Call Center Training Solutions

Call Center Training Solutions Blog

Posts Tagged ‘agent retention’

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.

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.