The call center is often the company’s public face — the first interaction your customer has before or after purchase.
So, coaching your call center agents to provide reliable customer service is imperative to your company’s success.
While there are many ways to go about effective call center coaching, in this article, we’ll explore five key areas where you can focus your coaching efforts. We’ll also mention five ways you can train agents and other best practices to adopt for optimal call center performance.
This article contains:
(Click on the links to jump to a specific section)
- What is Call Center Coaching?
- 5 Types of Call Center Training Methods
- 5 Call Center Coaching Areas You Should Focus On
- 5 Best Practices for Effective Call Center Coaching
Let’s get started.
What is call center coaching?
Call center coaching involves training new agents or upskilling existing ones through a training session, course, seminar, etc.
The aim is to teach them the skills required to provide better customer service. As a result, you’ll notice an improvement in agent performance and customer satisfaction scores (CSAT).
Coaching agents is a continuous, ongoing process covering various aspects, such as:
- Specific call center software training.
- Customer interaction training, such as practicing active listening.
- Soft skill development, including real-time problem-solving.
Well-trained call center agents can aid positive customer experiences, leading to increased loyalty and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
Why is call center coaching important?
Did you know that US businesses lose about $75 billion/year due to poor customer service?
The same survey found that 40% of customers who received poor customer service wouldn’t give the offending company another chance.
Similarly, outbound call center agents often give up after just one phone call, but it takes about five calls to close a deal. Your coaching needs to reflect this reality of multiple calls per lead.
A robust coaching program can help you:
1. Increase employee engagement
Providing continual training shows agents you care about their progress not just as employees but as individuals. As a result, they feel more included in your company, leading to increased engagement and productivity.
You can further increase engagement levels by asking for constructive feedback on your existing coaching program.
2. Enhance agent efficiency
Effective coaching can reduce your agents’ time to resolve customer queries, i.e., Average Handle Time (AHT).
For an inbound call center, a lower AHT leads to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. This, in turn, increases their overall lifetime value.
In an outbound call center, this could mean agents are reaching out to more leads in a day.
However, all agents need to know that an improvement in AHT shouldn’t come at the expense of customer satisfaction, i.e., they shouldn’t be rushing through customer calls.
3. Improve brand reputation
Most companies today compete on customer experience. So, providing consistently quick and proactive service can lead to higher customer satisfaction ratings.
Happy customers are more likely to give positive feedback and advocate for your company to others.
Let’s look at the five most common agent training methods you can utilize to achieve your overall customer service goal.
5 types of call center training methods
Everyone learns differently — some people prefer one-on-one sessions while others prefer online courses.
So here are five common methods of coaching call center agents:
1. Live call training
Live call training is where agents put their theoretical knowledge of handling customer calls into practice.
Ideally, live call training should be part of the following:
- Onboarding process.
- Nesting period – when agents start to take calls but still need supervision.
- Ongoing training for experienced agents.
As an important coaching model, live training can help gauge how well agents perform under pressure.
2. Classroom training
As the name suggests, classroom training typically happens in a lecture style where one person provides information, tips, and techniques for handling customer calls.
Ideal for new hires, you can use this coaching method to deal with specific issues like handling calls after a product recall.
However, you can also include workshops, group activities, and competitions as a part of classroom training to engage agents.
Adding gamification elements can help agents pick up new skills in fun ways.
3. Online learning
Ideal for remote agents working from home, online learning can aid coaching through various online modules and courses.
It can also be a great way to continue training experienced agents or test their skills through self-assessment quizzes.
Successful mentoring requires a close bond between the team leader and the agent.
While forming this relationship with each agent can be difficult, you can set up an in-house program where top performers mentor new/inexperienced agents.
5. One-on-one training
One-on-one training is the hardest, most time-consuming, and expensive method — but with a massive payoff.
In just one coaching conversation, you can get a sense of the agent’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing for targeted coaching.
Knowing which agent is best equipped to handle a specific customer query also helps you route calls, i.e., skills-based routing. As a result, you’ll improve your First Call Resolution (FCR) rates.
Let’s look at which coaching areas can help you improve other call center metrics.
5 call center coaching areas you should focus on
With the increased focus on call center agent training and optimization, it can be hard to determine which skill sets are important.
You’ll find five essential coaching areas you should focus on to improve your customer service.
1. Product/service knowledge
Your customers can have various questions for your customer service team — some basic, others more complex.
Even if your agent has a thorough understanding of your product/service, they may not be able to answer a detailed question about specifics.
However, customers expect your agents to know everything, So, routinely coaching agents about your product/service is a smart business strategy.
Knowing your product/service in and out can help:
- Empower agents to answer customer queries with confidence.
- Form an excellent first impression with new customers.
- Build customer trust with your brand as they view your support team as experts.
Not only does it give agents continuous learning opportunities, but it also maintains a constant conversation flow between team leaders and members. Another way to ensure agents stay updated with changes to services is through a shared knowledge base.
2. Etiquette training
Call centers often use workforce management (WFM) software to record customer calls for agent performance management.
Agents should specify the call is being recorded to each customer. You can make it easier by adding an automated message while the customer waits for their call to be transferred.
Before they’re put on hold, the agent should communicate how long the customer will have to wait until the agent comes back.
You should also train agents to stick to these timelines as the customer might get frustrated and hang up if agents consistently take too long.
During the call, your agent may need to verify the customer’s purchase through credit card numbers. The agent should pause the call recording to avoid compromising this sensitive information and inform customers they’re doing so.
You should also educate agents about compliance regulations in different countries.
They should be trained on staying calm and using non-violent language, especially during debt collection calls. You can monitor the same through call recordings and speech analytics.
