Coaching your contact center employees might seem like a soft skills issue and therefore a second rate concern. However, if any part of your operation relies on communication between agents and customers, it is essential to make sure that your employees are stress-free and motivated in order to be able to provide the best customer support possible. Recent studies show that positive customer experiences lead to 40% more spending among customers. However, positive customer experiences start with positive employees!
Having a positive and motivated workforce is especially important when handling real-time customer interactions, as it can bring a lot of unexpected and demanding scenarios, where your agents need to be present, creative, and motivated enough to get back to the job the next day. This is where coaching comes in.
What is coaching?
Coaching is a volunteer-based learning and development program. Usually, it is limited to a specific number of occasions with a specific goal, related to an event, process, or problem. Coaching methods can be held in individual or group sessions, with usually no more than 4-5 participants.
While there is a variety of literature on the best and most up-to-date coaching methods depending on your industry, some of the most effective methods based on my experience include Appreciative Inquiry (AI), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and Mindfulness-Meditation.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI)
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a coaching method and motivation tool that focuses on positive psychology. Instead of highlighting the participant’s weaknesses and shortcomings, AI focuses on strengthening values that the employee can already tap into.
It is important to note that this does not mean that certain negative behaviors are totally sidelined or dismissed. Negative issues are addressed, but the solution to these issues lies in the positive reinforcement of skills gained from past achievements and successes. These skills can then be applied to the present.
There is a host of in-depth literature on the principles of AI. But at its core, it can help participants in the cultivation of self-reflection, better collegial relationships, and sustainable stress management techniques. These skills are essential when managing day to day client interactions, avoiding long term burnout, and on the leadership side, maintaining a regular workforce.
Given that contact center-related jobs can become quite stressful at times, motivating and maintaining the positive attitude of your employees is key for providing high-quality customer support.
While conducting AI-driven coaching methods in contact centers, highlight the customer interactions that went effectively and with an overall positive mood. Highlight how these interactions align with company values. When addressing unsuccessful or frustrating calls, focus on how it could be made into a positive interaction. A good practical strategy for this is to let agents listen in on the most well-performing agent interactions.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
Among the host of coaching methods, another program that has proven to be effective during my work is Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Often, leaders can worry about communicating the negative aspects of their employee’s performance. This apprehension is often based on the worry that such communication might lead to a discontented and unmotivated workforce, or lead to resentment. However, when approached the right way, certain coaching methods can help raise employee motivation and company-wide commitment, even when addressing negative issues head-on.
The most effective coaching method for this can be found in NLP. At its core, NLP deals with addressing the relationship between our thoughts, language, and behavioral patterns. Looking at certain behaviors as something that is learned through experience, NLP aims to address negative behavioral patterns and replace them with new modes of behavior. According to NLP, it is possible to model and learn positive and productive forms of behavior.
In the context of customer contact, this can be as simple as addressing behaviors such as getting easily frustrated or being impatient with a client. Alternatively, it can also help when dealing with uncontrollable negative outside influences, such as unreasonable or frustrated clients. Employees can learn not to take such situations too seriously and develop alternative and sustainable tools for stress management.
If Google, Facebook, Apple, and even GM are doing it, why not try it out? Mindfulness-meditation has become one of the most popular coaching methods within a variety of business environments.
The trend originally headed by silicon valley, the scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness-meditation include a better immune system, better sleep quality, increased memory, as well as a more positive outlook on life and less stress.
As a therapeutic approach, mindfulness-meditation can be used to help solve a host of issues and reach a variety of objectives. In terms of your contact center employees, mindfulness is a highly effective stress management tool. Mindful exercises, such as mindful breathing, micro-meditations in between calls, or mindful perspective approaches can effectively help your agents. These techniques can help your agents to look at situations objectively, rather than focusing on small frustrations and taking certain customer reactions too personally.
While there are a host of staff management techniques and training out there, AI, NLP, and Mindfulness-Meditation are some of the most effective techniques when it comes to customer communications. By motivating employees and helping them develop effective tools for stress management, you can make sure that they will be able to handle all your client communications with the same level of commitment and enthusiasm!