The Perfect Agent: Tools and Technology for Coaching Your Support Team


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How do you motivate people to deliver excellent performance, whether they are in the next cubicle or far away?

Communications skills expert Rich Gallagher, a noted author and trainer who is also a former support manager, joins with Citrix to share the secrets to getting the best out of today's distributed support team.

Based on concepts from Gallagher's latest book, How to Tell Anyone Anything: Breakthrough Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work, this free Webinar will help you get the best out of everyone in today's virtual support environment.

This Webinar’s topics will include:

-- The psychology of a typical agent
-- Strength-based coaching techniques that create real performance change
-- Managing performance problems from near and far
-- Making your agents part of a team
-- How technology can help improve remote-support performance

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The Perfect Agent: Tools and Technology for Coaching Your Support Team

  1. 1. The Perfect Agent: Tools and Technology for Coaching Your Support Team Listen to audio over your computer speakers or you may phone in: Australia #: 03 9008 6791 New Zealand #: 09 985 3580 Access Code: 639-561-271 We will begin at approximately 11am Australian EDST
  2. 2. Introduction to Moderator Roger Courville Co-founder, Principal
  3. 3. Introduction to Speakers Rich Gallagher, President, Point of Contact Group @gallagherPOC Brenda Dentinger, Product Marketing, Citrix Online @brendadentinger
  4. 4. The Perfect Agent: Tools and Technology for Coaching Your Support Team Presented by Rich Gallagher Author of How to Tell Anyone Anything: Breakthrough Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work
  5. 5. What we will cover today How to coach agents so they will (a) listen and (b) improve their performance, using recent principles from psychology How to leverage technology to manage agent performance from around the corner or around the world How to help everyone on your team become the perfect agent
  6. 6. Polling Question Your agent just snapped at a difficult customer. How do you respond? 1. “Don’t ever yell at a customer again.” 2. “You should probably take a break.” 3. “This customer was obviously bothering you. Tell me what happened.” 4. Say nothing in the heat of the moment – save it for later.
  7. 7. Why your agents tune you out Most of us practice deficit-based communications: we find something wrong and try to correct it. This is a basic survival instinct Most of us hate being on the receiving end of deficit-based communications – especially in a high-stress job like customer contact! This is also a basic survival instinct Deficit-based messages usually fail no matter how “correct” your points are.
  8. 8. The psychology of a typical support agent Agents often feel they lack control: Intensive personal contact Constant exposure to your least happy customers Little control over policy or product/service quality Combined with high standards and constant measurement, contact center agents tend to react poorly to traditional deficit-based feedback.
  9. 9. So how do we get people to listen to us? By practicing a strength-based approach to our interactions with other people. Strength-based approaches, as the name implies, focus on the strengths and interests of the other person.
  10. 10. Great! So why isn’t everyone strength- based already? Strength-based communications are very powerful, and go completely against our human nature. When an employee is late again, the last thing you want to do is “understand” (normalise) it. When you feel someone is dead wrong, the last thing you want to do is explore the benefits of their approach. When someone is rude and abrasive, the last thing we want to ask is what frustrates them. But this is exactly what will keep these people in dialogue, and help them change their behavior!
  11. 11. The basics of strength-based feedback: The CANDID approach Compartmentalise the message into its “safe” (neutral) and “unsafe” components. Ask questions, starting in the neutral zone. Normalise the situation. Discuss the details – and acknowledge the other person’s responses. Incentivise the outcome. De-emphasise the encounter and move on.
  12. 12. Polling Question Your agent is about half as productive as the other agents. How might you open the discussion? 1. “Let’s look at your time to resolution.” 2. “You are not as fast as other agents.” 3. “Walk me through the process you use for a typical case.” 4. “I could help you speed up your work.”
  13. 13. Step 1: Compartmentalise Break down the message into its “safe” and “unsafe” parts. Open the discussion in the neutral zone, saying safe things that will not get the other person on the defensive. This is the hardest part of the process, and works best when it is planned in advance.
  14. 14. Examples of the neutral zone Have the other person describe what happened. “Could you walk me through how you do this?” “How do you usually handle these customers?” “It sounds like this was very frustrating for you – tell me about it.” Ask the other person how they are doing. Make a neutral observation. “I notice an interesting dynamic when one of your calls go on too long.” Use the “I” technique – talk about times you or others have been in the same situation.
