Developing Exceptional Contact Center Leaders

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coaching is simply a performance management exercise designed to fix something that is apparently broken. As such, we have to foster a perception that the activity must be confined to an office for fear of exposing the employee's errors to their peers.

What if we change that reality and turn coaching into an engagement of positive reinforcement? Would the activity create a different outcome of acceptability? Long-term and lasting success of performance coaching starts early and often with a strong foundation of positive validation and recognition. To truly create a successful coaching environment, it is important that the coach earns the trust and buy-in of the employee. Without earning this trust, coaching becomes no more than a simple transaction between two people that has no real purpose for either party.

A lack of understanding as to what the outcome of a coaching moment should be from the employee's perspective can also be a barrier to improving performance. As part of the coaching process, team leaders should be trained to encourage agents to look for evidence that the proposed outcome or behavioral change is the best option by:

  • practicing how the change will sound to the customer;
  • assessing the impact to the customer experience; and
  • putting the strategy into practice on the very next call.

The Path to Effective Coaching is not a Casual Event

One of the most overlooked but fundamental steps to building an effective coaching environment is to install a consistent methodology to help leaders improve agent skills and teach leaders how to identify gaps and be better coaches. For many organizations, the approach to performance management is deeply rooted with myriad coaching assumptions and urban legends. The commitment required to evolve into a coaching culture requires a fresh and long-term approach. As with all habitual changes, breaking old paradigms is not the result of a one- or two-day workshop that comes in the form of a big, thick "how-to" binder, but rather a slow and layered learning environment that allows for a huge serving of practice and calibration. This process is similar to teachers building capable skills to teach students only after months and/or years of steady education and practice.

Performance coaches require the same functional path to acquire the necessary skills and tools to effective coaching to ensure long-term change in habits. Ever-improving results are the expected norm due to today's competitive pressures. However, the variables of time and effort in developing coaches and leaders are not always clearly aligned with the expected outcome. Support and reinforcement must be ongoing and committed to over time to ensure correct habits are formed by our leaders and that this commitment is shared and practiced at all levels of a customer service organization. This will ensure that learnings and gains are cemented and reflected in the performance results over time.

Exceptional customer experience that creates customer loyalty and improves customer lifetime value can only happen when coaching and training is a priority for all levels of the operations team. Senior management needs to ensure that team leaders aren't bogged down with administrative tasks. Team leaders need to fully appreciate the importance of the investment in coaching. Agents need to see the value of the strategies through first-hand implementation to gain their commitment. When the goals and commitments of all parties in the call center are aligned, the customer receives the biggest benefit.

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