Agent Engagement

4 Tips for Onboarding and Coaching Remote Agents

Employee onboarding plays a vital role in a new hire’s ultimate success. Think about it – the onboarding process is truly their first experience with their new company. How do you approach this critical step when you can’t greet your new team members face to face, and once they’re on board, how can you effectively coach their performance?

In our most recent Cyber CX Virtual Roundtable session, Jess Cervellon with Cybrary led the group in an informative discussion on all the best practices behind successful onboarding and coaching while remote.

One Source of Truth

“One of the biggest tips is just to have every single thing documented.”

 

When onboarding a new team member remotely, having a knowledge base is going to be key for getting them ramped up as quickly as possible. This new working environment means that we’re unable to walk up to someone to ask a question. Having a knowledge base, be it for support processes or even simple HR information, allows them to answer questions on their own.

 

“A knowledge base allows us to really make sure that questions can be answered preemptively and autonomously, especially when people are joining remotely. I feel like there’s a lack of connection with the rest of the team, and they don’t even know how to ask a question or to who to ask a question. So allowing them to find their own answers obviously gets the job done.”

 

Be sure to have one centralized “source of truth”. A lot of organizations rely on disparate documents to guide them in their day-to-day, but this can get confusing especially for a new hire. The CX leaders we spoke to recommend not only having one place to turn to but to democratize the ability to capture the knowledge and help people learn from it. That way, you can get employee buy-in when it comes to referencing the knowledge base, and it incentivizes them to create for themselves.

 


Knowledge Checks

Once you have your knowledge base established, how can you guarantee your new hires (and current employees) are utilizing it? The group we spoke to relies on different types of knowledge checks to be sure everyone is taking in the information they need to be successful in their roles.

Jess sometimes has her employees write out articles on different processes and reviews the steps herself to make sure everything works. She also recommends implementing a peer review system.

 

“I would take what my products support person created and give it to travel support and see if they could do an A to B check on it. So in a way, it kind of creates this peer review process.”

 

Other CX leaders rely on quizzes, training checklists, or even role-playing between team members to reinforce knowledge.

 

“One of the things that our team has definitely found successful for knowledge checks is having an actual training checklist and going over all the critical parts that we want to ensure the team knows and is fully aware and comfortable so that they can move forward on their own.”

 

We do a lot of role play because as reps that are customer-facing it’s important to articulate the policies in a way that is on-brand, but also personalized to the customer that you’re working with. So we do a lot of that either with the actual trainers, or we do that in groups.”

Be Specific in Your Coaching

Staying on track on Zoom calls can be difficult. There are a lot of distractions to compete with as we’re all working from home, and having a set agenda with specific intentions for each 1:1 coaching session is essential to making sure those meetings are productive.

Be sure not to overload your agents with too much information in one session. Pick one or two things to focus on during your meeting to allow yourselves enough time to dive deep into those areas.

 

There’s this tendency to make coaching sessions a one-stop shop for holistic performance review, and I think that it’s problematic at some points. Especially if someone is new in the cycle, if you’re hitting them with too much different information, they don’t have time to focus on what you’re saying. If you’re saying, “Your data is showing this, your quality scores that, you want to do this”, it can tend to overwhelm people. Just do anything to clarify the intention.”

 

I break up my one-on-ones and I spend a good 15 minutes talking about the business, talking about the projects. I then spend another 15 minutes talking about personal stuff, but then I also take another 15 minutes to talk about professional development. “What do you want to learn for this week?” In a recent one-on-one, my colleague wanted to learn more about project management and more about data. So I created a short curriculum and some items for him to check off for the next one-on-one.”

 

Have specific data to refer to on hand to emphasize the areas you want to focus on. Utilizing real-time feedback in coaching sessions empowers you to be specific in the examples you refer to.

 

It kind of comes down to how you’re presenting data to your agents, to really dive in and get very granular. I bring that data to the one-on-ones and then we discuss them. The important thing to note here is that showing actual numbers to the individual helps them to improve. You know, yes, of course personalized conversation is good, but to present specifically where you need to see improvement and actually get their buy-in is very important”

 

 

Empathy is King

The world we’re in is constantly changing and it’s important to take that 1:1 time you have with your agents to check in with them. Do they need time off? Are they taking on more work than they can handle? Are negative customer interactions wearing them down? Make sure you’re connecting with them on a human level.

 

Being in the customer support space, one of the biggest things we have to focus on is customer empathy, but I think that can also be applied internally. Being mindful and setting up that intentional time as a manager and allowing that empathetic space for our team members is important.”

 

Coaching sessions can be solely about performance and improvement however, improvement can’t take place if your agents are unhappy. Having an open space and the flexibility your team requires to adapt to changing circumstances will be key in truly helping them thrive.

 

Biggest Piece of Advice

We asked the group what their biggest piece of advice would be for managers who are remotely onboarding and coaching their employees for the first time. A clear theme emerged pretty quickly: remember that we’re all human beings. Support your agents so they can support your customers.

 

Display that empathy to our internal team members because essentially they are our customers as well, and we are here to support them in any way possible.”

 

Give people the ability to have an out. I think when you’re at the office, you can pick up on someone’s energy or see they’re overwhelmed, or see they’re stressed. If you’re just firing off a Slack message or sending an email, you don’t know what’s going on prior. So clarifying intention from the jump, like checking in with how they’re doing, having conversations that ask them if they have the capacity to take something on. Having those kinds of clarifying conversations, I think is number one.”

 

“Really take care of making sure that people are taking care of themselves.”

 

“For me, I would say it’s to continue to have an open mind and that flexibility that your team requires in terms of decision making. Really listening to what they’re saying and asking as many questions as you need to really understand where they’re coming from.”

 

For more insights from the CX community on a wide variety of topics, be sure to sign up for a future Cyber CX Virtual Roundtable session.