Call center coaching techniques for addressing agent errors

Monday, February 16, 2015

Answering calls the entire day can be challenging for customer service agents, so it's no surprise that they may commit one or two mistakes every now and then. Open Access BPO discusses the team leader's role in monitoring their call center team's performance and addressing every agent's errors to ensure high quality customer care to each and every caller.

As team leaders, it can be challenging to objectively relay negative feedback about your team's performance. There’s always a fine line that you must consider to avoid your agents from feeling demoralized; a slight change in the tone of your voice might be misinterpreted as a sign of aggression, or you may be accused of unfairly humiliating a poorly performing agent. All these can lead to unhealthy working relationships, and low productivity.

Contact center agents can only identify their mistakes and learn when their supervisors are able to pinpoint their actions that call for improvements. The manner in which the negative feedback is expressed is definitely essential so that they can take constructive criticisms well.

Here are a few call center coaching tips to help you talk to your agents about their mistakes and help them hit the target customer service metrics at every call:

1.   Make it timely
If you notice that your employees are not handling customer calls properly, you need to talk to them right away. Don’t put it off until the next annual performance review when the issues have already been closed and solved on their own, and your agent's poor performance have taken a toll on your customer service quality.

Agents may also form negative speculations as to why you have piled all their mistakes instead of correcting them as they happens. By pinpointing their errors immediately after they're committed, agents can be more careful and will always remember to avoid making them again.

2.   Be specific
When coaching contact center agents, always clearly state what they've done wrong. Be as detailed as possible. While it can be tempting to put the details under a big umbrella to make it sound less harsh, it's important that you address the specific mistake or problem they must resolve and not commit again. Avoid sandwiching a negative feedback with compliments, instead to keep the conversation straight to the point so your agents can focus well on what they can do to improve.

3.   Focus on the issue
The emphasis must always be "what" and not "who." Dwelling on the latter may lead the agents to take the criticisms personally. In addressing concerns, team leaders must only focus on the negative behavior rather than point fingers and unearth old mistakes. Having a focused discussion with your agents can lead to clearer and specific resolutions that need to be achieved at the end of the day.

4.   Keep it private
Even though giving negative feedback in front of your agents is unavoidable, you must keep your temper under control and leave the rest of the discussion behind closed doors. Agents, even team leaders, don’t like to be put under the spotlight in the presence of other people. This can be humiliating and can easily shatter their self-esteem, negatively affecting their work performance and, ultimately, putting their future in the company in trouble. So find a perfect place where you can talk privately.

5.   Agree on solutions
The most important part of any discussion is agreeing on a definite plan to alleviate the current effects of the mistakes and prevent further errors from happening. Instead of simply laying out a step-by-step instruction, its best to make the resolution more collaborative and let your agents have a say in the decision-making process.

Perhaps you can even initiate a brainstorming session with everyone else in the team that may improve everyone's tasks. This is also a good way of letting everyone know that their opinions are valued by the company.

Having to give your call center team's performance feedback should not have negative connotations. By talking to your team properly and providing coaching sessions, they can use your feedback to improve their performances. It only boils down to your manner of delivery and attitude towards every agent.