• November 14, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Coaching Falls by the Wayside

Engage in a conversation with a cluster of contact center managers and one would be hard pressed to find one who is unaware of the relevance of CSR coaching. Despite that, a white paper by agent performance-solutions provider Knowlagent maintains that contact center coaching-initiatives are missing the mark. "Why Aren't They Coaching in the Call Center?" explores the foremost factors that stall successful contact center coaching (derived from Coachpalooza '05, the company's collection of supervisor focus groups with 53 supervisor and management-ranking staff in seven large contact centers) and offers a series of best practices to tackle these hurdles. Several factors account for the lack of effective coaching within the contact center, but the main culprit is time, according to Debbie Qaqish, Knowlagent's vice president of marketing and coauthor of the report. Seventy-five percent of supervisors feel they lack adequate time for coaching every day, while 80 percent admitted spending less than two hours a day on all coaching activity. "Supervisors are tasked with many different responsibilities, and thus have to prioritize where they focus their time," Qaqish says. "Because coaching is not their top priority, it slips to the bottom of the pile." Research findings also draw similarities between current call center coaching and the CRM industry's infancy stage--the product of a somewhat natural evolution, according to Qaqish. "As sales leadership recognized the potential for using technology to drive rep behavior, call centers are beginning to recognize the potential for driving supervisor behavior." These similarities are sliced into four areas including: Time. Time delays in sales activities and in delivering coaching can sincerely impact effectiveness. To alleviate this supervisor headache, the study recommends delivering coaching at the "most coachable moment." Information.
Information is an essential element of sales and coaching efforts, but the white paper contends that too much information gets in the way of both. "Supervisors are actually deluged with information to the point that it can become a burden," Qaqish says. "Because processes of sharing information are still maturing in the center, it is left to the supervisor to decide what should be shared and what should be withheld." Engage in "data clutter"-cleansing initiatives to free up more time that can be devoted to coaching. Process. Although standardizing sales within CRM and standardizing coaching within the contact center is an essential element for ensuring success, nearly 50 percent of supervisors note they have no clearly defined coaching process, according to the Coachpalooza '05 Summary Report. As part of coaching initiatives, consider reviewing all current coaching practices, identify formal and informal coaching procedures, and create and communicate a complete set of coaching best practices. People. Sales reps don't think they need sales training, but that sentiment isn't echoed by their managers. Similarly, while supervisors do not think they need coaching training, their managers contend that they do, the white paper notes. While 87 percent of supervisors believe they have the skills needed to be an effective coach, 80 percent of executives disagree. To blur that discrepancy line, consider defining the difference between managing and coaching. A second key finding is just as CRM creates shared accountability, so does coaching. To foster a shared-accountability environment, the report recommends establishing programs that enable agents to be more aggressive in their performance improvement. "You have to believe that coaching makes a real difference to the business," Qaqish says. "If you believe that, you have to look at the right balance between time devoted to traditional metrics and implementing coaching metrics." Related articles: Attrition and Training: Stalling Indian Call Centers? Agent Training Is Not a Priority in Contact Centers Rewriting a Performance Management Formula
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