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Establishing a Coaching Relationship.

October 14 - Coaching is a really important part of the job for all call center leaders.  Establishing a coaching relationship takes time and the ability to build trust.  This is something that we should work on continuously to build the relationships with agents in our organization. Some ways to build trust include: Inspiring Trust by Sharing: All of us have examples of when we said the wrong thing, or did something less well than we would have liked. Trust is an essential part of a coaching relationship. Share these instances where appropriate: “This was not my finest hour…” It conveys to your employee that you are human, and that mistakes are not fatal. Lean in to the Pause: Often an inflection point in learning occurs in a conversation at the point where the coachee is quiet or appears to be thinking. Rather than rushing in to fill the silence, sit [...]


Look beyond averages in quality monitoring scores

. October 7 - Averages are helpful but they are just that, they are averages.  They will give you some idea of how agents are doing overall, but they may not give you a complete picture.  Consider for a moment that a score of 85% and above is the goal in quality monitoring.  It might be entirely possible that the average score for the month was 85% or even higher.  One might think, “Great! We had a terrific month and provided excellent service to our customers.”  This might or might not be the case. Suppose for a moment, that 100 scored calls were included in that average.  The calls could breakdown as follows: 20 of the calls received a score of 100% 45 of the calls received a score of 85% or greater but less than 100% 35 of the calls received a score below 85% With this breakdown, we see [...]


Keep trainees engaged during long new hire training periods. 

September 16 - Depending on your organization, new hire training classes can be anywhere from 4-6 weeks long, and most workdays are 7-9 hours long. Therefore, your trainees can be receiving somewhere between 150-240 hours of information in a short amount of time and that can make it extremely difficult for their knowledge retention rate. Not only do we incorporate games, learning activities, and exercises to help engage our trainees, but we also schedule different speakers (from other departments) and different trainers on a daily basis. Scheduling different trainers ensures the trainees are staying alert, engaged, and hearing new information from a different perspective/teaching style. This has worked very well for our training team and tends to be a huge positive on evaluations from the trainees. Note:  This week’s tip is provided by Debbie Short of Cokesbury, retail division of The United Methodist Publishing House.  She may be reached at dshort@cokesbury.com.  


Developing your direct reports or team members for success.

September 9 - As a manager, much of your time should be devoted to helping team members to be more successful and (for those interested) to prepare them for promotion or advancement. Setting their expectations against the actual workload helps them become better prepared for unexpected changes and gives them a good baseline for knowing when they’ve met or exceeded expectations. Here are some ideas to put your team members on the road to success: Understand what the team member really wants from their job. If you are the direct manager, that means regular coaching and development sessions. If you’re the mentor, that means regular coaching and development sessions. If you’re a peer, direct manager or mentor, have regular informal conversations. The two keys here are regular meetings (formal or informal) and good communication. Don’t focus only on areas of improvement. People like to know when they’re doing well. Focus on [...]


Coaching to Celebrate!

August 26 - Coaching to celebrate simply focuses on all the positives that take place during the call.  This is the coach’s time to reinforce effective behaviors that you want to see repeated on future calls.  Coaching to celebrate sessions are great for boosting morale and motivating your strong performers (or maybe just an average performer that had a strong call) to keep up the great work. Remember when you celebrate a call, do so immediately and be specific with your feedback. Ask questions to help agents reflect on the call center and company goals they are helping to achieve when they are succeeding on their calls.  Discuss why it’s important to continue making every effort to repeat these behaviors on future calls – not just when they are having a good day! You’ll want to resist the temptation to add in little suggestions for ways they can improve, just to [...]


Empower representatives to take ownership.

August 19 -  Make sure representatives know they are empowered to take ownership of their calls by listening to the customers and taking care of their needs. QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life written by John Miller teaches that when something goes wrong, you do not blame someone else for the problem. The contact center representatives should look at the problem and ask themselves, “What can I do to handle this issue?” When the agents take ownership of the problems, the customers feel like the representatives truly care about their problems. This builds confidence with the customers that your company is ready and able to meet their needs. Note:  This week's tip is provided by Debbie Short of Cokesbury, retail division of The United Methodist Publishing House. She can be reached at dshort@cokesbury.com.  


Provide examples when coaching.

  August 12 - When providing coaching to your agents, make sure to fully explain and provide examples of improvement areas.   Don’t just tell the agent they were wrong, explain the customer impact and provide an example of how they could have handled the interaction in a way that would have set the customer’s expectations. For example, an agent doesn’t use the proper hold procedure during a contact.   An estimate of hold time was not provided to the customer.   Explain the customer impact of not providing them an estimate of their hold time: Our phone system does not provide music or messaging when a customer is placed on hold.   If you place a customer on hold and do not provide a hold estimate, at some point during the hold the customer may feel they have been disconnected.   This may cause the customer to hang up and call again.   The next agent [...]


