calltalk-caramels-2.pngIs your company more focused on skills or on process? Most managers say they concentrate on processes. Our experts suggest that when organizations become very process-oriented they also become very compliance-based, which leaves little room for valuable skills development. Competency-based organizations, however, feature skills development as the primary objective – with process following behind (and actually benefiting as a result).

The crucible of skills development is the coaching process. When done properly, it opens eyes and minds; agents come away with new insights and added skills that will help build success.

Our experts suggest using the art of self discovery in coaching, where the agents self discover what they have done right and wrong, and how to take corrective actions. In this way, agents are more likely to follow through with the desired behavior.

A self-discovery-oriented coaching session might sound as follows:

Coach: “So Bruce, I really appreciate you letting me listen to that last call. I liked doing that. I would like to ask you, Bruce, when thinking about that last call, what do you think you did well on that call?”

Agent: “Well Steve, I thought I did a good job on the opening of that call; I had an upbeat and positive tone with the customer, and I identified the issue she had with her statement that we sent last month.”

Coach: “And why is a good opening important, Bruce?”

Agent: “A good opening is important because that way you engage with the customer and they understand that you are there to serve them.”

Coach: “And how was the customer’s reaction to you when you did that?”

Agent: “The customer’s reaction was kind of flat, but it was okay.”

Coach: “So why do you think it was flat?”

Low Agent Motivation a Drag on Your Center? Here's How to Turn it Around!Agent: “I could almost see the furrowing of her brow. She was puzzling over what was going on with her new bank statement; she couldn’t understand it.”

Coach: “I see… Would it be okay if I shared with you some things to which I thought you did well?”

Agent: “Yes, please!”

Coach: “One of the things I really value about what you bring to the call center, and actually to our customers, is that you always seem to connect with them in a very personal way. You talk with them as though they are a person and not as some entity that is annoying and bothering us. I really appreciate that. Why is it important to make that connection with customers?”

Agent: “Well, I think it makes them feel good about their relationship with our bank, and it helps me to get the conversation going so I can ask more questions and solve their issue.”

Coach: “I really appreciate you doing that. I can see that you have put into practice many of the things that we have been talking about here lately. Now let me ask you this, Bruce, as you reflect on this call, if you had to go back and do this call over again, would there be anything you would do differently?

Agent: “Yeah Steve, I took too long to find the answer. I am still not totally comfortable with our knowledge management system. There are three or four screens that we have to navigate. So I probably wasn’t as efficient as I could have been on that.”

Coach: “Why not?”

Agent: “I know we’ve been through training on it, but I probably need more, Steve.”

Coach: “Okay, is it a matter of training, or is it a matter of anything else that you can think of?”

Agent: “Mainly it’s navigating the system. It’s hard for me.”

Coach: “Okay, so talk to me about how the system is hard to navigate.”

Agent: “We’ve got all these different databases. Some of them are legacy databases due to the acquisition we made. I’m still not comfortable with which one do I need to go to when.”

Coach: “Okay, so what did you do with the customer when you were having this issue?”

Agent: “Well, I made a little small talk and said ‘please hold.’”

Coach: “Okay, and so there were long periods of silence in between, right?”

Agent: “Yes.”

Coach: “What was the customer thinking?”

Agent: “Well, the customer was probably thinking ‘I wonder what he’s up to?’”

Coach: “Yeah, and when customers are thinking that, are they thinking that you are real knowledgeable and helpful, or are they thinking that you are lost and confused?”

Agent: “They probably think I am friendly, but lost.”

Coach: “Okay. And when the customer thinks you are lost, what kind of confidence level do they have in you?”

Agent: “It goes down, I’m sure…”

Coach: “And if you wanted to really inspire confidence and appear as though you know everything that you needed to know, and didn’t want to tip your hand that you still had to go find out the information; is there anything else you could have done that would have really inspired confidence with the customer?

Agent: “I guess I could have talked about them and their concerns. One of the things she mentioned was that she was concerned about her account balance and whether she had enough to make a down payment on a new car. And I probably could have mentioned our car loan services, which I totally forgot to do.”

Coach: “Why?”

Agent: “I guess I was just so focused on trying to fill this gap of knowledge and find out the information from the systems that it just didn’t occur to me.”

Coach: “Okay. I would like for you to try this, ‘In order for me to get you the right answer, I need to check one thing out in order to make sure I have the right answer that is correct for you, okay? And what I would like to do is put you on hold.’ Bruce, can you repeat that back for me?”

Agent: “For me to get you that answer, I need to put you on hold in order to make sure I get the right information for you. Is that okay?”

Coach: “If you did that, what would she have said?”

Agent: “I am sure she would have said, ‘that’s fine. Thank you.’”

Coach: “That’s right, and once you’ve done that and learned the system, what does it earn you the right to be able to do?”

Agent: “It earns me the right to give her the information and talk about the other services we have, like car loans.”

Coach: “That’s right. So the first rule is to do what?”

Agent: “The first rule is to satisfy them with an answer to what they are looking for…”

Coach: “That’s right; solve their issues. If you do that, it earns you the right to talk about those other things. So when this happens again, and knowing that you need to learn the systems and get better at that, what are you going to do?

Agent: “I’m going to put them on hold in the manner that we discussed, and while doing that I will be thinking about the other collateral things that I can be talking to them about.”

Coach: “But you will only bring up those extras after we have solved their issue, right!”

Agent: “Right.”

Coach: “So are you willing to put that into practice?”

Agent: “I will do that.”

Coach: “Great. I’m going to go spend some time with another agent, but then I will be back here to see how you are doing…”

End session… When this type of coaching is done on a daily basis, skills rapidly improve. The overall key is not in the instruction given, but in the questions asked by the coaches that allow the agent to see the big picture of the call and understand how things could have been done better. Then you can use use metrics to show the impact of skills improvement.

Tip of the Month: Train coaches how to coach and ask questions that evoke agent responses and promote behavioral changes towards a positive direction. Remember – Questions are the heartbeat of the coaching process.

This CallTalk Caramel was compiled and edited by Bruce Belfiore and Kamál Webb. It was drawn from a CallTalk episode with Steve Riddell, entitled “Lemming or Leader – You Decide”. To listen to the entire episode click play below:


CallTalk is a monthly internet radio program featuring the most innovative managers and thought leaders in the customer contact field, interviewed by BenchmarkPortal CEO, Bruce Belfiore. “Caramels” distills “Aha!” moments from these interviews into practical, bite-sized nuggets to inform and assist you as a contact center professional.

Low Agent Motivation a Drag on Your Center? Here's How to Turn it Around!

Topics: Agent Development, Developing Agents, CallTalk Caramels, Coaching for Success, Contact Center Articles