HDI 2013 - Who's Coaching the Coaches? article


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HDI 2013 - Who's Coaching the Coaches? article

  1. 1. performance matters / aug 2012Who’s Coachingthe Coaches?A hands-on approach toevaluating and improvingthe effectiveness ofcoaching interactions.By Rebecca Gibson, Interactive Intelligence Pipeline Articles www.contactcenterpipeline.com
  2. 2. Who’s Coaching the Coaches? I f you’re in one of the 99% of contact centers who task supervisors with coach- ing agent performance, you rely on daily interactions between supervisors and agents to move the needle on frontline agent performance. You probably believe that investing in coaching will positively impact your agents’ product, system and process knowledge, improve sales and productivity, boost employee engagement, and increase customer satisfaction and interaction quality. But does it? When you look at the end results in terms of sales, productivity, engage- ment, satisfaction and quality, what insight does that offer into the effectiveness of coaching Rebecca Gibson relationships and interactions? Are you convinced that you couldn’t move the needle even Interactive Intelligence further with better coaching? If you’re not sure, the best place to start is with a systematic approach for establishing standards of coaching performance and evaluating coaching effectiveness. The good news is that this is largely the same approach that you use to set standards of performance and evaluate effectiveness for your frontline agents. And, much like the cost/benefit equation you use to weigh agent development investments, it’s not terribly difficult to identify the costs associated with coaching (mostly coaches’ time) and the potential benefits in agent performance and engagement. Measure the Effectiveness of the Coaching Role Of course, proving the effectiveness of your coaching program doesn’t happen by itself. The best approach is to apply a standard performance management process to the coaching role help you get a better picture of the effectiveness of your coaching interactions. 1. Establish what you expect from your coaches The specifics of coaching programs vary depending on a wide variety of factors, the com- pany’s performance management culture, the complexity of the agent job, turnover and the organizational structure. Regardless of what you expect your coaches to do—the range of agent skills they are expected to coach (e.g., interaction performance only? Productivity and attendance? Collaboration and team interactions? Demonstrating company values?), coaching frequency, and documentation requirements—it’s imperative to establish stan- dard coaching processes and standards of coaching performance to enhance consistency and clarify expectations. Without standard, documented expectations, it’s likely that each coach approaches his or her coaching responsibilities differently, with varying levels of effec- tiveness. The SOAR Skill Assessment on page 12 is an example of a coaching scorecard that I’ve used both as a tool to document expectations and as an observation scorecard. In this exam- ple, we approached our standards of coaching performance much like a quality monitoring scorecard. We held focus groups with agents and supervisors to identify the coaching skills and behaviors necessary to achieve our desired outcomes, validated it using our company culture and values, and organized them into the easy-to-remember SOAR acronym. To sup- port the implementation of the tool, we created a one-day training program, in which we presented the overall coaching process and SOAR coaching model with plenty of opportuni- ties to practice, self-assess and receive feedback. 2. Require coaches to track and reflect on their coaching activity and results Your coaches—armed with your expectations and prepared with training and opportunities to practice and receive feedback—hold formal and informal coaching interactions every Pipeline Articles www.contactcenterpipeline.com 2
  3. 3. Who’s Coaching the Coaches? day. Now it’s time to start measuring the quality and quantity of those interactions so you can attempt to tie that activity to results. To evaluate the effectiveness of informal conversations, encourage coaches to self-reflect each week on the nature of their interactions with their team members. Did they take advan- tage of informal opportunities to praise employees’ work this week? How can they find more time in each day to engage in informal coaching conversations? Coaches are always short on time, which makes it even more important to quantify how many emails and informal conversations are taking place, and if those informal interactions are really being leveraged to effectively communicate expectations, praise and correction. Pipeline Articles www.contactcenterpipeline.com 3