Providing missed item data for coaches.

August 5 - Scoring agent calls is only one part of the quality assurance equation. The second part is giving coaches and managers useful data. The point of QA must always be kept in mind; yes, the score is an indication of quality, but one reason quality is measured is to identify areas where improvement can be made. But what type of shape should this data take to assist in this role? The data should take on two different shapes. The first is to address each individual agent. What items on the form did each individual agent miss—particularly if the same item was missed by the same agent multiple times. By shaping the data for each individual agent, we highlight areas for coaching and improvement giving coaches a targeted approach. The second form the data should take is for the contact center as a whole. Here we want to identify what items in the contact [...]


Why attend the QATC Annual Conference?

July 29 - There are a lot of great conferences around, but there is only one that is designed specifically for quality assurance and training professionals in the contact center.  We would love for you to join us for this amazing event, which is set for Sept. 17-19 at the Hilton Nashville Downtown Hotel.  Here are just a few of the many reasons to attend the QATC Annual Conference: 1. Relevancy to your position. There are a lot of call center conferences out there, but it is hard to find extensive content on training or quality assurance there. QATC surrounds you with people who are doing exactly what you’re doing! 2. High caliber conference content in a small community atmosphere. QATC is not a "mega-conference" where you feel overwhelmed and disconnected. The quality of the speakers is second to none, and the size of the conference makes it easy to connect [...]


Empower your trainers to instill confidence. 

July 22 - Empowering trainers helps instill confidence, especially when it comes to day-to-day decision-making. For instance, during our new hire training classes, a different trainer is designated to “take the lead” each day of the week. A basic schedule is laid out ahead of time, but if anything comes up or if there is a scheduling conflict, whoever is the lead has the ability and the encouragement to deal with those situations as they see fit. If a situation does come up that the trainer may not feel comfortable handling, the manager is always available, but instead of just telling the trainer what to do, he asks smaller questions to nudge the trainers in the right direction in a way that still leads the trainers to feel like they are making the decision. This helps in a couple of ways. First, as I mentioned before, it instills confidence in the [...]


Finding time for mentoring. 

July 15 - A key element for the success of promising new call center employees is to pair them with a mentor — someone that can serve as a role model and trusted advisor.  As a supervisor or team manager, you may have senior members of your team serve in a mentor role or you as the direct manager can mentor a new employee. Many supervisors and team managers say they can't find enough time in their busy schedules and long to-do lists to take time out to mentor employees one-on-one.  If you find yourself using that excuse, here's one suggested time-management approach that can help you carve out 3-4 hours a week to devote to this important individual support.  It's called the 15-5-10 approach. Track all your weekly activities and how much time spent on each one. Prioritize these activities and also look at what activities could either be avoided [...]


Always have a Plan B!

July 8 - During training, check your audience and make sure they are following you. If not, be prepared to put a spin on your presentation to connect with your group. For example, your Plan B could be a game to get the class participating rather than staying with lecturing. Make the game fun and exciting; like the game called Round Robin. In this game, everyone sits in a circle and is asked a question on the topic you’re teaching. The trainer has 60 seconds to go through a topic so the movement around the circle is quick. Depending on time, you can keep playing the game with different topics until you see the class is comfortable with the material. If your participants don’t know the answers, help them by asking open-ended questions to get them thinking and talking. By switching to Plan B, whatever that might be, you can get [...]


Wrap it up and put a bow on it!

June 24 - The closing of a contact is perhaps one of the most important elements of the customer’s experience. It is in those last few moments that your customer is able to truly feel valued, appreciated, and serviced. Make it a point to have your agents ask your customer, “What else may I assist you with today?” The question should be open-ended, genuine, and sincere. It should seek out any additional issues or opportunities the customer may have prior to letting them go. Pause and allow the customer time to consider the question. Once the customer responds with a “no,” it is time to seal the deal. Smile, show appreciation and enjoyment in the fact you have been able to provide your customer a great experience and thank them for calling. “It has truly been my pleasure to assist you today. Thank you so much for calling,” or “I hope [...]


Building rapport is not just for customer interactions!

June 17 - The old phrase “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” rings true for contact centers! When coaching staff have interactions with front line agents, they need to remember that we are all in the same boat, and the agent on the front line is “rowing.” Consultative selling skills are an integral part of our culture, and they remind us that all customer interactions start out with building rapport. When our management team went through the consultative coaching training sessions, it was no surprise to learn that good coaching sessions also start with building rapport. When you first meet with the agent, don’t jump right to business. Share something about yourself and be genuinely interested in what that person has to share back. Once rapport is established, then you are ready for business! Never make the coaching session feel like an “I [...]


