Tethr Blog

Transitioning from agent manager to coach

The quality of service your organization delivers depends on the skills of your employees. But in today’s bustling work environment, supervisors are struggling to find the time needed to effectively coach staff for continual performance improvement.

Coaching is more important than ever before in today’s call center environment, as calls continue to increase in complexity.

But are you really coaching? Or are you just managing performance?

Managers must be coaches first

Managers who aren’t coaches tend to focus on performance management based on productivity improvements or achieving incentive goals. They believe that they’re coaching when they’re actually just telling their employees what to do, or micromanaging them. Therefore, the agents aren’t supported to arrive at their own solutions through learning.

The problem lies in listening—or lack thereof. Ineffective supervisors have a hard time recognizing and pointing out agent strengths due to lackluster listening skills. 

The coaching difference

Coaching is a continuous and active process. Coaches model behavior, provide timely feedback specific in language and tailored to the individual, while helping to improve the agent’s ability to drive positive customer outcomes.

Effective coaches aren’t focused on telling, but on listening. They listen first (and help agents do the same).

The key to successful coaching is keeping things focused and simple. 

Focusing your coaching

On your journey toward a more coaching-based leadership approach, it can become all too easy to start grasping at too many straws. Rather than fall victim to that chaos, simplify your strategy by learning what thing to focus on. 

  1. Focus attention: Coaching that drives results is focused on one specific goal at a time. For successful coaching, choose a focal point that directly impacts a high-level goal, and that is focused on outcomes that can be changed through agent level coaching or product improvement.
  2. Coaching sprints: A coaching sprint is dedicating call observation time over a four-to six-week period focused on one specific skill or behavior. This should be planned ahead of time so both the manager and agent knows what it is that is being observed. Use Tethr to isolate call examples related to that skill and speed gap awareness following calls by listening to recordings together.
  3. Listening posts: Listening posts are weekly calibration sessions run by leaders with their teams. Dedicate time during team meetings to discuss recent observations made using Tethr’s capabilities. Use listening posts to gauge progress, address concerns or to select the next focal area.

The impact of listening

The reach of listening is virtually endless. For managers who have trouble allowing agents to arrive at their own solutions, a lack of true listening might be to blame. Listening yields:

  1. Currency: Feedback is rooted in what’s happening with today’s customers and within the arc of the agent’s overall stage of development.
  2. Perceived fairness: Ensure examples are rooted in a representative sample, not just tied to the first thing a manager is looking for.
  3. Acceptance: Agents are more likely to prioritize coaching feedback sessions if they are part of the solution and not just on one end of a talk session.
  4. Practicing preachers: By listening to your agents, they are learning by example to be better listeners of their customers. 

Components of a good coaching flow:

Do you know what an effective coaching rhythm looks like? You can start paving the way for your ideal coaching standard by learning to:

Define good coaching: Understand what good coaching looks like and how far away you are from emulating that standard.

Document the best coaching questions: Observe how your best coaches listen and document the questions they ask while coaching.

Help your team listen first: Make listening a core point of emphasis in your first-line manager coaching program. Teach them how to listen to agents and how to ask the right questions.

Provide opportunities for supervisors to learn to listen better: Divide them in groups based on your observations, have them listen together to agent calls in one or two sessions and discuss the best questions to ask agents during coaching to improve their listening skills.

Use Tethr to target coaching:  Listen to calls and find the right examples for your coaching sessions. Compare the calls of best performing agents relative to everyone else and allow agents to learn from these examples during their coaching session.

Unlocking an agent’s potential to maximize their own performance means they need coaches who will invest in their learning, not just who will tell them what to do. Use Tethr to highlight best practices from top performers, dig into the trends taking place during your calls, test the progress of your coaching engagement and obtain same-day progress feedback for your coaching feedback and agent performance progress. Get on your way to better coaching skills today!

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