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Training your agents, regardless of whether they're salespeople or customer service reps, is no walk in the park.
Sometimes you spend hours preparing and delivering the perfect session only to find your agents falling back into previous behaviors within a blink of the eye.
It's frustrating. Enormously so.
Both for you as a manager and them as agents.
Don't believe us and think they're simply slacking off?
Then consider that an incredible 74% of reps feel like they're not reaching their full work potential due to what they perceive to be limited development opportunities.
Hmm, that sounds like a problem that needs to get fixed, doesn't it?
But how can you change the status quo? And how can you motivate your team to internalize your training, smash their numbers, and delight your customers?
By reading on.
We'll give you a crash course on mastering the coaching call — the undisputed champion of improving the performance of any and all call center-based employees.
Feeling pumped and ready to rock and roll?
Terrific! Let's dive in.
Coaching Call 101
We know you're dying to reach the ten tips we mentioned in the title of this post (and we'll get there, we promise), but first, we recommend starting with a few basic concepts.
You know, to give you the proper fundamentals to build your knowledge on.
However, if you're short on time and confident enough to go at it without a bit of an introduction, you can skip forward to the call coaching tips.
Alright, now that we've lost about 90% of our readers on that last link (by the way, thank you for sticking around and following our recommendation — you're a star!), we're going to define the term “coaching call.”
A coaching call can refer to one of two things:
- Any type of coaching done via a phone call
- Coaching call center staff, or salespeople, on improving key skills and becoming more successful virtual communicators
This blog post will focus on the second interpretation because we're the makers of an all-in-one sales CRM and that's where our expertise lies.
And plus, neither one of us has time for a 30,000-word essay on generic coaching call skills.
Quick cutaway: our CRM is called Ringy, and it's a solid platform, just to toot our own horn for a millisecond.
Now back to the coaching call.
First up, why is call center coaching useful?
1. It leads to:
- 34% higher retention rates
- 15% more engaged employees
- 24% more profits
2. It attracts higher-quality talent with a desire to develop themselves
3. 91% of employees want relevant, personalized training
Pretty convincing arguments, right?
Next up, a few examples of what call coaching is and what call coaching isn't.
A coaching call is:
A coaching call isn't:
And finally, a little discussion (with its very own section) on the difference between training generic call center staff and inside salespeople.
Coaching Call: Call Center vs. Sales Professionals
Are salespeople really that special that they deserve their very own type of coaching call?
Yes and no.
While the same basic skills are required of all call center staff regardless of their responsibilities, salespeople tend to require a bit more role-specific training than service staff.
Because in most cases, they'll be:
- Handling both inbound and outbound calls
- Dealing with a ridiculous level of rejection
- Communicating on a large variety of mediums
- Working in an ultra-competitive environment where best practices don't flow freely
- Managing their own sales pipelines in a sales CRM
So show them some extra love and carefully consider all these factors as you plan your training sessions.
Did that last sentence sound like a tip?
Yikes, it did.
We're getting ahead of ourselves here… let's quickly move on before we slip up again and give you more than 10 11 call center coaching tips.
10 Call Coaching Tips
We know you're busy.
Odds are you jumped here from the quick link we provided you at the beginning of the previous section.
No hard feelings. Really.
And to prove it, we'll even give you a compact executive summary where you can read the ten tips plus a quick sentence on why you should implement it.
You could be done with this article in less than two minutes.
However, if you really want to learn about call center coaching, we advise you to stick around and read the rest of the article, too.
It'll be worth it, guaranteed.
P.S. We've broken the tips down into five call center coaching best practices and five call center coaching techniques, so don't get confused if you don't see any tips numbered 6 through 10 — it's not your eyes.
Why you should follow it
Start training your agents as early as possible
Get new hires engaged with your company before their first day, so they can hit the ground running
Adapt your coaching style based on your coachee
Generic advice doesn't work as it doesn't consider individual needs, preferences, and desires
Build up your agents' knowledge of your company and products
Agents can't provide a top-quality experience if they're not knowledgeable about the product/service you're selling
Go beyond scripted calls
Giving your agents more freedom (as well as coaching) helps them anticipate needs and offer better, more personalized service
Consider a mentorship scheme
The outsourcing part of the coaching process is helpful for
both the coachee and the mentor, as one receives support from a peer and the other is given a chance to develop their managerial skills
Balance criticism and praise
Agents don't respond well to coaching that's solely focused on negative feedback
Leverage sales data and your best performers
Sales data is your best friend (sorry gut feelings) because it helps you unearth problem areas
Concentrate on the middle 60% of performers
These “average” agents are the ones with the highest return on coaching
Practice, practice, practice with simulated calls
Simulated calls are a fantastic way to practice and develop skills in a safe environment
Schedule frequent coaching sessions
People forget the majority of the things they learn — remind them often to ensure the knowledge sticks
Call Center Coaching Best Practices
Start Training Your Agents as Early as Possible
You've surely heard of the phrase, “the early bird catches the worm.”
