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Why coaching in the moment is the best kind of coaching you can do

Most of our clients use customer feedback as a key element of their training programmes for contact centre staff. Typically feedback is aggregated by a team leader on a weekly or fortnightly basis and a summary of results shared with individual team members. Development needs are identified, targets set and performance monitored, often with the involvement of HR. Sometimes though instant sharing of customer feedback can provide a far more powerful basis for training and this is one of the greatest strengths of real-time ‘voice of the customer’ feedback programmes.

Regular praise and recognition makes good business sense

A worldwide study by research group Gallup concluded that employees who receive regular praise are more productive, more engaged and more loyal - a view shared by Sir Alex Ferguson who believed:

“Few people get better with criticism; so I tried to give encouragement when I could. For a player — for any human being — there is nothing better than hearing ‘Well done.’ Those are the two best words ever invented..” However regular praise from the same person, a manager or team leader, risks becoming repetitive and less inspiring. So the opportunity to deliver praise from multiple voices should be grasped with both hands. This is where real-time customer feedback comes into its own. Most customers who complete post-transaction surveys appreciate the positive experience they have had; and many of these will reference by name the person they have spoken to. IVR surveys can capture an audio file of these comments and allow agents to listen to the actual voice of the customer expressing gratitude, describing excellent service or explaining how they have been helped to overcome a real problem. The power and drama of hearing feedback in the customer's own words and intonation cannot be over-estimated.

Let your customers show you how to improve

Real-time feedback is also invaluable in helping improve overall service levels. First it will identify the bottom quartile of performers on whom you need to focus your training resource. Then it will provide you with clear instructions, again in the customer’s own words, on how each individual agent can improve their performance (the beauty of ‘voice of the customer’ feedback is that it defines issues at agent level). Thirdly, it is completely impartial, based on actual customer feedback rather than the third-party monitoring and observations of managers or HR folk.

Your customers will tell you if one of your team “sounds like she’s talking from a script”, “mumbles their words”, or “said she didn’t know much about the product”. They will identify shortcomings in product knowledge, levels of empathy, ability to listen or take responsibility. They will even identify failings in common courtesy (“I don’t like being called by my first name”) or overuse of colloquial language (“he doesn’t need to say ‘no problem’ all the time”).

Customer feedback provides a lens that will highlight even the smallest failing. And with the new breed of VoC specialists able to provide customer feedback direct to an agent's desk, individuals can take responsibility for their own coaching. One of our clients had an adviser who spotted a number of comments about his tendency to start each sentence with ‘ummm’ and managed to train himself out of the habit.

Why instant feedback works best

Being in a position to coach agents while an exchange with a customer is still fresh in their memory lends a freshness and a force to the training that cannot be replicated by classroom-based coaching. The spontaneity of coaching in the moment means that it registers more deeply with the person being coached and is more likely to be acted on. Here are our 5 top tips for coaching in the moment:

  • Offer praise more often than constructive criticism
  • Guide don’t tell - let the individuals work out the best way to have handled a situation
  • Work with your staff – we all perform better when we have the support of others
  • Ensure development plans are within the scope of the individual – don’t leave your employees with too big a mountain climb; they will get disheartened
  • Follow up and follow-through – monitor performance to ensure the coaching has led to improvement; identify the next stage for improvement.

If you have any thoughts or experiences you'd like to share about coaching in the moment please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can reach me on 01603 618326 or thomas.cjohnson@servicetick.com.

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