The agent experience in today’s omnichannel world.

June 10 - The role of the contact center agent is more challenging than ever before. New skillsets and greater proficiency are required for agents to succeed with an increased range of channels. But with a new side hustle around every corner, keeping agents motivated and retaining them for the long haul is a common challenge. In a 2018 ICMI study, contact center leaders reported that their number-one challenge was training and retaining the staff needed to be successful; not far behind, at number three, was increasing agent engagement and morale. Engaged and satisfied agents are essential to providing quality customer service that engages and satisfies customers, and they’re motivated to stay in their current jobs and make a career out of customer service. When evaluating the agent experience in your contact center, it is important to evaluate processes including hiring and onboarding, training and development, and the overall feeling of [...]


Create your own “Tip of the Week” for your management team!

June 3 - Each week I send out a tip, insight, industry information, or a coaching resource to the management team in my call center. I choose what to send out from all kinds of resources: management websites, blogs I have subscribed to, books and industry magazines that I receive. This not only allows the management teams access to many of the resources that I have available but it also lets them know that they can come to me if they have a particular issue so that we can research a solution together. The topic that I pick each week is based on the discussions that I have been a part of, the coaching sessions that I have participated in, the calibrations that I have lead, and the team meetings that I have attended. By having a presence on the front line call center floor, I am able to keep a [...]


What are the main reasons that employees don’t perform?

May 27 - The first steps of performance management involve defining performance expectations and communicating them to your employees.  Once these standards are in place, you can observe actual performance to see how it measures up against your expectations. Just as a doctor would use a systematic diagnostic process to correctly determine the cause of medical symptoms, you should use a diagnostic process to guide your analysis of an employee’s performance problem.  Instead of relying on your “gut feeling,” you’ll want to use a systematic approach to guide your diagnosis.  Some presenting problems are simple and don’t require sophisticated analysis to identify the cause, but others are more complicated. There are three basic reasons behind all performance problems in the call center or any other work situation.  Each performance problem can be attributed to one of these reasons: Don’t Know – An employee may be unaware of performance.  He may not [...]


How do you know if training is working?

May 20 - It’s important to constantly assess the effectiveness of your call center training program.  You’ll want to measure immediate reaction, successful transfer of learning to the job, ongoing behaviors, and long-term results in order to evaluate the success or failure of the program. At a minimum, make sure you utilize an evaluation form for each program and pre-class and post-class assessments to measure before and after learning.  In addition, you should keep a formal or informal log of each new employee’s performance where you track observations of actual performance once the training program has been completed. There are five points at which the training program should be evaluated using formal assessment tools: Before training During training After training In the workplace Leaving the workplace The call center management team must make a commitment to evaluate the end results of any training program to define the success or failure of [...]


Clarabridge Unveils New Customer Experience Innovations to Drive Digital Engagement

Miami, FL — April 30, 2019 — Clarabridge Inc., the leading provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions for the world’s top brands, revealed new digital customer care innovations at its 11th annual Clarabridge Customer Connections (C3) conference. The technology unveiled in Miami will provide customers with a deeper understanding of the digital conversations happening on every channel, the tools to operationalize customer feedback data across all business operations, and the insights required to drive customer loyalty. “Consumers want exceptional, empathetic, and effortless experiences everywhere, and to do that, brands need to understand their customers as people,” said Mark Bishof, CEO of Clarabridge. “The innovations we’re bringing to market empower organizations to build relationships internally and externally at scale, implement insights from customer feedback data across all areas of the business, and evolve the traditional, siloed approach to customer experience into one that is data-driven and focused on digital customer care.” [...]


Clarabridge Closes 2018 with Record Growth in the Contact Center

RESTON, Va.—BUSINESS WIRE—Clarabridge, Inc., the leading provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions for the world’s top brands, today revealed that it has closed a momentous 2018, with a record-setting fourth quarter, positioning the company for continued growth in 2019. The Clarabridge Contact Center Solution has grown in use by 800% in less than two years since launch, fueling the company’s success. In 2018, Clarabridge added nearly 100 new customers spanning Fortune 500 healthcare, financial, CPG, and high-tech institutions, and experienced a 45% increase in Q4 bookings. With its cutting-edge conversation analytics, the Clarabridge Contact Center solution has analyzed over 3.5 billion sentences since 2017, including voice calls, chat, email, chatbots, messaging and social media interactions. Together, these digital conversation channels yield critical, actionable insights that help brands around the world drive loyalty and reduce churn. Collectively across its solutions, the company has processed nearly 20 billion customer service interactions with [...]


Managing your Quality Assurance team’s productivity.

