The Power of Recorded Calls in Coaching

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Published:  October 16, 2012

Most contact center agents truly want to do a great job. They want to efficiently resolve caller issues, create memorable customer experiences, and meet key performance objectives on a consistent basis.

They just don’t want you or any other manager/supervisor in the contact center telling them how to do it all the time.

And you shouldn’t have to. The best customer care organizations I’ve known don’t draw big mean red circles around agents’ weaknesses and tell agents what must be done to fix things. These centers take a more holistic and participatory approach to coaching, using methods that actively involve and empower agents in the coaching process. Instead of preaching or pretending to be the only experts in the room, coaches in successful centers collaborate with their staff, consult with them, and work together to fill gaps and identify solutions.

Two tactics I’ve seen used with great effect in coaching are self-evaluation and call showcasing – both of which involve the use of an invaluable and easily obtainable resource in the contact center: call recordings.

Let’s take a closer look at each approach:

Agent self-evaluations. This involves having agents listen to recordings of their own recently handled calls and then self-evaluating their performance – before their coach does it for them. Contact centers new to this approach are often surprised by how candid and comprehensive agents during self-evaluations. I’ve had managers and supervisors tell me it’s not at all uncommon for agents, after listening to themselves in action, to pick apart and critique elements of their performance that coaches hadn’t even considered in need of attention. In addition, when it’s the agent starting the “what needs to improve” conversation, things flow much more smoothly and agents remain much more open to input and feedback from the coach compared to when the coach launches a unilateral attack.

“You will be amazed how honest the employees are in regards to their own performance,” says Jeremy Curley, Senior Director of Customer Services at Monster and big proponent of having agents listen to and self-evaluate their customer interactions. “You will see light bulbs go off as the agents hear their tone or moments of silence and understand how their actions, though not necessarily done intentionally, impacted the quality of the call. …Try a pilot with some of your under-performing agents and you will be amazed at the performance improvement you see!”

The point is, agents know what good service and high performance sounds like. The best centers give them a chance to demonstrate that knowledge – and to collaborate with coaches in coming up with positive next steps.

Call Showcasing. Another great way to drive continuous performance improvement with the help of call recordings is “Call Showcasing. This entails having agents listen to “ideal call” samples that “showcase” the skills and traits you wish the agent in question to emulate. If you have an agent struggling with excessive handle times, have them listen to a recording featuring an agent demonstrating excellent call control. Or maybe you have an agent who unwittingly comes off as rude to customers. If so, sit them down to listen to a call handled by an agent who consistently delights customers. Telling an agent they have to decrease their handle time and/or not be so mean doesn’t work nearly as well as showing them what call control and courtesy sounds like, and asking them to comment on what they’ve just heard. Plus, most agents like learning from one of “their own” – more than being told what to do by a superior.

Call showcasing works best if the contact center has a formal “library” of exemplary call recordings highlighting a wide variety of key skills. Getting such a library started takes a little effort, as it requires listening to and selecting the best calls in each skill category, clearly “labeling” each call type, etc. But the effort more than pays off in terms of agent improvement and customer satisfaction. Further, it takes some of the burden off of coaches, who will now have a very effective and easy-to-use resource for communicating desirable call behaviors and habits to agents.

Many centers that go this route provide full agent access to the call library. Agents can review exemplary calls and bone up on their skills whenever they want, rather than wait for a coach to give them one to listen to.

To get even more out of your call showcasing initiative, consider incorporating a reward/recognition component into the process, where agents who have calls selected for the library earn public praise, prizes and special perks for their achievement(s). It’s a great way to enhance agent motivation and engagement while simultaneously ensuring that the contact center has a continuous supply of stellar calls for coaching and performance improvement purposes.