The same principle applies to coaching call center agents (and South Park).
The earlier you start training new recruits, the faster they'll familiarize themselves with the role and start delivering positive results.
We recommend you implement a form of “preboarding” into your recruitment process, so all of your new hires receive an initial blast of coaching before they even step foot into your office (or virtual Zoom meeting room).
This strategy also increases employee engagement and demonstrates that your company is dead serious about development and not just using it as a recruitment gimmick.
Adapt Your Coaching Style Based on Your Coachee
A good coach needs to be a chameleon.
Because you need to flex your coaching style based on the person you're coaching.
Personalized sales training helps you tap into your coachee's personality and use individual characteristics (i.e., likes, dislikes, motivators) to encourage lasting change.
And while you mainly need to listen to your coachees to determine the best course of action, you can fall back on this basic employee performance model as a starting point:
- Novices — focus on guidance and business processes
- Doers — concentrate on constructive feedback and genuine praise
- Performers — pinpoint development areas and help them overcome them
- Masters — provide support and further opportunities to mentor others
- Experts — challenge them to improve team performance and standard processes
Build Up Your Agents' Knowledge of Your Company and Products
Call center coaching is a phenomenal opportunity to gauge how much your agents know about your company and your products/services.
If you pick up that anyone is lacking enthusiasm or simply unaware of your offer, you need to take immediate action as over 60% of people mention product knowledge as a critical driver of an excellent service interaction.
What can you do to raise awareness internally?
- Give freebies and/or samples for agents to take home and use
- Demonstrate the value of your product
- Run a live demo of your product
- Involve your agents in the development/update process to give them a sense of ownership
Go Beyond Scripted Calls
A call center script is a lot like a call center coaching template.
It provides you with all the right questions, but it completely ignores the situation and the person on the other side of the line.
And while they help to standardize the customer experience, call scripts can frustrate people as agents simply don't have the freedom to react to queries and complaints.
This is where coaching calls come to the rescue.
You should train your agents to understand and anticipate needs, so they have the perfect mixture of soft skills and product knowledge to understand customers and choose the right course of action without having to stick to an iron-clad script.
Consider a Mentorship Scheme
A mentorship or buddy scheme is a proven, low-cost way to hit two birds with one stone.
- Provide your agents with twice the amount of coaching without overwhelming your work schedule.
- Give high-performing agents a chance to prove themselves in a managerial role.
Proven by who?
By the Harvard Business Review, who said that mentors:
- Help recruits understand their role and company
- Boost productivity (97% of new hires agreed that they were more productive if they met their buddy eight or more times in their first 90 days)
- More employee satisfaction (by up to 36%)
Call Center Coaching Techniques
Balance Criticism and Praise
Nobody likes to get criticized.
Yet providing negative feedback is a fundamental part of coaching as it's pretty much the only way to bring development areas to light and work on them.
So how can you get away with constructive criticism without demotivating and demoralizing your agents?
By carefully balancing negative and positive feedback — we aim to give about 60% praise and 40% criticism during our coaching calls.
We surprise our coachees with a bit of this:
Followed by a little of this:
Okay, maybe these two GIFs are slightly exaggerated, but you get the idea.
Recognition offers employees the encouragement they crave (37% of employees think of it as the most important support method, and 79% quit their jobs due to a lack of appreciation), while also giving the coach an excellent springboard for diving into improvement areas.
Just one thing:
Don't give fake compliments or praise that could be perceived as shallow or insincere.
That has the opposite effect on sales motivation and sets the wrong mood for your session.
Pro tip: Find out how your agents want to be recognized — learn about their drivers and use the right balance of incentives and rewards to reinforce the right behaviors.
Leverage Sales Data and Your Best Performers
Figuring out what to focus on in your coaching sessions is one heck of a task.
After all, most people won't just openly talk about their weakness with their superior and straight out say, “I'm terrible at dealing with rejection, so please help me.”
So how can you understand what your agents are doing well and where they need improvement?
You could turn to a call center coaching template for some generic guidance, or even better, you could navigate to your company's CRM and dive into the analytics tab.
All that beautiful sales data will guide you and help you uncover trends affecting performance — both at an individual and a team level.
Say your all-in-one CRM tells you that an agent's conversion rate has dropped over the last quarter, but the number of demos they're running has increased.
This could spur on a great coaching call discussion, where you ask that agent to take you through their process and any recent changes.
You could then provide a mixture of positive and negative feedback to reinforce the behaviors that led to more demos and correct the issues that caused conversions to fall.
Concentrate on the Middle 60% Of Performers
Sales coaches often get too caught up with training the very best and worst performers on their team.
And it's perfectly understandable — we've been there and done that, too.