  15. 15. Step 2: Ask questions Ask appropriate questions, based on the other person’s responses. The goal is to be “curious, not furious.” Good questions have three goals: They show interest in the other person They provide a face-saving way for the other person to acknowledge their behavior in their own words. They focus the other person focused on solving the problem themselves
  16. 16. Polling Question Your agent says it is hard to follow all of your case logging procedures. What is your initial response? 1. “Most of the other agents follow these procedures correctly.” 2. “Here is why these rules are important.” 3. “No one likes to feel overwhelmed doing their job.” 4. “You could probably use some more coaching.”
  17. 17. Step 3: Normalise Understand and acknowledge the other person’s behavior, even when it is wrong. This is NOT the same as agreeing with it. The most effective way to get someone in dialogue about a Bad Thing is to make it safe to talk about it. Commonly seen in the movies, as the “good cop, bad cop” technique.
  18. 18. Step 4: Discuss the issue Note that this is the fourth step – for most people it is the first step. Bring up the issue at hand, as neutrally and factually as possible. Make the other person part of the process of solving the issue, using phrases such as “What do you think?” Empathise with every response – because feelings are never wrong. This is NOT the same as agreeing with them.
  19. 19. Examples of productive discussion The problem How to discuss it Your performance hasn’t been up to Normally, a typically employee handles X transactions par lately. per day. Your productivity has been about 40 per cent of that recently. What do you think might be the reasons for that? Your short temper is getting on I sense that you are feeling angry a lot lately, and it has people’s nerves lately. been impacting other people’s morale. What do you think might help solve the problem from here? You are dropping the ball on Several customers have been sharing concerns about important customer issues. getting follow-up on their issues recently. What is your take on the situation?
  20. 20. Step 5: Incentivise Give the other person a benefit for changing. Word things in their interest. Express confidence in them. At the end of the day, no one ever changes their behavior unless it benefits them in some tangible way.
  21. 21. Step 6: Disengage De-emphasise the encounter and shift back into the normal workday. Change the subject towards other areas – preferably strengths – that are part of the relationship you have with this person. Should represent a positive, supportive transition away from the feedback dialogue. Important step in reaffirming the relationship.
  22. 22. Making agents part of your team Keep everyone abreast of industry best practices Advances in technology Trends in your marketplace Build a sense of community 2-3 weeks of continuing education per year Use technology to bring remote agents into meetings and training They “get” the front line – use and leverage their expertise
  23. 23. Summary When you are facing a difficult discussion, write it down – C-A-N-D-I-D – and plan what you are going to say Take a learning posture instead of a critical one Makes it easier, not harder, to have high standards Creates self-imposed performance gains Make your agents part of something bigger than themselves with teamwork and continuing education
  24. 24. Learn more with a free offer! • Learn how to painlessly coach any agent using techniques from strength-based psychology • Published by Amacom/McGraw-Hill • Order online and get a free communications skills library! E-mail your receipt to
  25. 25. More resources To learn more about today’s topic, visit Rich Gallagher’s communication skills training programs, visit To contact Rich: Email: Twitter: @gallagherPOC
  26. 26. Maximise Your Coaching Skills with Remote Support Technology ©2009 Citrix Online, a division of Citrix Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. Collaboration Features • Screen Sharing • Remote Control • Chat Capabilities • Team Collaboration • Supervisor Silent Monitoring • Management Centre • Reporting ©2009 Citrix Online, a division of Citrix Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. Using GoToAssist to Create the Perfect Agent CUSTOMER CUSTOMER SILENT SILENT SESSION SESSION MANAGEMENT MANAGEMENT SURVEYS SURVEYS MONITORING MONITORING RECORDING RECORDING CENTRE CENTRE Immediate Immediate Tune into live Tune into live Review Review Access to all Access to all feedback feedback sessions, watch sessions, watch recorded recorded your data in your data in using surveys using surveys reps in action reps in action sessions later sessions later one place one place
  30. 30. Collaborating and Coaching with GoToAssist
  31. 31. Questions & Answers
  32. 32. Get Started Today! Complimentary Trial 1800 451 485 (AU) 0800 42 4874 (NZ) +61 2 8870 0870 Look for a Link to the Recorded Session within 24 Hours