Agent Motivation

Contact Center Micro-Coaching: A Proven Approach to Performance Management

Is your customer service training program producing the results you want? Is it keeping agents engaged and continually improving their performance? If not, I’m guessing your contact center performance management process looks something like this: QA managers listen to calls, supervisors address common problems, and the needle doesn’t move. It’s a frenzy of activity, day in a day out, with little to show for it. As CEB’s research has shown, any number of variables—supervisor personas, work environment, etc.—could negatively affect contact center performance. But coaching style is, without a doubt, the #1 performance management issue. Contact Center micro-coaching can fix this common performance management struggle.

Why Old-School Contact Center Training Falls Flat

The classic contact center training formula involves one manager instructing a group of many agents in a training room. The sessions occur at set times, and the message is one way and woefully generic. The goal of the training is to advance the careers and skill sets of everyone in the room.

This one-size-fits-all approach tends to fail agents at both ends of the spectrum. The best agents may find it boring, irrelevant, or even patronizing. The lowest performers on the team could feel overwhelmed and tune out the message.

There’s also the familiar one-to-one coaching scenario, which is a step up—but not without its drawbacks. QA teams, supervisors, or training teams listen to a small (thus not representative) sample of recorded calls, and trainers choose from four or five different syllabi to advance high performers’ skills and/or address any problems that are uncovered.

In many cases, decisions about which agents’ calls to listen to aren’t driven by data, but by hunches. Suppose you suspect Agent X is weak on product knowledge; if you happen to catch the wrong four or five calls, Agent X might have managed to eke his way through or not gotten any product-related questions at all. Having someone listen in all day long to catch Agent X making a mistake is neither cost efficient nor practical.

What’s more, this kind of one-on-one coaching almost never addresses specific interactions. When it occasionally does, the interactions are so outdated they don’t have value for the agent or the organization.


Contact Center Micro-Coaching: A Game-Changing Performance Management Tool

Micro-coaching is coaching that happens in short bursts: a supervisor coaching an individual agent on the spot following a specific customer interaction. And it’s far more effective than old-school contact center training methods.

In fact, contact center micro-coaching can improve team performance by as much as 12%—while overreliance on old-school training sessions can actually drive team performance down by 5%.

Clearly, for customer service organizations that are results-focused, micro-coaching is the way to go.

What Contact Center Micro-Coaching Success Requires

To make micro-coaching work for your team, you need one of two things: 1) a QA, training, or line manager spending a lot of time listening to one person’s calls; or 2) a customer feedback loop with high response rates.

The first option leaves managers with too little time to perform their core duties: coaching and customer service training. The second option is a far more efficient use of resources, and it can have a transformative effect on brands’ QA programs and front-line morale and performance. (For some great success stories, check out our eBooks about optimizing QA and motivating front-line teams.)

How Data-Driven Contact Center Micro-Coaching Delivers Value

Imagine having a program in place that allows agents and managers to see real-time customer ratings and feedback on their dashboards throughout the day. With preset filters that flag poor ratings based on specific topics, managers can jump right in and deliver micro-coaching to individual agents receiving this feedback. The interaction is fresh in the agent’s mind, making the micro-coaching moment both relevant and impactful.

For QA leaders who want to listen in on calls but aren’t sure where to focus their efforts, this feedback loop will reveal which agents are struggling and exactly what they’re struggling with. In a team of 50 agents, perhaps there are five who are constantly being “dinged” for having poor product knowledge. QA can drill down with those five, rather than making assumptions about who needs help or listening to a random cross section of calls.

Data-driven contact center performance management has another benefit as well: it motivates agents to self-correct and keep aiming higher. After a micro-coaching moment has passed, and Agent X sees that customers continue to rate him poorly for the same reason, he will become more determined to correct his behavior or shore up his knowledge and skills. Meanwhile, short bursts of praise from managers make top performers feel like valued team members, and the constant flow of VoC data will challenge them to compete with their own best scores.

Winning Teams Rely on Data From the Front Line

Without understanding what customers value about the service experience, and how well your agents are performing on those measures, your contact center training may not give agents what they need to succeed. And your performance management program will continue to deliver disappointing results.

Customer service organizations that collect customer data on the front line have everything they need to optimize their resources, strengthen the contact center culture, and fuel continual progress. If you’re curious about how the process works, check out this quick overview.