May 13 - All too often contact center leaders are focused on agent key performance indicators but fail to identify quality assurance metrics to the align to the business goals. Here are some key performance metrics to begin holding your quality teams accountable for their contributions to the overall success of client experience.  This will certainly build trust with your key stakeholders and show your dedication as quality leader in leading by example. Evaluation Average Handle Time: This metric will be comprised of length of interaction plus evaluation wrap time.  The benefit of measuring evaluation handle times allows leaders to see how efficient each team is individually and in comparison, to the team.  In addition, it allows the leader to quantify workload and gauge the ability to provide additional services to your stakeholders (such as take calls, additional evaluations/assessments, coaching, etc.) Number of Evaluations Completed Daily/Weekly/Monthly:  Tracking each quality analyst’s contributions [...]


Use additional QA Analysis to add Strategic Value.

May 6 - In my consulting with contact centers, I’ve talked about the opportunity for QA groups to provide additional analysis that creates strategic value for the organization.  When reviewing contacts, the QA team can compile information on not only the technical and customer experience portion from the agent’s performance, but also gather information on other areas like; “How did you hear about this?” “Where did you search for this information on our website?” “What is the customer saying about our Brand?” “What are the technical positives or negatives in working with our IVR, Systems, Website?”  All of these tell us something about our Marketing, IT, PR, Sales, and other areas of the business. Any information we can glean from these contacts benefit the organization strategically and provide additional insight to our programs, policies and initiatives.  This is the additional value we can provide that go beyond just the normal contact [...]


5 unusual things to do when you are crazy busy.

April 29 - "I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to handle my dilemma," John (not his real name) said. "It seems like we just never slow down around here anymore. I thought if I worked longer hours and pushed my team harder, we'd get caught up. Now I'm exhausted and I think everyone on my team hates me." John's comments on the phone to me last week mirror what I am hearing too often. We have this mental mirage of a nebulous time in the future when things are going to slow down. So we plow ahead with little thought to how we're getting things done... and just when we think we're close to this oasis of rest... another project, problem, or even opportunity surfaces. We then take a deep breath, release a reflective sigh, and dive in again. What was my reply to John? I didn't start out by saying, "We're all busy." [...]


Key ground rules for conducting calibration sessions.

April 22 - This week is the final tip in our series on calibration with some final thoughts.  We have discussed the benefits of calibration, and the steps for conducting a successful calibration session. Start slowly and use a phased approach to best achieve a successful level of calibration. When you’re just beginning the calibration process, set an attainable goal; e.g., strive for overall contact scores to be within, say five points or 10 percent of each other – as more sessions are conducted consistency should improve. The goal should never be to agree on an exact score. Rather, the emphasis should be on achieving a common understanding of how performance is measured. Once initial goals have been achieved, raise the bar by lowering the scoring variation goal from five points to three points (or a comparable variation percentage). It may take between two to four hours a month to keep [...]


How to conduct a calibration session.

April 15 - Last week’s tip started our conversation on calibration with a discussion on why calibration is important and the benefits of calibration.  This week we will look at some how to conduct a calibration session. The following basic steps are prerequisites to consistent calibration: Every employee responsible for monitoring and scoring contacts should have an excellent working knowledge of the contact center’s services. Those doing the monitoring must understand how the standards are administered. Those doing the monitoring should be given formal training in the program, as well as relevant documentation on criteria and definitions. The following describes some tips for a successful calibration session: Schedule at least one hour of uninterruptible time. Choose a facilitator. The role of the facilitator is to direct discussions, take notes and keep the team focused. Observe a contact and have all participants use your monitoring form to make notes and score the [...]


Why does calibration matter?

April 8 - Call calibration is necessary to ensure consistency and fairness in the monitoring process. Calibration provides the opportunity to test the process and confirm that consistent standards are applied to each monitored contact. When high levels of calibration are achieved, it will not matter who did the monitoring and scoring; the outcome will be the same. For a monitoring process to succeed, it is essential to integrate calibration into the planning, implementation and ongoing maintenance of your monitoring program. When you and your team are successfully calibrated, you can enjoy a number of benefits.  Successful calibration does the following: Provides consistency Reduces the likelihood of agents questioning fairness Continuously develops and assesses monitoring criteria Eliminates perceived biases by ensuring consistent application of standards and scoring Allows the coaching process to focus on recognizing achievements and identifying opportunities for improvement, instead of whether a particular score is accurate It’s important [...]


Goal setting for Quality Monitoring.  

