5 Tips for Coaching Agents in the Call Center
In the age of the remote work environment, an area of significant focus for call center managers is how they can improve coaching agents in the call center while not being “in the building” with them. For many call center coaches, the idea of not being able to walk the floor and provide timely coaching feedback is a frustrating proposition. They want to ensure their frontline call center agents are delivering consistently excellent customer service.
Fortunately, call center coaching tools are making the transition to a remote working environment a lot easier for both call center agents and their managers, enabling call center behavioral coaching at scale, no matter where people sit.
In this post, we’ll review 5 important tips for coaching agents in the call center more effectively in a remote age.
1. It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It
It’s important to note that the way in which words are said can have very different meanings and give off very different connotations to the people you are having a conversation with. This is especially true in the call center where a number of factors can lead to agents experiencing things like cognitive overload and compassion fatigue, which can impair their ability to recognize the everyday cues in conversation that prompt for the correct responses.
If a customer, for example, says a phrase like “Oh, that’s great” in a sarcastic tone, then the literal words “that’s great” are not actually an accurate depiction of what that person’s true intention is. These types of conversational cues can be hard for call center agents to pick up on, particularly when they are mired in the various systems and procedures they go through on call after call. Missing these cues leads to suboptimal responses to the customer inquiry and, ultimately, a poor customer experience.
Coaching should emphasize the concepts of emotional intelligence and build soft skills. Emotional intelligence is the ability for one to recognize and manage the emotions of others and themselves. Soft skills, or people skills, enable people to have good, emotionally intelligent conversations. You want to teach your agents to not passively listen to just the words being said, but instead, practice active listening to comprehend the true meaning behind those words. This will enable agents to respond in the best way possible for the desired call outcome.
Of course this is easier said than done, as the complexities of the job will certainly affect most agents’ ability to consistently be emotionally intelligent. This is where a solution like Cogito comes in, an AI technology that analyzes call center conversations in real-time and provides in- the-moment coaching to the agent so they can recognize and respond to customers with enhanced empathy and emotional intelligence.
2. Provide Real-time Feedback that is Actionable
When it comes to agent coaching, the concept of real-time feedback is the key element that will set your organization apart from everyone else. Imagine, if you will, the ability for a supervisor or coach to be present in every single interaction a call center agent has, and this coach has the foresight to anticipate what is happening in the conversation and what action will be needed to be performed in that moment to steer a conversation in the right direction. While the agent sifts through the knowledge management system to find the information they need for their customer, while trying to maintain the conversation with the customer on the other end, the coach is there and sees the missed cues in the conversation, alerting the agent to respond with empathy, add more energy and attentiveness to their voice, or break an extended period of silence with a simple check-in to ensure the customer is actively engaged.
It may sound like science fiction but it is indeed a reality in many large call center operations. Cogito’s AI coaching system provides this real-time actionable feedback to the call center agent live, while the conversation is happening. The best part of this solution is its scalability. There’s no way a supervisor could listen into all his or her team’s calls and provide this level of coaching, and with most call center operations moving remote, this is even more apparent.
With AI like Cogito, you are expanding the small reach of a supervisor to coach in the moment, with one agent at a time to literally your entire call center operation, providing in-the-moment coaching to thousands of agents all at the same time. Agents are coached with positive reinforcement, helping them build and practice their soft skills on the job without the need for extensive time learning these skills while off the phone.
3. Virtually Walk the Floor
The biggest challenge for call center supervisors to coach effectively during this period of remote working conditions is the inability to walk the floor and experience the sights and sounds of the call center first-hand. Gone are the days when supervisors could coach on the fly, overhearing a conversation gone bad and knowing when to interject and save the day, or on the flipside, hearing a conversation that rocked and giving their agent a high five as soon as the conversation ended. This disruption to the very way coaching was traditionally done in the call center has made the transition to remote work particularly challenging for supervisors.
