Smart Strategies for Coaching Call Center Agents

How do call center agents and sales reps learn the ropes of making customer contact fun and impactful? After all, most people aren’t born knowing how to land a sales pitch, troubleshoot technical issues or field complaints from irate consumers. Instead, they’ll turn to you for clues, and you’d better be ready to inspire them with useful pointers.

Your ability to operate a thriving contact center depends on how well you coach your agents. It takes more than a knack for giving motivational speeches or writing call scripts, however.

Want to get better at coaching call center agents? Mastering the following strategies is in your company’s best interest.

Identifying the Key Hurdles of Coaching Call Center Agents

Like any teacher, you’re up against many challenges. One of the most important parts of being a good coach is learning to recognize and overcome common obstacles:

Poor Knowledge Retention

When faced with the nerve-wracking uncertainty of taking their first real calls, many agents utterly forget their training. Some assessments suggest that workplace trainees will have lost 40 percent of what they learned 20 minutes later and a whopping 90 percent after one month.

As a result, coaching call center agent’s effectively is as much a challenge in habit formation as it is a challenge in teaching skills for the first time. Getting reps to actually use their lesson on the phones is often more important than the actual training itself.

Scheduling Constraints

Time isn’t always on your side when you’re coaching call center agents. Managers who have to train large teams can easily find themselves overwhelmed. Even worse, their attention blind spots may directly contribute to skills gaps among their students.

Separately, most call centers are operating at full capacity, which doesn’t allow much time for training.

Inappropriate Training Workloads

It’s critical to hit an ideal training regimen sweet spot. Overly burdensome and boringly sparse workloads are both potential causes of job dissatisfaction that can make it hard to retain agents. If you don’t want people to get the wrong impression and drop out during training, you’ll cater the program to what they can handle, which may require more accurate analytics and feedback.

Difficult Learning Curves

It’s not always easy for people to adjust to the irregular schedules of call center operations — Varying call volumes can mean that agents have to go from a laid-back pace into overdrive mode at the drop of a hat. Making the shift may prove particularly problematic for individuals who have poor organization skills or difficulty keeping consecutive tasks separate.

These are just some of the problems you’ll face as you try to turn regular professionals into superior call agents. Before getting started, it’s wise to assess the unique situational aspects of your organizational workflow or structure that might also present challenges, such as

  • Labor shortages,
  • Environmental noise and stress,
  • Ergonomic distractions,
  • Low-quality workforces,
  • Difficulty conversing naturally, and
  • Call topics that may make agents feel like they’re out of their comfort zones.

Break Down the Barriers to Coaching Call Center Agents by Rethinking Your Training Strategy

Want to become a better coach who can brush off challenges like a boss? To keep your agents on track, you’ll need a training system that lets you establish and maintain lofty standards.

What Makes an Ideal Training Methodology for Coaching Call Center Agents?

Training frameworks are important because they go beyond your human limitations. Think about it as if you were coaching a sports team to win a championship — You’d have assistants, physical trainers and a small village of other personnel working behind the scenes to keep the squad moving in the right direction.

Of course, this is just an analogy. Before you rush to hire a bunch of upper-level managers to help with coaching call center agents, you should remember that more bureaucracy isn’t necessarily a good thing — In many cases, it could weigh down your organization and compromise its ability to stay agile.

Letting Call Center Agent Coaching Systems Shoulder Some of the Burdens

Good training systems avoid topheavy outcomes and minimize costs by adapting to demand with technology. They let you do more with the same human resources instead of asking you to augment your staff to the point of capsizing. For this reason, many call center managers are switching to A.I. that guides calls as they occur, which coach call center agents as they are actually on the phone.

  • Coach call center agents in real time,
  • Continue training on the job,
  • Maintain standards without depending on faulty human memory, and
  • View analytics data that charts progress and business value in clearer terms.

Call monitoring tools that use A.I. to intelligently analyze spoken discourse give you enhanced power to make smarter decisions about coaching call center agents. By putting feedback at your fingertips as well as making it more accessible to agents, they ensure that you can learn from your organizational mistakes and refine your professional education strategy.

Applying Your Teaching Tools Correctly

There are many different schools of thought regarding what constitutes effective workplace training. Fortunately, you don’t have to draw a line in the sand and commit yourself to one methodology — As long as your training system is flexible enough, you can adapt to the knowledge you acquire right along with your staff.

How might this look in action? Try some of these pointers for coaching call center agents more naturally with artificial intelligence frameworks:

Work to Fight Stress

You should care about your workers’ well-being — and not just because you’re a nice person. Improving worker welfare contributes to economic growth, better customer service and a host of other advantages.

Become your team’s biggest stress-reduction advocate to make coaching call center agents easier on everyone. Comprehensive systems that do everything from managing call queuing to enforcing break schedules might help you limit easily avoidable stressors that tend to leave agents feeling underappreciated and burned out.

Live call monitoring systems that coach agents in real time also give them the tools to master stress-handling techniques on their own. For instance, learning to listen to complaints without interrupting can be a helpful way to de-escalate heated calls that would normally erupt into high-tension situations. A.I. coaches that give reps suggestions on what to say and how to phrase their responses are also great at making your team members feel less lost.

Teach Soft Skills Continuously

Soft skills, such as genuinely listening and understanding others, make it easier for reps to connect with customers. Imparting these talents has direct ROI benefits — Knowing how to respond appropriately makes it more likely that customers will stay loyal.

Finesse isn’t something that reps can learn all at once by copying down notes from a whiteboard or memorizing some cheesy-sounding script. Skills like active listening are rooted in experiential knowledge that takes time and repetition to acquire.

Coaching call center agents in real time is the obvious solution for providing gentle nudges instead of overbearing, easily forgettable examples. Because the training happens on the spot, it’s simpler to reinforce the effect by letting reps observe how their actions contribute to positive outcomes and happy customers. Since many soft skills can only be mastered by breaking ingrained bad habits, this gradual approach is a less confrontational way to overcome an agent’s resistance to change.

Make Help Accessible at All Times

When most people learn to ride a bike, they want someone there to walk with them for a bit before they feel confident enough to push off and start pedaling solo. Although the potential risks of failure aren’t quite the same with call center agent training, good coaches let reps know that they always have readily available lifelines.

Getting trainees accustomed to using A.I. dashboards helps them stay focused because they’re not worried about what might happen if things go wrong. When the system understands that callers are frustrated and offers de-escalation suggestions to keep the dialog moving, facing the unknown becomes less frightening.

Make A.I. a presence early to ensure that reps know where to turn for help. They’ll have less tendency to escalate calls to supervisors unnecessarily, and they’ll be more likely to provide accurate answers when clients inevitably ask gotcha questions.

Democratize Feedback Data

Performance data isn’t just there to tell managers who to promote and reprimand. It can also keep agents motivated to perform by comparing them to their colleagues in a non-threatening, gamified way.

Use your A.I. agent coaching system to encourage healthy competition. Instead of always having to crack down in the hopes of reinforcing standards, you can let reps choose the skills they want to focus on as they try to outdo their peers in the pursuit of professional excellence.

Coaching Call Center Agents Shouldn’t Be Hard

Coaching call center agents is easier when you have the right tools backing you up. Whether you prefer to keep things hands-on or step back and let your team expand its skills organically, A.I. live call monitoring tools like Balto make it possible to implement focused, high-ROI training.

Why struggle with coaching call center agents when you can instantly deploy a system that disseminates accurate feedback and insights at the optimal times for the biggest impacts? Check out Balto’s powerful artificial intelligence today.

Originally published Apr 22, 2019 8:07 pm