April 1 -  Many of our organizations are looking to improve productivity and increase the bottom line, as well as find creative ways to improve performance.   In addition, it is understood by many executive managers that improvement derives from performance management and training.  For call centers, this can include enhancements to quality and training programs.  Here’s some food for thought as you begin your journey of process improvements as it relates to service quality. Clearly define your goals. Get committed to goal setting based on what your customers deem as necessary to “great” service delivery.  Work with your operations teams, review customer satisfaction surveys, and engage front line employees to uncover what your customers want.  When suggesting or making changes to your quality program, use goal setting to avoid the pitfalls of giving consideration or weight to attributes that do not meet customer expectations. Set clear expectations for your teams. Too [...]


Engage your QA team in the training process.

  March 25 - Engage your QA Team in your new hire training process from the very start.  The call review process should be the right hand of training. Call reviews ensure newly trained staff are retaining the training provided, using resources correctly, and aids in developing skill sets necessary to be successful.  By implementing quality assurance training during the training process you begin to develop authentic relationships between staff, trainers, and quality assurance teams. Make sure employees understand the expectations, importance of call reviews, and how the quality assurance process will ultimately aid their professional development. Note:  This week's tip is provided by QATC Board Member Angela Crozier of MPHI.  She can be reached at acrozier@mphi.org. 


Agent pushback – things to consider when addressing disputed assessments.

March 18 - Do you agree with everything someone tells you about yourself?  If so, then I would like to meet you and tell you how indiscriminately generous you are and how willing you are to share your wealth with complete strangers -- like me!  While the illustration is extreme, please consider the underlying truth:  we are selective about the feedback we receive and believe.  Our acceptance, or rejection for that matter, is largely dependent on our awareness of the issue, the source of the feedback, and our personal acuity concerning the same. Dynamic and engaging quality programs provide a place for individuals to conscientiously and professionally address these three elements of the feedback.  Just as quality feedback should be delivered in a timely manner, a venue for questions and disputes should be structured with the same time of timely follow-through.  For example, if quality feedback is assured within a 30-day [...]


Where and when should reviews be done?

March 11 - Nothing is more de-motivating than watching the quality monitoring analyst head down your cubicle aisle, knowing that he/she has just completed a call evaluation.  Of course what would make this de-motivating is the experience of knowing that the quality analysts only meet with agents when they have found problems in a call! Here are two suggestions for reviewing calls with your agents. Schedule coaching sessions ahead of time and carry them out consistently, whether performance is good or bad. To save time, some call centers report that they simply pass along the written call evaluations when there are no “problems” with the call.  This practice is not a good idea.  You should meet with your agents regularly, even when their call evaluations are all good.  Remember that recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors is just as valuable in influencing agent performance as coaching to skills needing improvement. Set up [...]


Tips on coaching and training agents for difficult calls.

March 4 - One aspect of the job as a call center agent that is hard to get used to is how to handle difficult calls.  It is hard to train and coach for these calls as well. Nice customers and routine calls are usually pretty easy to handle, and can give agents the feeling of a job well done when they are finished.  Then there are the difficult calls that get interspersed with the others that are a little harder to handle and present agents with a more challenging work day. There are many ways to define hard-to-handle calls.  Some types of calls are merely a bit challenging while others are downright difficult to take.  Calls that fall into the somewhat challenging category might be callers that are confused, people that are overly-friendly or flirtatious, and those that are extremely talkative. The primary requirements for handling a confused, flirtatious, or [...]


Add adaptable training to your training sessions.

February 25 - Training in a call center is at best generalized. Not every situation can be covered in training to ensure the agent is fully capable to handle all situations.  So most training has to be generalized, but generalized training has the tendency to remove the “human element” – what specific training does this agent need? Adaptable training, or training on specific situations, can be conducted by supervisors on a one-on-one basis after listening to the agent’s calls and seeing what information is needed. You can’t remove “generalized training” from the curriculum, but it is a best practice to add this kind of adaptable training to the training of both the new and experienced agents. Through listening to the calls handled by the agent, individual strategic plans can be made, and personalized training can become adaptable to many different situations. Note:  This week’s tip was provided by QATC Board Member [...]


Coaching for “talkative” callers.

February 18 - When an agent receives a call from someone who is overly “talkative,” it can be annoying and also a drain on staffing resources.  Coaches need to help agents develop a way to control the conversation without being insulting or disrespectful to the customer. The key to working with an overly talkative called is to be polite, yet firm.  It is important that the agent is careful not to damage the customer’s self-esteem while taking control of the conversation. Agents should avoid open-ended questions with these callers, since these type of questions provide an open door for a new round of conversations and explanations.  The key to controlling a talkative caller is to ask closed-end questions where the response is a single word or two. Another technique is the use of space control – the amount of time left between words or phrases.  If there’s too much of a [...]


When we make things too complicated.

