Going for Gold in the Call Center
South Korea hosted 2,900 athletes from over 92 countries around the world during the last 10 days. Joining competitors on the ground, are the coaching teams and assistant coaches who have invested just as many years of sacrifice and time into preparing these unique athletes for international competition. Coaches invest their time, enthusiasm, and energy into helping athletes achieve personal goals – a coach is one of the key variables that represent the difference between taking home the Gold and returning home empty handed.
Athletes rely on their coaches to teach them the skills necessary to compete, and more importantly, to act as an honest and transparent benchmark against which an athlete can expect trust and professional guidance. Indeed, in advising athletes when selecting prospective coaches, the US Olympic Committee tells athletes that the “coach plays a key role in an athlete’s entourage. The quality of the relationship between a coach and the athlete has a crucial effect on the athlete’s satisfaction, motivation and performance.”
The Competition for Customer Loyalty
In the competition for long term customer loyalty, the call center plays host to significant customer interactions – oftentimes serving as the venue for customers to declare their long term commitment – or in a worst case scenario, the announcement of an official breakup between customer and service provider. This is why supervisors are in high demand, serving as coaches to their customer service “athletes” or agents engaged in these conversations. Similar to an Olympic coach, the supervisor oversees a team of professional customer service representatives, and rather than serve as monitors for compliance, they help build trusting relationships with the agents they manage.
The modern call center is where callers seek out customer service because a basic chatbot or transactional informational setting is not enough. They are seeking out a resolution and emotional connection from their agent. Supervisors must help their agents navigate difficult conversations, while also coaching agents to remain calm and avoid taking things personally so they can avoid cognitive overload and prepare for the next call.
A New Approach: Real-time Coaching
Just as in the call center, Olympic athletes receive most of their coaching in practice scenarios or during breaks in the action i.e. not in real-time). Instruction is given based on observed performance, and feedback is suggested to either reinforce behavior that is working well or alter behavior that is not. It is incumbent upon athletes and customer service agents to process the feedback and apply this suggested behavior change in practice during the game or call. Just how effective is this approach? Ever heard of the term you win some you lose some?
What if coaching happened in real-time? How many 4th place and 5th place finishers at the Olympic games this week would have wanted their coach in their ear in real-time anticipating a patch of ice on the slope, forecasting precisely when to jump for the triple axel, or simply providing positive encouragement during those few moments of competition when they needed it most? In sports, this concept doesn’t exist and would probably be considered illegal as a performance enhancing practice. Until recently this was the same situation in the call center, where agent coaching was done after the fact and real-time coaching for 100% of calls was nothing more than a pipe dream. Instead, supervisors and agents developed best practices through meeting, running through routine trainings, and replaying older calls. Historically, these methods of supervisory support have provided limited effectiveness. Although they enable agents to learn traditional best practices, an inexperienced agent may have difficulty executing these best practices in the moment, during a live call.
What’s more, supervisors at a call center are often managing a team of 10-20 different agents. Demands are placed on their time, making personalized 1:1 coaching difficult – particularly for agents who need additional reinforcement.
What if a coaching solution existed that would not only personalize feedback, but deliver focused, specific, and actionable support in the moment? Cogito’s solution leverages artificial intelligence to observe 100% of designated calls and streams live emotional intelligence to call center agents throughout those calls. Cogito’s notifications provide systematic feedback for those behaviors that an agent can control, such as the pace of the conversation, the volume of their voice, the speed with which they communicate on a call, how well they listen, and their ability to provide empathetic support to a customer in need.
As the Olympic ceremonies come to a close, and athletes and coaches return home, the urgency of the games and the authenticity of the moment will start to fade away. In training, coaches may repeatedly return to the recorded footage of a particular event, but the feelings and specific sensory associations to the replayed footage will be difficult to recreate. Reviewing these moments provide only a limited contribution to training for future events.
With Cogito’s solution – agents finally have access to an Olympic-level coach – in real-time, for all of their conversations. Certainly, a solution that helps agents be Gold-Medal worthy.