Whether you’re lifting up customer service agents who fall behind or making superstars even better, coaching methods for customer service are more important now than ever before. Excellent customer service is increasingly seen as a key differentiator for companies worldwide, and everyone in the team needs to deliver their best to make sure it happens.
In Google’s Project Oxygen rigorous, data-driven analysis, the results showed that the best managers are good coaches. Good managers were associated not only with good team performance but high employee satisfaction as well.
Some leaders might worry that telling staff members hard truths about their performance might lead to discontent in the workforce, but the Google study shows that’s not necessarily true.
Approached in the right way, coaching actually increases a team member’s commitment to the company.
Even team members who are highly competent, trained, and talented need some help now and then to bring out their best.
Of course, customer service agents who are struggling can definitely benefit from coaching and the right coaching methods for customer service can help your organization adapt to changing goals and priorities.
In today’s business climate, with new disruptors introduced every year, the ability to change with the market is a huge advantage. Implement some of these coaching methods for customer service and give your business the edge that it needs.
1. Cultivate strong relationships
The most sophisticated coaching methods for customer service won’t work well if they don’t come from the heart. If you’ve built a trusting relationship with your team, half the coaching work is already done.
They’ll feel comfortable coming to you for help. And when it’s time to set individual goals, it’ll be easier to work together since they know you have their best interests in mind.
2. Set measurable goals with clear deadlines
Before you begin a coaching session, you should have all the reports and statistics you need to make your case. Be specific when you discuss issues that need improvement.
For instance, “Your customer satisfaction score dropped by 15% last month. We need to work together to get it back up. I'd like to see it rise by 50% over the next 2 weeks, and back up to normal again by the end of the month,” is a clear, objective, actionable plan.
Saying, “You need to fix your problem with your customer satisfaction score,” is likely to be confusing and unhelpful. (Not to mention, problematic in other ways as well.)
3. Focus on the behavior, not the person
It's more likely to provoke resistance when you frame something as “their problem”. It might be taken as a personal attack, which will cause someone to go on the defensive instead of listening to what you have to say.
The best coaching methods for customer service keep the spotlight on the action or behavior that needs improvement, not the character of the person involved.
4. Keep it private
In general, it's best to keep coaching sessions confidential, especially if the customer service agent is having trouble. No one enjoys feeling like their weaknesses are exposed publicly.
Shame is not a good coaching tool.
5. Don’t forget the positive
Show your customer service staff that you still value their contribution, even if they're having issues right now. During a coaching session, mention the parts of their job they're good at, and not only the parts they need to work on.
Show your appreciation for them as a team member, but state your expectations for improvement clearly and firmly. They should leave the coaching session knowing exactly what the situation is and what they need to do to improve.
6. Ask staff to assess their own performance
A good coaching method for customer service is to ask the customer service agents what they could do better and how they think they could improve.
It’s also a good idea to look at their stats with them. You could go further and listen to previous customer interactions together.
Discuss the portions that went well and ask the customer service agents to evaluate their performance in the areas that need improvement.
7. Role play
Role-playing is a great method for giving someone more insight into a problem. You and your team member can play different roles in the customer interaction. You can show how you would have handled the situation, allowing the customer service agents to learn in a hands-on fashion.
8. Find out what the roadblocks are
Ask the customer service agent what is standing in the way of great performance (or greater performance if they are already doing well).
For instance, they might be having difficulties hearing the customers over the ambient noise in the call center. This problem is easy to fix with a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Perhaps they are temperamentally suited to handling intricate technical issues, but dealing with returns is more difficult for them. If this is the case, you can use skill-based routing to divert customers to the customer service agents best-suited to handle specific issues.
9. Get team input for the action plan
When you involve the customer service agents in formulating the action plan, you can make sure you are both on the same page.
You know they understand what actions they need to take since they helped come up with the list. Including them in the process increases their motivation to succeed.
It becomes something they chose themselves, not something that was imposed on them from the outside.
Collaborating with the customer service agent also gives them the chance to tell you about potential problems. You'll be able to work through these together ahead of time, increasing the efficiency of the coaching process.
10. Track progress
Once you’ve set goals, check in regularly to see how the customer service agent is doing. You can listen in to their calls to see if they are implementing the desired changes.
If they need a bit more coaching you can provide it immediately before they get too far off-course.
Have regular discussions about the customer service agent's progress. Coaching for customer service should be an organic feedback loop, not confined to formal sessions. With the right attitude, regular coaching can promote an atmosphere of productivity that's good for everyone concerned.
What coaching methods have worked for your customer service department? Let us know in the comment box below!