One of the key coaching skills I discuss with managers is the difference between “telling” agents and “asking” agents. Most coaches understand this and agree that agents are more responsive to being asked questions about skills in coaching rather than just getting wordy lectures from the coach. But the benefit of using interactive techniques is more than just an opportunity to gain agent trust during coaching.
Asking good questions during our coaching sessions is a way to bring the agent to the realization that they have the skills to coach themselves too.
Agents shouldn’t be solely dependent upon their managers and coaches for skill suggestions and training. We want our agents to learn to be more self-aware of what is happening before, during and after their calls and interactions with customers.
Doing a self-critique after a call can be challenging for an agent unless the agent is able to take a moment before the next call to reflect or even listen to the call on their own. This can be limited by time available for such review and the technology we have for them. Not every call has to be reviewed by the agent, just as coaches are not able to listen to every call. Skill patterns, what an agent does well and what they struggle with, tend to be consistent and so they appear regularly in their communications.
Agents can more easily self-critique their emails by reading from the customer’s perspective before hitting send. They should ask themselves how they would feel if they were on the receiving end of the email. Would it make them feel valued as a customer or feel like a robotic, indifferent response was received?
Chats are very fast paced, however, agents also have the opportunity to review before hitting send. Customers using chat don’t want to repeat their question twice to get the correct information. Unfortunately the push for quick response times may lead to equally rushed responses resulting in the need to apologize and extend the chat to fix errors the agent has made.
How can we help our agents learn how to review their skills and “self-coach” their customer interactions?
1. Ask More than You Tell
Ask for agent input during your coaching. Ask the agent to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and discuss how they would feel. Play their call and ask about the skills they are using and why. Look at emails and chats with them and see what they think about the interactions.
Playing a call and stopping at skill points to discuss is much better than playing a call quickly through and asking them for input at the end. I’ve seen agents scratch their heads trying to remember if they did “this or that” during the interaction due to the length and involvement of the call. Help them to learn the key skills used throughout the interaction.
2. Create Desktop “Skill” Checklists
Make sure each agent has a list of skill reminders next to their phone/monitor so they can glance at it before they take that next call or chat or reply to a customer email. This could be a list of one word reminders based on the coaching skill monitoring forms you use.
Self-awareness doesn’t mean that they have to keep a million reminders in their head. There is nothing wrong with having written tips, including phrases or questions they want to remember to use to create a great customer experience. Ask them to write these ideas in their own words since writing them also helps them to remember them and phrase in their own unique communication style.
A few days after coaching with them, ask the agent what they have been working on, how it’s going, what have they noticed. Your coaching input is important too but stop by their desk and ask rather then tell. You can add your own comments after they share. You want them to know that their self-critique is an important part of learning and improving their skills and that you appreciate their efforts to do this. Encourage them to critique themselves and recognize weak areas they want to improve and also their best skills.