Here are steps from a proven program to incorporate this feedback cycle into your operations.
I’ve been asked many times how to improve and sustain performance after the call model is built and training is complete. My answer is a consistent cycle of listening and coaching.
Implement a Listening Program with Tools for Consistency
Providing feedback real-time on a consistent basis is the only way to ensure high levels of performance. Ground your agents on your expectations for a great call. You can do this by implementing a listening program and providing listening tools to promote consistency.
How to do it:
Use a Call Coaching Form that Aligns with your Call Model
- Develop a call coaching form and consistently use it when providing feedback. The call coaching form should align with your call model and should be simple enough to guide an agent through any type of call. It should provide space to score each section, so that you can track results and have adequate room to provide thorough feedback, including specific examples.
Share the Good and the Bad Calls to Show Expectations
- Define what you expect in each section of the call, so your agents will understand what success looks and sounds like. You can pull a great call as an example of the phrases and effective communication techniques to use throughout a call.
- Don’t always play good calls. Mix it up and play challenging calls and role play on what to do differently. You can do this one-on-one or in a team meeting. When role playing in a group, people hear new phrases and learn from their peers.
Listen to Calls in Real Time, Either Remotely or to Gain New Perspectives
- Develop a call listening program to ensure that you have standards for listening to calls and providing feedback.
- Monthly, perform remote listening as well as side-by-side listening and provide feedback immediately. Side-by-side listening gathers efficiency opportunities and workflow best practices from peers. Agents should have the opportunity to to listen to their calls and discuss what opportunities they find. Usually, they will be harder on themselves than management.
Coaching for High Performance is a Delicate Balance
When you have feedback to provide, your delivery is critical to the agent’s motivation to succeed. Incorporate a formal feedback program so that managers should learn how to provide feedback and how to coach for high levels of performance. Training should include a certification process to ensure that managers are qualified to provide feedback the right way.
I’ve created a simple coaching model within a feedback program that managers can follow.
ASSESS to make sure you’re clear on the coaching/feedback needed. Use this stage to familiarize yourself with agent behaviors and actions. Then, write it all down. Here are the steps for each task in the Assess Stage.
- Identify feedback needs to ensure you’re efficient with what should be reviewed.
- Understand your company’s communicated expectations so your feedback aligns with company goals.
- Schedule the appropriate amount of time and type of observations so that your feedback is reflective of actual performance (e.g. you can’t listen to 2 calls/month and provide feedback if the agent is taking over 100 calls per day).
- Observe behaviors and actions so you can provide examples for better comprehension.
- Review all systems used and actions that were taken so that you get a complete picture of agent activity.
- Record the situation (e.g., if observing calls, record the call) to have an unbiased example.
- Document findings on a form (e.g., call listening form, monthly review document) to ensure consistency.
- Document specific examples or provide quotes to share a clear picture of the situation and the behaviors to keep or be fixed.
- Capture strengths and opportunities to balance feedback.
PREPARE so that you are rock solid on the information you are about to share and how you plan to share it. Extra preparation up front ensures that you can handle any questions or hiccups.
- Consolidate feedback, ensure documentation is specific (e.g., ask yourself if the (or your) information clearly describes how agents can achieve the expected behavior).
- Organize feedback into themes so that your feedback is readily accessible, and you don’t have to hunt for it.
Select Coaching Style
- Select a coaching style that is appropriate for the scenario or agent receptiveness (e.g., If the agent has already received this feedback multiple times, you will need to understand why they haven’t implemented feedback versus a new agent who is hearing the feedback for the first time).
- Seek to understand the agent’s mind set (e.g., Ask yourself if they are normally receptive or defensive to feedback? You may need to adjust your coaching style).
- Select a time and virtual method appropriate for a feedback session (e.g., private line, secure area).
DELIVER feedback so that it is positively accepted. Be specific, provide helpful tools and resources and convey an authentic desire to help the agent be successful.
- Present feedback in an ‘Oreo Cookie’ style, providing strengths AND opportunities rather than one-sided (all strengths or all opportunities unless the call requires that).
- Use ‘I’ phrases, to communicate what you will personally follow-up with to ensure your agent knows you will be involved and that you care about their success.
- Select positive words and motivational phrases, but deliver them authentically.
- Demonstrate appropriate control (e.g., don’t match frustration levels).
- Seek to understand the agent’s thought process (e.g., ask the agent to share what they are reviewing/considering when making a decision).
- Confirm retention of feedback presented (e.g., ask them to respond back with what they are taking away).
- Provide resources for self-service to close any identified gaps (e.g., Are there any classes or on-line tutorials available).
- Partner with the agent on a plan to achieve the desired behaviors (e.g., leave the conversation with written next steps for both you and the agent).
REWARD AND RESET: Praise achieved behavior or seek to understand why the feedback that has been delivered has not been addressed.
- Schedule a time to follow-up and complete additional evaluations based on gaps previously identified for sustainability and continuous improvement.
- Look for ways to recognize the individual for achieving desired behaviors such as showcasing the behaviors at the next team meeting.
Manage / Reset Expectations
- Tie feedback to a performance evaluation that pulls together all of the feedback in a digestible format; then have a discussion that reviews a few focus areas at a time.
- Follow performance management guidelines to ensure consequences are put in place if behaviors aren’t achieved.
- Reset expectations and confirm understanding with agent so that the cycle can start again.
Optimal Performance Continues with the Right Feedback and Coaching
I’ve developed this time-tested coaching and feedback program and used it internally and with clients.
Use the complete framework to make agents aware of any existing performance gaps. This way, they’ll understand expectations and can get the training and tools for ongoing success. Contact us today to talk about how to improve your call performance.
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