February 11 - One of my clients, the CEO of an international agriculture business, said, “The price we pay for making things too complicated is immeasurable. It slows us down, makes for bad decisions, and scatters our efforts.” Think about those three parts of the “price we pay” for making things too complicated: 1) Making things too complicated slows us down. In today’s world, if we don’t move quickly opportunities disappear in the blink of an eye. The inability to focus and simplify means we will overthink our decisions, going back and forth with pros and cons and new considerations that we continue to add to the pile. Simplicity and focus enable us to make decisions more quickly. That’s a competitive advantage. 2) Making things too complicated makes for bad decisions. In your experience, which solutions are the most effective? Which ideas are most likely to create success? The complicated ones? [...]


What are we measuring?

February 5 - Last week’s tip focused on why we are using QA to evaluate and measure in our contact center.  This week we will look at what we are measuring and how to assess the validity of our questions.  Review the questions below with your team to evaluate the questions on your QA form: Are they actionable (i.e., lead to better business results, process change, or customer satisfaction)? Will they help identify and close process and satisfaction gaps? Can they be objectively defined? Will they help motivate agents, supervisors, coaches, and trainers towards continuous quality improvement? If they can be defined, are there tactical ways to coach for improvement? If you can answer yes to all these questions, then you are on the right track!  If you can’t, then spend some time with your form to determine how you can improve it.


Why do we evaluate and measure?

January 28 - Before you begin the QA process in your organization, you should look at why you are doing QA evaluations and measuring performance.  Here are some key points to review to make sure QA is measuring the right behaviors and procedures: Discover service gaps that impact agent effectiveness and that create customer pain/potential attrition. Determine if current policies and procedures are supporting strategic initiatives. Identify service failures that impact customers and correct them. Encourage supervisors and analysts to use the quality form as a development tool. These items should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure your QA program stays on the right track.


Stick to your guns – don’t cancel that training!

January 21 - Stick to your guns! You might have a great training plan in place, but you can’t let it hit the backburner every time your call volume increases.   There will be times that yes; it might make sense to postpone training due to higher than normal volume, but that should not be the norm. It’s important that you and your leadership team recognize, encourage, and support the importance of on-going regular training.  It’s going to keep your staff engaged, informed, and most importantly, trusting of the management team. Remember, your employees are often your primary point of customer contact and you want them to be advocates of your organization. One of the best ways to do that is to show them that you’re invested in them. Note:  This week’s tip was provided by QATC Board Member Justin Robbins.  He may be reached at justin@jmrobbins.com. 


Learn the ABC’s of Engagement.

January 14 - For employees to do better, we as leaders and managers have to be better.  We hold the power to engage and empower our people - to Advocate.  Believe.  And Communicate. These ABC's are not new.  We know them at a gut level.  But consistently implementing them is where we struggle, given our workdays are often filled with dozens of competing priorities.  It's not that we don't know the right things to do to engage and develop our people, rather its 16 other urgencies that result in us moving off tasks whose delay do not appear to create immediate consequences - like catching up, recognizing, or coaching.  But there are cumulative consequences, especially when you consider that what you accept, becomes acceptable - so pushing aside personnel-related interactions once, makes it only easier to do so again, and worse, models that as acceptable behavior to those who report to you. Many feel engagement comes from being inspired.  I believe inspiration [...]


You can’t teach it all.

January 7 - If you have ever been on a backpacking trip, then you know that a backpacker has to deal with competing goals when packing. The only way to successfully complete the trip is to balance the competing requirements of what you will need vs. what you can actually carry. Many times when we are preparing to on-board new employees we begin gathering information about everything they will need to know and then put it in a PowerPoint deck. The resulting training is rarely successful. Attendees either tune out or they are overwhelmed, furiously taking notes on everything that is being said. A teacher that only focuses on the list of requirements, but doesn’t consider the limitations of what their employees can understand, absorb, remember and apply, is like a backpacker who is trying to overstuff their pack. One of my favorite books is “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” [...]


Establishing a coaching relationship.

December 10 - Coaching is a really important part of the job for all call center leaders. Establishing a coaching relationship takes time and the ability to build trust.  This is something that we should work on continuously to build the relationships with agents in our organization. Some ways to build trust include: Inspiring Trust by Sharing: All of us have examples of when we said the wrong thing, or did something less well than we would have liked. Trust is an essential part of a coaching relationship. Share these instances where appropriate: “This was not my finest hour…” It conveys to your employee that you are human, and that mistakes are not fatal. Lean in to the Pause: Often an inflection point in learning occurs in a conversation at the point where the coachee is quiet or appears to be thinking. Rather than rushing in to fill the silence, sit [...]


Try blending your training and quality teams.

