almost always fail when sups are not stellar.  Therefore, the only real option in this situation is to improve your supervisors­ analysis and judgment ± which means getting them back on the phones until their personal selling (or servicing) skills are much better.

Improve Your Coaching by Asking ¬What Do You Think?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

In our Call Center Floor Management workshop, we define two major types of coaches; Direct and Interactive.  This tip is for the Direct coaches.  Direct coaches tend to do most of the talking during coaching.  While this style can net great sales results, a better approach is to involve the agent.  Interactive discussions, those that get the agent to speak more, will net even better results.  We see amazing results with this strategy when strong, Directive coaches soften up just enough to get the agent involved.  They never lose their authority because Directive coaches will always have that air about them.  But they will start developing better, more effective agents.

A simple way to get started in this new, discussion-oriented world, is to start when an agent asks you a question or solicits any type of help from you.  If you believe the agent is capable of answering the question, STOP.  Do not answer the question for them.  Instead, thank them for the question, maybe acknowledge the question­s importance, and then probe.   Let me ask you, what do you think you might try in this situation?   What do you think the solution is?   What are some steps you can take to handle this customer if it happens again in the future?

By Probing for the solution instead of providing it directly, two great results will occur.  First, your agents will become more self-analytical.  They will improve their independent thought and their problem-solving skills, making them more independent thinkers.  Second, you will have more time away from all the questions.  Everybody wins.  It merely takes the coach­s willingness to ask, rather than tell.

Your agents may not be ready for this type of probing at first and may even respond,  I don­t know.  That­s why I asked you.  With a little reframing of the question (supportively – no intimidation)  they will give it a try.  When they get the right answer, give them a big praise and thank you.  The next time they run into trouble, they will be much more prepared.  All you had to do was not answer their question to accomplish this.  Now that was easy.

A Little Practice with Agents Goes a Long Way

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Is your coaching getting the results you want?  If agents struggle with your recommendations when they put them into practice on calls, they will stop using the new ideas and fall back into old (bad) habits quickly.

Practice Means Demonstrating

To remedy this and to make sure agents are prepared before they hit the phones with all the new coaching, we recommend two demonstrations, right after the coaching is completed. 

The first demonstration should be you role-playing with the agent while you play the agent role and demonstrate the skill you are coaching them to use (the agent plays the customer).  By letting agents see the skill in action first, virtually every question they may still have will be answered.   Oh, so that is what you meant.  Yeah, I can definitely do that.

In the second demonstration, the agent role plays with you, this time with the agent playing him/herself and you playing the customer.  This is now your chance to see what the agent learned from your coaching.  It is also a great opportunity to tweak and clean up any rough edges before the agent gets back on the phone and uses the skill with a real client.

Tips to Improve Your Practice Sessions

  • Just before you conduct the role plays, remember to  set the scene so the agent knows exactly what is going to happen in the role play.   Adam, I am going to play a customer who just had a bad experience using our product.  I­ve been trying to put the product together, but after two hours of trying, I have realized that an important part is missing.  I want you to pick the dialogue up right at the–.  This will eliminate any confusion about where to begin or what type of call the agent is dealing with. 
  • We also recommend starting the role play at the approximate point in the call where the skill takes place.  No need to conduct an entire eight minute role play/call, from the Greeting, if you are practicing Late-Call Objections or the Call Wrap.  Although this seems obvious, we have seen role plays take eight minutes when they should have taken no more than thirty seconds.
  • Prior to providing the coaching, always let agents know that you are going to do a little practice with them, a little role-playing, after you have spoken.  We call this  the warning.  We warn agents that they need to pay full attention because they will be using the skill in just a few moments. 

Practice makes perfect and perfect practice makes perfect performance.  Do not skip this important step to your coaching.  The one-minute investment will pay off on the very next call if your agents are fully prepared to demonstrate new skills with excellence.

How To Get Your Agents to ¬Remember Your Coaching

Monday, March 14th, 2011

When we are in our clients­ call centers, one of the most common supervisor concerns is,  How do I get my agents to remember what we talked about when I coached them, so I don­t have to have the same conversation next week and the week after that?

The remembering part should be easy, but it does seem that many agents have bad memories when supervisors introduce new coaching. Having to remind an agent about a previous conversation would not be that big of a deal except that another week will go by with little or no change in agent behavior.  After dealing with this two or three times, the supervisor must either fix the memory problem or expect that more memories will begin to deteriorate.  Your other agents will begin to experience memory loss if it means they, too, can remain unchanged and comfortable in their current skill sets.

