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I suggest that you add "Coaching" to Your Leadership Credentials...

The More You Know About Developing Your People, The More You're Worth To Your Call Center

Your success as a manager is usually judged by your teams overall development.  Overall development that is always self-development. The responsibility for growth rests with the individual, their abilities, and their efforts. No business can substitute training, coaching, and mentoring for the self-development efforts of the individual.   But every manager must direct self-development, nurture it, focus it, and encourage individuals to apply self-development efforts. Put more simply, when practiced correctly, coaching and mentoring helps employees solve their own problems.
A quote from the ancient philosopher and mathematician Archimedes once said, "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I can move the world." In our industry, the frontline leaders-whether they are called supervisors, coaches, or team leaders-are the long levers of organizational performance. The success of your center rests on their shoulders. They must master the many skills of leadership. Developing coaches should always be your goal.

 

Of all those skills mentioned above, the skill of coaching is the most important.  Your frontline leaders wear many hats. They are often called on to run the floor; they supervise operations; they answer questions of reps; they are alternately counselors and disciplinarians; they do scheduling; they track down the lost and the tardy; they generate reports and even more reports; they often perform QA monitoring.... The list of what a team lead has to do during the day could go on. Once you decide to get serious about coaching, the first step is to permit your frontline leaders the time to focus on their most important priority - coaching.

In my personal leadership experience I have learned to ask for only two things from what are my more trusted coworkers. I demanded the following question to my frontline call center leads in as simple English as I could so that there would be no confusion; "If you are not spending 50% of your time developing your people, then why are you on the payroll?"  You cannot pile more food onto an already full plate. Frontline leaders need to stop doing some of the aforementioned things so that they can make the time to develop their people. This is where I think senior management goal can help. Some of every leads time constraints are self-induced and some are induced by managers.

My advice to managers:
There are two things you can do to free more time of your leads to coach.

         Coaches make easy targets for delegating administrative and reporting chores. Stop doing that! Use administrative assistants to do administrative work. Free your frontline leaders from as much of the administration trivia as possible.

         Handle monitoring with the proven and tested methods described in the following paragraphs.

My advice to frontline leads:
Stop acting like walking help desks. I have worked in and seen operations where frontline leaders spend 60% to 70% of their time reacting to what is happening on the floor. They answer questions and solve customer's problems for reps; they handle complicated or escalated calls. This may be a  habit starting from good intentions, but it has negative consequences. The natural and typical response, if a customer is on hold and a rep has their hand in the air, is for the supervisor to quickly come up with the answer the rep needs. It seems the customer-focused thing to do. But in the long run, (except with new agents) this creates more problems than it really solves. By answering for them like that, you condition your reps to stop thinking for themselves. You are conditioning them to seek the easy way out the next time, as well. It becomes more convenient for them to rely on your brain than to use their own. There's a saying that is over used but fitting, "You can give a man a fish and he eats for a day; but if you teach a man to fish then he eats for life." This analogy is most definitely true in call centers. The job of a leader is not to do, but to coach those who do. If you are a frontline leader, continually ask yourself, "Why am I on the payroll?" Obviously the answer to the question is that you are on the payroll to spend time knee-to-knee, elbow-to-elbow with your reps, developing them to the fullest of their potential.

 

Try a different approach to call monitoring
There are essentially two types of call observations. These are remote and side-by-side. Each type of observation serves certain purposes well. It's when we start to confuse these purposes that we diminish their effectiveness. I see confusion of purpose in many call centers I visit. Here are some valuable distinctions to
keep in mind.

         The best use of remote observations is for quality assurance (QA) purposes.  The goal of remote observations is to evaluate performance. It's a judgmental role. Do not try and use remote observations also as a coaching tool.

         The primary purpose of side-by-side observation is quite different. Here the goal is developmental. This is where effective coaching can take place.

 

It is an unfortunate but simple fact that you cannot judge people and develop them at the same time. Too many psychological barriers get in the way. Therefore, you must separate the two functions. We should also consider another difference between the two methods. Remote observations are quantitative in nature. We tend to score the entire call. Using some type of observation form, we reduce the observation to a numerical score. This is useful for evaluation as well as for identifying trends. In fact, the greatest value from remote observations comes from trending performance over time. Quantitative
feedback from remote observations has greatest validity when it reports on multiple calls over a period of time.

Side by side observations, on the other hand, are inherently qualitative. Do not score them. Don't use your monitoring forms during side-by-side coaching sessions. It's far better to focus on just one coachable aspect of the call per session; not on the whole call. You may be asking, "If we don't score them, then how will we know that coaching is effective?" My answer is that improved performance will show up on the next set of QA observation scores. In call centers, we tend to think of remote monitoring as being a tool for evaluating the performance of reps. And it is. Yet, it is even more valuable as a tool for evaluating you... the leader of the group. It is your report card. These results tell you what you're doing well and what you need to do differently to develop your people.

Because remote monitoring is essentially a scorecard on management, a dedicated QA team best handles the task. This team should report directly to
senior management without reporting through supervisory channels. If not, you are likely to get grade inflation. Of course, you do need a well thought out method for calibrating scores between QA and line supervision. Or else the value of QA observations will be discounted in the minds of those who should benefit from them the most.


Is it a training or motivation problem?
Trend analysis detects areas where training or coaching are really needed. Here's a tip for saving time. If the scores from remote observations show an area where all or many of your reps need improvement, this points to a need for training. Pull your people off the phone and provide group instruction to remedy the deficiency. If, on the other hand, your reps are at vastly different levels of development, or need improvement in unique areas, this calls for one-on- one coaching sessions. Don't train a lot of people for one person's need. Another distinction is that remote observations focus on the past. They reveal the current or recent state of performance. They tell you what is right and what is wrong. Side-by-side coaching, on the other hand, looks to the future. It allows you to focus on what can be better.

Finally, remote observations answer the question, "Do our people handle calls the way we expect them to?" Side-by- side observations answer a different question. They answer, "Can our people handle calls the way we expect them to?" "The job of a leader is not to do, but to coach those who do." During remote observations you cannot distinguish between ability and willingness. If your reps can do better but aren't doing it, then you have a motivation problem, not a teaching one. How can you tell what the root cause is? Through side-by-side observation.


As you might expect, your reps will be at their best when you are sitting beside them. Nothing wrong with that... it's the best time to coach. What this means is, if your reps say or do something during a side-by-side call that is below your standards, it is because they cannot do it any better. They do not know how. They need to learn a better way. And, as coach, you are there to show them the better way. This is where you earn your pay. Remember, both types of observations are valuable. Each serves a distinct purpose. Avoid trying to use remote observation as a developmental tool or side-by-side sessions for evaluation purposes. Use each for its best effect and you will see the performance of your reps skyrocket.

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