December 2 - Have you tried “blending” your training and quality teams?  When the trainers are not teaching a class, why not let them work with the quality teams doing side-by-side training on agents who have “areas of opportunity” identified by their quality scores? Here are some possible outcomes: You won’t hear “Well, they didn’t teach us that” from the new agents. You can ensure QA is scoring to what the trainers are training. Your reps should already be comfortable with the trainers since they’ve all been together for the initial training and they are used to asking them questions. You can discover areas in the training that may need to be refined if they hear numerous misses on the phones. The trainers can identify agents that need more specific continuing education and making classes designed to help them.   Try this to see if the increased time the trainers spend [...]


Feedback is a two-way street.

November 26 - Nobody likes getting lectured.  Nobody likes thinking they’ve done something wrong.  By making feedback a continuous, normal process you can help your team to hear your feedback and be better equipped to take your suggestions.  You might even get some good feedback yourself! Tip 1:  Focus on growth, not on mistakes.  Speak in terms of “plusses,” or things that worked well, and “deltas,” or things that can be improved.  (Delta is the mathematical symbol for change).  Avoid talking about mistakes, negatives, things that happened poorly.  Rephrase those thoughts into ideas about what a rep can improve upon. Tip 2:  Be specific.  When giving plusses, being specific helps a person to know you are genuine, and that you are paying attention not only when they make mistakes.  When giving deltas, being specific about room for improvement makes it easier to take your feedback.  Being specific also means not giving [...]


Tips for providing good team management.

November 19 - We hire our team because of the qualifications they have and the aptitude they present to be able to perform the functions they are tasked with. As trained professionals it is justifiably understood agents will perform the task they are assigned every day. With this understanding, what is the function of a manager other than disseminating information to their team? Here are three tips for providing good management for your team. Setting expectations – Always explain in great detail what you expect from your team. There should never be a reason as to why a team member of yours is not completely aware of what you expect from them on any given day. “Never hold people accountable for what you knowingly have not made them aware of.”   -- Ijlal A Muhammad- Simplify your approach – Never assume anyone on your team understands or comprehends as you do. This [...]


How to “play nice” during calibration.

November 12 - In order for any calibration session to be a positive and productive experience, participants should identify some discussion ground rules and commit to adhering to them for the benefit of the group.  Ground rules help facilitate discussion and create a respectful environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinion — especially in the face of disagreement. Here are some suggestions to get you started: Maintain confidentiality. This helps build trust, an important component in group dynamics.  Participants must feel that calibration is a safe place to voice their opinions without risking them being repeated outside the group. Listen without reacting. When a recorded call is played back for the group, the presence of non-verbal communication can easily influence others’ evaluation of the call.  You’ll want to keep reactions such as laughter or nodding your head to a minimum. It’s OK to take it back. Some people state their [...]


Perform regular assessments of call center training requirements.

November 5 - Training for the agent shouldn’t stop after the new hire orientation and initial training period is completed. Training is an ongoing evolutionary process. The goal of your call center’s ongoing training program is to provide training for the skills necessary to perform the job, plus training for the skills necessary to enhance ongoing performance. In developing your ongoing training program, it is useful to define what employees need to know and be able to do at defined job anniversaries. Common milestones are at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 120 days. For each of these timeframes, a checklist should be developed that outlines critical knowledge and skills so training gaps and performance issues can be identified. Some typical questions you might ask at each of these stages are: What additional things does the agent need to know? What policies and procedures could affect job performance? What behaviors [...]


Consider environmental fit when making a hiring decision.

October 29 - In addition to defining the knowledge, skills, and attributes that make up the ideal call center employee, another important consideration in assessing the job is to define the unique working environment of your call center. In particular, you’ll want to identify aspects of the job and the environment that may be less than desirable and assess candidates’ motivation to accept these conditions. Some examples include the following: Confined space. Is the workstation space in your call center limited? Some people will feel uncomfortably confined in a small cubicle workspace. Repetitive tasks. Is there variety in the type of work your agents do, or are the tasks fairly repetitive in nature? While some people like the predictability of call center work, others need more variety and challenge on an ongoing basis. Solo work. Will the employee get to interact with others in the center? While you may be looking [...]


Ask your agents why they stay.

October 22 - We typically ask departing agents why they are leaving, but do you ever ask your current staff why they stay?  That might seem like a loaded question, but it is one that can be important to ask. In many organizations the exit interview is used as a gauge of what is working well and what is not.  But our experience suggests that departing employees are not all that forthcoming about their reasons for leaving especially when it is driven by dissatisfaction with their manager or the general culture of the center. We really need to understand what motivates agents to stay so we can do more of it.  Is it the fun atmosphere, good pay and benefits, reasonable workload, good training, great manager, reliable tools or something we would never think of that makes them want to come in every day?  Whatever it is, let’s be sure to [...]


Calibrate for success.