If you are facing this dilemma, here are a few things you can do right away.  We recommend taking this new approach as soon as possible and fixing up those memories so agents will prosper.

1) Get Buy-In During Coaching

One of the most common reasons for temporary memory loss is that the agent had no say and no involvement during the coaching.   Mike, I noticed that you didn­t close for the sale on that last call.  In the future you really need to do it because, for every call on which you don­t make the attempt, it is like making the decision, a  No decision, for the client.  In the future, you really need to start doing this.  I am counting on it.  Your numbers will go up if you do and we can both get back to focusing on great sales results.

In the example above, the sales agent is a lot less likely to buy in and agree with the supervisor because he/she was only involved in a passive way.  The supervisor does not know if the agent agrees and whether or not the agent understands how important closing for the sale really is.  The agent only knows that the supervisor believes it is important.  By not involving the agent, the supervisor is encouraging the agent to forget.  Why?  No involvement translates into low importance.

Adding some questions will change that dialogue and increase the buy-in, and the memory.

  •   Why is closing important?
  •  How do you think not closing impacts your sales?
  •  What can you do to commit to using this skill on every call?
  •  How will you know when you­ve been successful in making the improvements you need to make?

By involving the agent, we improve our chances that the agent will take the coaching seriously and go apply the skills on the phones.

2) Recap After Every Coaching Discussion

Many coaching discussions end with,  Does that make sense?  Great.  Let­s see how it goes for you.  I am looking forward to seeing your results on future calls.  Sounds nice, but how do you know exactly what the agent is walking away with?  What will he/she remember?  The only way to know for sure is to ask, right at the end of every coaching session.   So Terry, just to make sure we are on the same page, and to make sure that you are prepared in the future, what will you do ± next time – when you come to this screen/field and you get stuck?

This is the agent­s chance to Recap the dialogue and your chance to evaluate the agent­s listening skills and retention.  When agents say,  In the future, I will– they have made a commitment that they are much more likely to remember.

3) Offer Specific Formative Feedback and Require a Plan of Action

If the degree of forgetfulness is very serious, hit them straight between the eyes and find out what they are going to do to fix this situation immediately. 

Formative Feedback is a specific, critical feedback tool.  Coaches provide their specific observed behavior as well as the expectations previously agreed to by the agent.  After laying out your  evidence, ask the agent what they are going to do to eliminate this situation in the future.   Tom, let­s talk about the coaching from this morning.  When I commented on your not asking enough open-ended questions, it was actually the third time in a month that we have had this dialogue.  You know very well that you need to use this important question on every call.  I need to know, for today and for the future, what you are going to do to remember to ask open-ended questions on every call?

After speaking with the agent, many supervisors will also introduce future consequences.  Here is what will happen if it happens again.   Some supervisors also try using motivational coaching to encourage the agent to remember.  This is a great idea when it comes to general coaching situations.  At this point, however, more formative coaching is usually better and most agents will respond quickly.

There are many other ways to make your coaching stick.  These three tips should work very well for you.  Once you see the improvement in memory that you are looking for, remember to praise your agents and thank them for their willingness to make changes.  This will pay dividends for a long time to come.

Making Your Service-To-Sales Center Thrive

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Service and support centers are unique when it comes to sales. Many centers have introduced sales and sales quotas long after the service element has been cemented into the minds of the telephone associates (customer service reps). “I wasn’t hired to sell,” or, “Pushing products on callers isn’t providing excellent service,” are common complaints.

To exacerbate the problem, many supervisors do not reinforce sales. Rather, they spend their floor time solving associates’ problems, taking escalated calls, approving credit requests and more. Although these are important issues, center management has to make sales a top priority. Coaching sales is where it begins. Try the following tips to improve your center’s sales. Read More »

Supervisors: You Are The Key To Call Center Success

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Contact centers can measure virtually everything. There are the obvious measurements, like average call lengths, sales, and customer satisfaction ratings. Some centers have vast Quality Assurance groups that observe each telephone agent a minimum number of times each month and create reports for management. Workforce management software systems are now the rage, offering great ways to save money and new ways to measure performance. No matter what your center focuses on, though, the supervisor or floor manager is the key to success.

The standard job of the supervisor is to be on the floor, handing out answers, offering encouragement and distributing information that telephone agents need to perform their jobs. Many call centers have also realized just how important the supervisor can be in terms of driving performance. On-the-floor coaching is the single most important activity a supervisor can perform to insure telephone agents do their jobs effectively and employ best practices. This means supervisors need to be on the floor in an observing and coaching capacity – not just out there solving problems. Read More »