It's almost elementary to focus on:
- Underperformers because we want to help them reach their targets and subsequently raise our team's total numbers
- The stars because coaching them is rewarding, and we hope to uncover tips and best practices we can use to improve our worst sales agents' performance
However, this strategy isn't the most effective use of your limited time.
Your top performers won't benefit from being smothered, and all your extra coaching won't create a noticeable difference in their numbers. Instead, offer them more independence and challenge them to improve on their own.
On the other hand, your worst performers are likely to be poor fits for the role, and no amount of coaching will ever bring them up to par. It's better to replace them and not train them.
So who should you spend the lion's share of your time coaching?
The middle 60% of performers — what Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson call “core performers” — as this is where you can achieve the greatest return on investment.
Pro tip: Gamification is a fun way to motivate core performers to push themselves and catch up with the “stars.”
Practice, Practice, Practice With Simulated Calls
What's the best way to get better at any task?
Hands down practice.
And handling sales or service calls is no exception.
You can improve your agents' performance by presenting them with a series of simulated calls that replicate the typical scenarios they're likely to face on actual calls.
You can actively role play with them or get a mentor to help as you listen in.
Either way, you should provide live coaching or a detailed feedback session at the end of the call to point out what they did well and how they can improve their tactics and techniques.
We find it beneficial to stop the call as a mistake happens and explain to your coachee where they went wrong and the repercussions of such a mistake.
This is a practical, risk-free way to build up skills and prepare your agents for the tough client calls that await them on the other side.
Schedule Frequent Coaching Sessions
Did you know that people forget approximately 70% of what they learn within 24 hours and 90% within a week?
That kind of sucks, right?
But at least it explains why so much of your coaching seems to fall on deaf ears.
It's not that your agents are purposefully ignoring your advice; they're simply forgetting at a breakneck pace.
This “forgetting curve” explains the concept visually (a special thanks to Art Kohn for the graphs):
Can anything be done about it?
Of course. Science has once again provided us with the answer.
You need to signal to your coachees' brains that what you're teaching them is important and worth remembering.
By scheduling frequent coaching sessions and booster events (like quizzes or questionnaires), so that with each new interaction, you reset their “forgetting curves” and push your advice one step closer to long-term memory.
Coaching Call Success Stories
Need some evidence that these call center coaching tips work?
Then don't miss the following table on how three companies put these best practices into action and use them to improve their sales, recruiting, and customer care results.
How they've succeeded with call coaching
The international shipping company, Maersk, changed their overall business strategy and decided to distinguish themselves from the competition through superior service.
However, their sales staff couldn't articulate the value of more expensive services to their customer base.
So to support their new business model, Maersk turned to coaching. This helped their sales agent better understand the new value-based shipping solutions and how to sell them.
The consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, is a master of “preboarding” their new recruits.
Every new hire receives web-based welcome videos, training materials, and company information as soon as they accept the position.
This makes sure new employees come into their roles prepared and can contribute from day 1.
LUX Resorts, a luxury hotel group based in Mauritius, needed to improve customer service and deal with low occupancy rates.
They decided to leave scripted calls behind and coach their call center staff to identify and anticipate customer needs and priorities based on cues and emotional intelligence.
LUX then gave their agents the freedom and the continued support to put this learning into practice.
Coaching Call FAQs
How Do You Prepare for a Coaching Call?
Everyone has their own unique pre-coaching call routine, but this is what we do:
- Check the sales data
- Make a list of our coachee's strengths and weaknesses
- Write down our goals for the coaching session
- Prepare a few open-ended questions
- Come up with a couple of solid examples to use during the session
What Should I Discuss During a Coaching Session?
Your agent's performance, of course.
But if you're looking for more specific ideas, run through this list and get inspired:
- Time management
- Problem-solving skills
- Common mistakes
- Performance trends
- Positive traits and behaviors
- Dealing with difficult, demanding clients
- Sharing best practices
- Organization skills
What Are Good Coaching Questions?
Good thing you asked.
Asking the right questions is a pivotal part of coaching.
Here are a few of our favorite guiding questions:
- What do you really want to achieve?
- What do you want to change?
- What's happening now? What's stopping you?
- How do you plan on achieving your goal? What are your options?
- What has already worked for you?
- What are you struggling with?
- How will you motivate yourself?
- What kind of support do you require?
Concluding Thoughts: Get Your Coach On
Enough with the call coaching tips; you're ready to take your learning to the next level.
It's time to organize your next coaching call and make a solid plan on how you're going to deliver lasting change to your agents.
What do you need to do?
- Remember the 10 call center coaching tips we've covered today (if anything is starting to feel hazy, head back up and take your brain for a quick “booster event”)
- Use your sales CRM to gather all the data you need to dial in on the problem areas affecting your team's performance
- Practice, practice, practice!
But what about if your legacy CRM doesn't provide you with the information you need?
Then take a moment to look at Ringy and how we can give you the perfect framework for coaching as well as an all-in-one CRM that's both easy to use and affordable.
And remember to request a demo if you like what you see!