October 15 - Are you making the most of your calibration sessions? Or, more often than not, does your team find itself agreeing to disagree? In order to achieve a balanced and aligned understanding of your Quality Assurance process, your team needs to have an open and productive dialogue.  Be willing to lead and guide the conversation, while also soliciting feedback from all in attendance. Begin the calibration session with a brief Q&A session regarding your overall quality assurance process. Encourage your managers/supervisors to review any opportunities that they experienced since your last calibration. Discuss new trends, areas of success, and potential opportunities. Review any updates or changes to your quality assurance process and state your expectations for the calibration session. What is your purpose for calibrating? Are you introducing a new standard or ensuring consistency across your team?   Discuss multiple calls in one session. Have your team score one [...]


Model good listening behaviors to motivate your team.

October 8 - Last week’s tip started a series on call center motivation myths and musts to share ideas for motivating staff to perform at their best.  This week’s tip focuses on modeling good listening behaviors. One of the simplest things to do in motivating staff to perform is to demonstrate in an active way that you care about them. The best way to do this is to spend time with each person just listening. If your team members feel heard, understood, and valued, they will work harder to produce better results and make you proud. One of the keys to providing great customer service is to listen carefully to what the customer needs. You can teach frontline staff how to do this by simply being a role model and a good listener yourself during your interactions with them.  Be aware of common listening problems and take care you don’t make [...]


Call center motivation myths and musts.

October 1 - Every fall, we hear the buzz as call centers prepare for Customer Service Week in October. Many devote special time and attention to showing appreciation to their frontline call center staff during this time and implement new motivation programs to keep staff fired up and performing at their best. Unfortunately, many call centers only worry about this show of appreciation and attempt at motivation for this single week.  And while there may be great results from some of the short-term programs rolled out during Customer Service Week, many centers lose the Customer Service excitement by the time November rolls around. Zig Ziglar once said, “Some people say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why you have to do it often.” Call centers should certainly know by now that keeping staff motivated to perform well on the phone is an ongoing strategy.  You can’t expect a one-week [...]


Why analyzing and acting on your VoC is the secret to improved agent performance.

September 24 - You don’t have to be an expert on contact centers to know that putting the necessary structures in place to deliver an exceptional customer experience to each and every caller is a constant uphill struggle. Which makes complete sense. Ensuring consistency across what is likely a huge disparate enterprise is never going to be easy. Add to this some recent agent trends – including a churn rate of 27% for entry-level agents and 53% of contact center employers offering remote working – and you start to understand the size of the task you face. So how do you put the necessary agent training and up-skilling processes in place to improve employee engagement and drive the positive business outcomes you seek? You doubtless already capture a ton of data specifically related to your contact center and agent performance. This will likely include information call times, whether you’re able to resolve a customer inquiry, [...]


Benchmarking against your best performers.

September 17 - Your company may be spending a lot of effort and money searching for benchmarking information and "industry standard" numbers for a wide variety of call center performance metrics.  However, the numbers you're looking for may be closer to you than you think! Instead of worrying about what your competitor or other companies in your industry are doing, look at your own staff's performance and take a particularly close look at the variation from low to high. While you may not be able to make an "apples to apples" comparison with another company anyway, you can certainly pull some valuable information just by looking at your own staff's performance. The best way to set standards and measure how well you're doing is to look at the top 10% of performers.  Look at the top sales performers and their conversion rates compared to the bottom range of performers.  How much [...]


Get creative with side-by-sides.

April 9 - Here are a couple of creative ways to have side-by-side coaching sessions in your call center. Instead of double jacking into a call and providing feedback at the end. how about one of these creative methods: Have the agent send the coach an email with what they would like to be coached on. This could be a particular skill, application, product knowledge, etc.  The coach can prepare for what is to be coached on and when the coach comes over for the side-by-side time, watch how the rep’s body language has changed.  They feel like they are much more in control as they chose the topic.  This truly builds the rep/coach relationship and allows the rep to have some ownership and buy in to the side-by-side process. How about those senior agents where there aren’t a lot of side-by-side coaching opportunities to be had? Try turning the tables [...]


Simulation exercises allow new agents to experience calls during training.

April 2 - Many call centers incorporate simulation exercises into their training programs. Consider setting up a simulation that will allow managers, supervisors, team leaders, and perhaps even veteran representatives to call into a training queue, which will be staffed by the new representatives. The callers will simulate real-world call scenarios giving the new reps the opportunity to experience them before they’re put on the phone. This can be done throughout the training as new skills are learned or you can have one final exercise after the classroom training is complete. The final exercise should include at least one type of each call scenario the representatives will be handling. There are several ways to implement the simulation. One is to have each representative log in to the training queue. The calls will be automatically distributed among them just like in the real world. This method works best if each new representative [...]

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