Cracking Call Coaching’s Hard Nuts

Business CoachingIt was a classic moment. It was my first call coaching session with an agent who provided a service/inside sales function for his company. He came in, shut the door and exploded:

“I just want to say right now that this whole thing is a bunch of [expletive]. You don’t know my [expletive] job and there’s no [expletive] way in [expletive] you will make any difference in what I do.”

Great. Have a seat. Let’s get started. I was thinking to myself “with that attitude, I might just have to agree with the last bit of what you just said.”

These are the coaching sessions we dread and with good reason. Most call coaches are well-intentioned people who really want to see their team succeed, their customers satisfied, and their charges improve. Then there are people like this guy who can make the job a nightmare.

To be honest, there are people who I’ve coached through the years that simply were not teachable. They were angry and frustrated in life, they were not a good fit for their jobs, and the best move for them would be to another position. I believe there are nuts you won’t crack.

Yet, there are hard nuts you can crack. With people like the agent I just described, I’ve been able to succeed by finding out what really motivates them. I listen to them. I make small talk. I try to observe what it is that the person really wants. With some people its recognition, so I find the slightest improvement and hold them up before their peers/supervisor for their accomplishment. When I go from critic to fan in their eyes, their attitude changes. Others need to have a stake in the process. They want to lead. So, I make them their team’s “quality captain” and watch them go from critic to cheerleader. The guy I described above was motivated simply by greed. I found it kind of sad, but after listening to him rant for a while I said something like this:

“Look, I know you don’t believe in this whole process but give me a chance here. I know what your customers want (we did the reasearch). I can help you to deliver service that will make your customers love you. If they love you they will want to do more business with you. If they give you more business then you’re going to be more successful. You’ll exceed your sales goals and you’ll make more money.”

BINGO! He wasn’t an instant believer, but I at least had his interest. He’s still a pain to coach at times, but it’s gotten better. He’s actually improved and begun to employ the skills I’ve coached. The guy will never become a raving fan and will never admit that the QA process helped him. His pride won’t let him. That’s okay. We both know it’s true.

The Secret of this Team’s Success…

Analysis Analytics Bar graph Chart Data Information ConceptI scored a lot of calls today and it was really satisfying. The calls were fantastic. I mean, these calls were really World-class. I began working with this client years ago. They had no quality program in place. They had never monitored a call or coached their agents on service quality. Actually, when we began they could be described as decent. You might have said that they were very good – above average, even. That’s the thing. It’s one thing to help a customer service team who knows they’re bad. I think it’s a tougher job to take a team who’s doing well and motivate them to excellence.

This team is a good study in some of the keys to developing a consistent, world-class delivery:

  1. A management team that’s committed for the long-haul. This team had the same manager for several years. He was committed to developing a culture of quality and had the support of his superiors. No matter how much the front-line railed against the program or how wishy-washy the front-line supervisors may have been at times, the consistent message and commitment to quality has always been there.
  2. Outlast the critics. The QA program has not always been popular among the ranks. As is true whenever you start a quality program, there are plenty of crusty veterans who have been used to having the free-reign to do and say whatever they desire. Over the years, the nay-sayers on this team were quietly faced with three choices: get on board, retire or find another job. There are few of them left.
  3. Set a high expectation for new hires. This team has had turnover – like all call centers. This team implemented a new hire orientation training in which it’s clearly communicated that quality service and exemplary phone skills are mandatory.
  4. Individual accountability. The program for this client began by measuring and reporting team-based results. This was great to get the process started and to get front-line buy-in. You can only get so far with team-based reporting, however. This team let their program evolve until every team member received regular, individual feedback. Their QA scores are now a significant part of their annual performance review.
  5. Have fun rewarding performance. Through the years, this team has done a mixture of incentives. One year there were quarterly team rewards like going bowling for an hour at the end of the work day, taking a limo out for ice cream or having lunch in the board room. One popular incentive cost almost nothing – it allowed agents to throw a pie in their supervisor’s face. Another year, each agent who achieved a certain quality score got his/her name in a drawing for a major prize (like, $1500 nice). Perhaps the most motivating reward I’ve witnessed, however, comes from this team’s senior manager. He sends an e-mail or voice mail to every agent who achieves World-class QA scores and thanks them for their efforts.

I hate to think how many thousand phone calls I’ve scored from this team over the years. But listening to their calls today and hearing the difference…it feels pretty good.