This situation has led to some creative call center coaching practices, and the one that is most effective for supervisors to perform at their best is a solution that gives them the ability to virtually walk the floor. Cogito, for example, delivers supervisors a live view of their team and the conversations they are having with customers. Like agents, Cogito nudges supervisors with real-time notifications of how well or how poorly a live conversation is going.
Cogito’s CX score is a real-time measure of the customer’s perception of a call. Supervisors can see these scores in real-time and choose to intervene if a call is going poorly, flag a call for specific coaching needed, or actively give encouragement to an agent for a job well done. Cogito’s virtual walk the floor capability is making supervisor coaching effective again, filling the void for many coaches that was created when they all began working from home.
4. Make the Most of Your 1:1 Coaching Sessions
The best kept secret in the call center might be just how inefficient and subjective traditional call center coaching is. In fact, an argument could be made that call center manager coaching on how to be a good coach should be taught in every call center.
Typically call center agents take an average of 50 calls per day, 5 days a week, which equates to 1,000 calls per month. Monthly 1:1 coaching sessions with supervisors usually take a randomized sample of three of those calls, and those are the calls that are reviewed with the agent.
Imagine trying to coach an agent on a call they had three weeks ago on how they could have improved the call outcome. They’ve since had hundreds of subsequent calls and going back based on post-call transcription and reviewing the words that were spoken as we saw in the first tip isn’t going to give an accurate picture. When we talk to agents about their traditional coaching sessions, the biggest complaint we hear is that they are too subjective, and the calls are too far removed from them when they are brought up to reinforce behavior change.
As a supervisor, make the most out of your 1:1 coaching sessions by removing the subjectivity and pinpointing the in-call behaviors that need to be worked on. And don’t wait for the monthly 1:1 session to coach on behavior. Leverage a solution like Cogito that delivers real-time coaching to the agent, empowering them to self-learn and reinforce behavior in the moment.
When it comes to call center coaching feedback examples, instead of bringing three randomized calls to the table to review, pinpoint the specific moments in calls where coachable behaviors occurred, and bubble those up at the top of your coaching curriculum, thereby coaching on the specific behaviors that the agent needs to work on. And these behaviors won’t be a surprise either because the agent is aware of them already from the live in-call coaching.
Cogito’s AI does this, identifying the specific moments and behaviors in a call that need immediate coaching. The solution coaches in-the-moment and also facilitates supervisors with the tools to deliver tailored coaching that is not subjective in nature.
5. Choose the Right Tools to Scale Coaching at Your Company
If the goal is coaching agents to have better, “more human” conversations, where do call center coaching tools fit in? As you’ve seen in this post, Cogito’s AI coaching system for the enterprise harnesses AI’s power and leverages it as a human augmentation tool that is not meant to replace humans but rather empower human call center agents to be the best versions of themselves. As your company grows and seeks to deliver enhanced coaching that scales better, more human customer experiences, look for a solution that:
- Identifies the true sentiment of every conversation
- Provides real-time actionable feedback that can coach agents in the moment
- Enables supervisors to coach from anywhere by virtually walking the floor
- Streamlines and informs your 1:1 coaching sessions with the most important coachable moments
There is a clear shift happening in the call center industry with an enhanced emphasis on enabling supervisors to provide the right coaching that’s timely and informed. Stop looking for call center coaching templates and guides for what to do after the calls happen. Coaching needs to happen in the moment for maximum effect, and coaching can no longer be constrained by the confines of an office environment. Call center behavioral coaching needs to happen whenever and wherever people are having customer conversations, and for many, that means from the comfort of their own homes.
AI can be applied to solve the challenges call centers face today. Cogito’s AI is on the forefront of delivering a better way for coaching agents in the call center. As a result, agent performance improves, supervisor coaching becomes more meaningful, and the result of all this great call center agent coaching is significant enhancements to a call center’s key operational metrics including AHT, FCR, and CSAT scores.
Interested in learning more about the AI coaching system for the enterprise? Tour our product or request a demo.