  4. 4. Who’s Coaching the Coaches? Coaches can add the number of informal coaching conversations and emails to the weekly self-reflection each day. Then, use the weekly coaching self-reflection to help coaches iden- tify opportunities to increase the frequency and effectiveness of informal coaching. To evaluate formal interactions—scheduled coaching sessions that serve a specific pur- pose; e.g., to review monthly productivity or QA results—create a standard coaching tracker form to track the date of the coaching, what skills or results were coached, future agreements and how improvement will be measured. Combined with the informal self-reflection, this data will assist you and your team in establishing a yardstick against which to measure the impact of coaching on performance improvement. For additional insight, coaches can use a tool like the SOAR Skill Assessment scorecard to self-evaluate individual coaching interac- tions. For a call center manager who notices that sales numbers are dropping, a logical place to start is with this coaching data. How often are sales results being coached? Is there any infor- mation in coaches’ self-reflection which indicates that they have insight into the problem? What are the next steps and agreements documented in the formal coaching? Using this data, you’re in a position to support your coaches to, in turn, support their staff in meeting their sales numbers. 3. Ask frontline employees to evaluate coaching A prominent outsourcer takes the pulse of coaching effectiveness with a quarterly Coaching Index. Similar to an employee satisfaction survey, the index is comprised of employees’ responses to questions about coaching frequency, effectiveness and more. It’s no secret that employee resistance to coaching and feedback can significantly dimin- ish the effectiveness of your coaching efforts. This is a real argument for promoting an open, collaborative culture, in which employees’ perspectives and opinions are solicited and val- ued. You can, of course, leverage the questions in the employee satisfaction survey to learn more about how your employees perceive coaching, how involved and invested they feel in the process, and, most important, how open they are to receiving and acting on it. This can even be included as part of the coaching interaction, with coaches asking, “Do you feel our coaching interactions are beneficial? How could we work more effectively together?” 4. Observe coaching interactions and provide coaching While self-reflection is a critical component of coaches’ development, observation is the best way to evaluate your coaches’ skills. Observation and evaluation provide you with a granular view of the coach’s abilities, which allows you to provide granular feedback about everything from body language, tone, word choice and organization. A coaching scorecard, similar to the SOAR Skill Assessment, allows you to focus your coaching priorities on the observable skills and behavior that matter most and assess your coaches’ performance on solid, proven, consistent criteria. Some contact center directors or QA Managers roll their eyes when I suggest Step 4. They tell me, “People really observe live coaching interactions? That’s so awkward and too much pressure on the coach.” Now, return to the previous quotation and replace coaching with customer, and coach with agent. Just like your quality assurance process is the most immedi- ate and effective method to positively impact agent performance, observing direct coaching activity is the surest route to boosting the skills of your coaches. And, if you’ve managed to position your QA program so frontline employees understand that the purpose is to support Pipeline Articles www.contactcenterpipeline.com 4
  5. 5. Who’s Coaching the Coaches? their development and help them be more successful, then you’re equipped to position coaching observation the same way. The Most Critical Factor in Agent Performance Coaching activity is the invisible catalyst in your contact center. While the responsibilities of the frontline supervisor are often carried out with little fanfare (or feedback), the importance of their contributions can’t be underestimated. Your supervisors are the single, most critical factor in individual agent performance improvement and motivation. Measuring their effectiveness, coaching them toward increased performance and praising their successes provides them with the feedback and direction they need to create the highest level of performance improvement. Rebecca Gibson is a Strategic Consultant with Interactive Intelligence. rebeccca.gibson@inin.com (317) 493-4746 About Contact Center Pipeline Contact Center Pipeline is a monthly instructional journal focused on driving business success through effective contact center direction and decisions. Each issue contains informative articles, case studies, best practices, research and coverage of trends that impact the customer experience. Our writers and contributors are well-known industry experts with a unique understanding of how to optimize resources and maximize the value the organization provides to its customers. To learn more, visit: www.contactcenterpipeline.com This issue is available online at: Aug 2012, Contact Center Pipeline Online Resource http://www.contactcenterpipeline.com/CcpViewIndex.aspx?PubType=2Pipeline Publishing Group, Inc. PO Box 3467, Annapolis, MD 21403(443) 909-6951 ❘ info@contactcenterpipeline.com Pipeline Articles www.contactcenterpipeline.com 5