In my role as an operations manager at a technology focused organization, I was recently asked by our principal analyst to evaluate our coaching call center performance. As a seasoned CFO, I am used to providing financial performance analysis as well as business case studies to operational CFOs. However, I found this task difficult to perform given the limited resources I had to evaluate the effectiveness of our training programs and services. In order for a company to optimize its coaching call center activities, coaching needs to be delivered by dedicated, professional coaches with proven expertise in operations, customer service, sales, technical support, or marketing. These managers need to understand how to drive business value through the targeted processes. In short, CFOs need to have the knowledge necessary to deliver clear, concise instructions to their teams in key areas such as training.
So, what are the best practices I use to evaluate our coaching call center? First, I look for proven best practices in coaching. Second, I look for examples of successful businesses using these best practices. Third, I conduct pilot testing in various processes and structures to confirm they are meeting desired goals and objectives. Finally, I test our new implementations using real-life challenges to verify our assumptions are robust and realistic.
Based on our research, we identified four best practices for evaluating our coaching programs: Professionalism, Instance Management, Instance Choice, and Control. We determined that our companies had three main coaching styles: Professionalism, Instance Management, and Control. Each style had four distinct behaviors associated with each instance: coaching call center behavior, goal-setting behaviors, coaching metrics (such as coaching frequency and coaching cost), and behavioral outcomes (whether users reported receiving and completing the recommended actions). The fourth behavior was primarily associated with the control, which is the ability to set the example for others to follow.
Our coaching models identified several core competencies and strengths, including leadership skills, effective interpersonal skills, managerial skills, technical competency, and culture-based competency. In addition, we identified a number of core non-competency and gap behaviors. These core behaviors served as our model of the core competencies and strengths of our clients’ centers. We also considered core organizational weaknesses and potential weak spots that required additional focus and attention from supervisors. We developed these competencies and strengths through a series of case studies, supervision and interviews with supervisors at all levels of the organization, and a series of pilot tests.
One of the initial competencies we identified was over-scoping, or the expectation that the customer experience would be the same or better than the customer service environment at the center. Supervisors noticed this kind of oversight everywhere. In one case, the supervisor stated “The agents were trained to provide the same services as the customer service representative. They do have the phones, but they are more like working receptionists.” In another, the manager stated “My employees tell me that the agents are trained to give the same service as the customer service representative.” In both cases, it became obvious that the over-scoping expectation was unrealistic.
Another common competency identified was not paying enough attention to performance issues. In our pilot testing and in-services visits, we observed agents who prioritized customer satisfaction above nearly every other quality or process goal. This prioritization drove significant disconnection between management and staff, as well as between supervisors and agents. Supervisors repeatedly stated, “I don’t even recognize the people on the calls.” Similarly, in one coaching session, an executive coach said “The people on the phone are just junior counselors trying to take care of their clients.”
Other common performance issues were related to lack of availability or poor receptionist skills or attitudes toward calls. Supervisors consistently reported that they had difficulty getting agents on the line. Other coaching agents said that they struggled to get the executives on the line when needed. One executive coach shared that it was common for him to spend more time fixing problems with coaching calls than he did make sales. It was clear from these examples that poor performance feedback was a key contributor to disconnection between coaching agents and management.
What are the best practices for coaching call center performance? It is important to first acknowledge the problem behaviors in your own behavior and then to implement new best practices to build employee and client trust. If employees value the importance of your feedback and are willing to try to improve, you will see your profits increase. And the resulting culture of caring will spread throughout the organization. Consider these best practices in coaching and telesales and begin to implement a new system today.