Companies lose $2378 every second due to lousy customer service. It’s one of the reasons customers switch to a competitor and a surefire way to lose revenue and damage your brand. So whether you’re motivating top performers or getting to the bottom of issues with teammates who are lagging behind, coaching is key if you want engaged, happy, agents, and world-class customer service (and who doesn’t want that, right?).
But coaching customer service agents can be tricky to get right–particularly when your team is suddenly remote. The demands facing customer service staff have become more complex, and more difficult to address in newly distributed teams. That’s why a clear coaching strategy combined with solid call center QA software is vital for winning customer service. This blog looks at some tactics to consider for your coaching sessions to get the most from your customer service teams.
Know the customer
Before diving into any coaching strategy, it’s crucial to understand the customer. It may seem obvious, but knowing the customer inside and out is key to giving them the best service. A coaching strategy that keeps the customer at its heart is the first step towards a winning plan to set yourself up for success.
Praise publicly, criticize privately
When it comes to feedback, it’s always hard for an agent to hear that their performance isn’t cutting it. That’s why coaching sessions should be held in private, or in a 1:1 video call if your customer service team is remote. Respecting privacy and boundaries will boost trust within your team, make everything run a little smoother, and create an atmosphere of psychological safety that boosts performance and increases motivation.
Make a feedback sandwich
Negative feedback is difficult for pretty much everyone to hear, even if it’s constructive. Sandwiching negative feedback between two positives is one approach to make it sting a little less. Start the coaching session on a positive note by highlighting something the agent is doing well, or an area they’ve improved on since the last session. After you’ve pointed out where they’re falling down, make sure to end the session with another positive example of a customer interaction or some other notable area that’s going well. Starting and ending the session on a positive note is one of the best ways to keep an agent motivated and engaged, whilst drawing their attention to whatever’s going poorly.
Separate fact from opinion with data and concrete examples
We all want to know we’re being treated fairly. That’s one of the reasons why referring to data is so important in a coaching session. By backing up feedback with facts, you minimize bias and office politics. It’s also a more efficient way to remind agents just how much they’ve improved their performance–or how seriously they’re lagging behind. For example, “Your CSAT scores have dropped by 33% this quarter” is more useful and actionable to hear than “your performance is poor and needs to improve.” Data keeps things fair and actionable and encourages transparency and trust amongst the wider team.
A common error in coaching sessions is to focus too broadly on the general. Agents need specific and actionable feedback to connect the dots and proactively change their approach. Use relevant and timely data (see point 4) where possible and be specific about what actions the agent needs to take in order to address the issues you bring up. This goes for positive feedback too, rather than saying “nice work” highlight what specific areas they excelled at since the last session.
Roleplay is widely used as a tactic for training customer service teams. During a coaching session, it’s also a great way for a manager to demonstrate best practice approaches to difficult situations and for an agent to hone their skills. For example, the coach can play the role of agent to show behavioral skills like empathy and active listening whereas the agent can practice some of the approaches they’ve just learned and get immediate feedback on their performance–before hitting the phones.
Consider a coaching model to build a more positive outlook
There are three commonly used coaching models within the contact center industry: the GROW model, the Two Stars and a Wish model, and the THINK model. These offer different approaches to get the most from your sessions and can provide a useful framework to build your customer service coaching strategy around.
Be mindful of language
The wrong choice of words can put agents on the defense and create mistrust and unease during the coaching session. Be mindful of the language you use and try to make it constructive and positive rather than negative and critical. Phrases like “You should..” “It’s imperative that you..” or “You have to..” are confrontational and dogmatic and go some way to create an atmosphere of unease. Examples such as “To make that even better, you could…” or “It would be great if you could…” offer a more approachable and inclusive alternative.
Ask agents to assess themselves
One useful approach in a coaching session is to ask the agent to review their own customer interactions to guide the process and establish areas for improvement. This means they proactively spot areas that need attention, which gives agents a sense of ownership over their own progress and empowers them to take control of their own performance.
Take the pressure off with software
The right software can make a big difference when it comes to coaching customer service. With a powerful customer service tool in place, you can automatically track and evaluate an agent’s performance and keep an eye on quality standards for all customer interactions (not just calls). Features like automated QA scorecards and AI-powered analytics highlight the areas agents need to improve so you can prepare for coaching sessions in half the time, and without the need for time-consuming spreadsheets. The right tool makes the coaching and feedback process scaleable, speeder, and easier to manage–particularly useful for remote customer service teams.
Make an action plan with realistic goals and expectations
Once you’ve agreed on the areas that need attention, it’s time to work out a plan of action to highlight the steps an agent should take. Customer service coaches can’t just decide that their team should have a 95% CSAT score in the next month if, historically, they’ve only ever been able to scrape a 50% so coaches need to set realistic, achievable goals for the individual agent, keeping in mind what they’re capable of. Consider following a goal-setting framework to help give a consistent structure to setting goals.
Praise improvement as soon as possible
Coaching customer service doesn’t end when the session is over. The real progress happens when the agent is back communicating with customers and putting in place the feedback they received. At this stage, it’s very important to praise the agent for any marked improvements they make–as soon as possible.
Implementing the tactics above with the right software, a clear strategy, and a consistent approach will show measurable results in no time! Improvements in your agent’s performance leads to happier customers and more revenue…and it’s easier than you think.
Looking for a tool to take the hassle out of coaching? Give Leaptree a try.