3. Customer interaction skills
Customer service is about interacting with people.
So, you should emphasize the importance of considering the customer’s point of view.
Understanding where the customer is coming from will help the agent stay patient and compassionate when dealing with an angry or worried customer.
Another helpful skill is active listening.
Training agents to give customers their full attention and actively engaging in the conversation can positively impact your brand reputation. The customer will feel that the agent isn’t simply reading a script or following a set of procedures but giving them individual attention instead.
In the coaching session, the instructor can teach agents how to paraphrase and take notes to help them stay focused on the issue.
You could ask agents to roleplay by acting out a specific example of a customer call. They can even switch roles to understand how another agent would handle a similar situation.
4. Peer learning
Every team member has their own unique strengths, and peer learning is a great way to take advantage of that.
This coaching technique allows newer agents to learn from top performers by observing firsthand how they handle live calls.
Doing this helps them understand:
- What good customer service means.
- How to handle difficult customers or complex queries.
- How to use existing software tools to improve efficiency.
However, shadowing another agent can be time-consuming.
Another way to facilitate peer learning is by asking new agents to listen to and analyze previous successful call recordings. You can also ask experienced agents to share their screens with new agents so they can witness the work in real-time.
Peer learning can help agents form closer bonds with the team and ask basic questions they feel uncomfortable voicing in a group setting.
5. Soft skills development
Soft skills are applicable in nearly every setting – formal or interpersonal. Developing these skills can help agents come up with novel solutions on the spot.
Coaching agents to value the customer’s time as much as their own will help them understand the importance of speed. They’ll be able to quickly address customer issues, diffuse delicate situations, and provide consistently high-quality service.
Doing all of this will require the agent to be extremely familiar with your products/services.
They’ll also need to efficiently keep track of incoming customer queries and understand how to leverage existing resources to solve them. For this, they’ll need to identify the root cause of every customer issue quickly.
Additionally, your agents must note down other important details during a call.
For instance, a customer may call to troubleshoot and mention their child’s birthday is coming up soon. The agent can note this information and send it to the marketing department. They can then send the customer a personalized coupon for that occasion.
Let’s look at some best practices that can help you improve your call center performance.
5 best practices for effective call center coaching
In addition to the coaching areas mentioned above, you should execute the following practices to ensure your coaching efforts are successful.
1. Use different tools
Today, most call centers offer omnichannel support over live chat, emails, social media, etc.
These contact center capabilities can help you provide 24/7 support, personalize your service, and even lessen agent workload.
Analyzing an agent’s performance across different channels provides better insight into their comfort areas, knowledge base, and preferred mode of communication.
For instance, if a contact center agent is more comfortable with text conversation and asked to handle voice calls exclusively, they may falter and not perform well.
However, reassigning them to non-voice channels can improve their performance metrics.
In the meantime, you can form a personalized coaching plan for that agent to help them become more comfortable with voice calls.
To keep track of how long each coaching session lasts, you can use an employee productivity management tool like Time Doctor.
Time Doctor also allows you to measure other metrics, such as how long each customer interaction lasts and how much time agents spend on different sites. All this data can help you create a contact center coaching plan specific to each communication channel.
You can read more about Time Doctor’s features here.
2. Outline key performance metrics
It’s essential to define your call center’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and measure them regularly to aid performance improvement – for your call center and its agents.
Some common call center performance metrics are:
- Average handle time (AHT): The average time an agent takes to resolve a customer query.
- First call resolution (FCR): The number of customer queries solved in the first call with no follow-ups.
- Customer satisfaction (CSAT): These scores describe how satisfied customers are with your customer service.
If a specific metric is suffering, you can alert the call center manager and provide training materials to improve the same.
These metrics can also help compare your performance to your competitors using call center benchmarking.
3. Allow customers to give feedback
Knowing what your customers think of your product/service and your customer support will help you adjust your offerings.
Give your customers the option to provide feedback for each customer service interaction. You can collect this feedback through surveys at the end of the call or a separate email.
Many customers will probably leave positive reviews, while others may leave negative feedback.
You can collect all this information on a unified dashboard to check for common complaints. Additionally, you can give agents access to these reviews so they can evaluate their own performance.
Implementing this feedback will make your customers feel more confident because they know you’ll take constructive criticism and make the appropriate changes even if you go wrong.
As a result, you’ll improve satisfaction scores and deliver a better customer experience.
4. Create a knowledge base
Call center agents receive a lot of general and product/service-specific information during onboarding. To avoid any communication errors, you should ensure agents can easily search for answers through a shared knowledge database.
The database will help agents become more independent as they don’t have to rely on their supervisor or other team members to know the answers.
You can also make it a collaborative space by allowing seasoned agents to create how-to guides and provide answers to novel customer questions.
The database can be a great way of removing roadblocks, especially if you offer remote work facilities. At-home agents can stay on top of new developments and updates through this database.
5. Coach across the board
Companies often dedicate resources to training frontline employees but neglect others.
That’s a mistake.
Many departments, such as your back-office, accounting, shipping, etc., also impact the overall customer experience.
Creating an action plan to provide targeted coaching for these departments can go a long way toward:
- Promoting accountability.
- Improving team performance over time.
- Increasing employee satisfaction.
Regularly coaching all departments also puts everyone on an even footing, helping to avoid favoritism in the workplace.
Effective call center coaching can be very beneficial for your agents and customers.
It allows agents to develop various skills and learn from top performers.
As a result, they have a blueprint for managing customer interactions better, allowing them to make customers feel more engaged with your company.
When both agents and customers are satisfied, you’ll notice reduced customer complaints, improved agent productivity, and significantly increased profits.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.