There are a few people who are natural agents and innately know how to deliver a great customer experience (CX). Most people, however, need to be trained and coached. This is particularly true because great service means something different to most companies and consumers. And since these differences exist, the key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure a company’s success should reflect their culture and ability to deliver on their own unique set of customer expectations. This is especially the case for contact center agents, who are frequently viewed by consumers as the organization’s “front door.”
It’s one thing to teach a new employee how to use a customer relationship management (CRM) system or other servicing solution. It’s another to help them develop the ability to be empathetic and caring to customers who are sometimes demanding and difficult. Effective training cannot be one-size-fits-all, as every person has a preferred learning style and individual needs. Similarly, a single approach or method of coaching is inadequate for a contact center because every employee has different strengths and opportunities.
For these reasons, companies need a performance coaching program; one that is dedicated to building a contact center that meets or exceeds customer expectations for a great service experience.
DMG Consulting, a leading independent contact center and back-office industry analyst and research firm, defines performance coaching as “a data-driven and standards-based process for improving and sustaining employee (agent) performance and engagement.”
Performance coaching uses a variety of KPIs to create goals for the department and each individual so that everyone knows the targets. The KPIs are measured and shared with each agent on a continuous basis. This approach, which encourages employee involvement in their success, lets each agent know how they are doing and enables them to self-manage and modify their performance.
What sets performance coaching apart from general (or “cookie-cutter”) coaching is that it is based on each agent’s individual performance as measured against predefined (and agreed-upon) goals and KPIs. This transparency ensures that everyone involved in the process knows what they are striving to achieve, giving them a great opportunity to hit their targets.
One of the most common complaints from agents in contact centers (whether they are doing customer service, sales, collections, or other functions) is that they don’t have visibility into how well they are performing against their goals for the day, month, quarter, or full year. Even more frustrating is when agents are simply not made aware of their goals and targets.
Performance coaching resolves these issues; it is designed to make sure that agents – and their supervisors, managers, quality management specialists, and trainers – are all aligned and managing to the right targets. Since performance coaching provides insights into the objectives for each agent, team, and the entire contact center, every employee knows exactly how well they, and the operation they are a part of, are doing at all times.
Consider the case of a sales or collections agent who is highly motivated to hit their daily (or monthly) goals and works hard for the variable portion of their compensation (which may represent a significant percentage of their pay). Without visibility into their real-time performance, they cannot self-correct or know when they need to change their approach, resulting in missed bonus opportunities.
Performance coaching is equally important for sales and collections agents who aren’t driven by compensation plans or customer service agents whose roles do not include variable compensation. In these cases, KPI-based coaching helps employees self-manage their performance (including knowing when to ask for help) so that they can deliver the best possible customer experience or receive rewards and recognition through gamification applications. And their success as agents will greatly influence their career opportunities within the contact center and possibly other parts of the enterprise.
Performance coaching empowers agents by giving them easy access to their personal targets and up-to-date information regarding how well they are achieving their goals. This eliminates the frustration of waiting for a supervisor, business analyst, or operations manager to find time to share this data with them, which could happen once a day, or week, or longer. Giving agents this visibility greatly improves the dynamic of a contact center and enhances their engagement by removing the mystery behind KPIs.
It’s also very positive for supervisors because it enables them to have the time to concentrate on helping and coaching their agents, instead of creating reports and scorecards. (Far too often, contact center supervisors have little time to spend on actual “coaching.”) When a performance coaching approach is applied, supervisors (as well as agents) have easy and convenient access to the data they need, freeing them to use their time to build and deliver unique and effective coaching plans for each agent. This enables supervisors to do the job they signed up for: helping agents deliver a great experience, which clearly enhances the CX and brand.
Providing real-time transparency into performance is good for agents, supervisors, the contact center, the enterprise, and the customer. A standardized program that enables supervisors to deliver the right coaching to each agent, in addition to giving agents insights into their own performance, enhances employee engagement, success, and retention. Plus, it improves the company’s bottom line.
To learn more about the process, get insights on how to develop an effective coaching program, and find out what KPIs are recommended for agents, read DMG’s new white paper about how Performance Coaching Drives Agent Engagement.