I used to work in a call center. While I considered myself a decent agent who legitimately tried to help callers and give value to my employer, evaluation days with a manager sitting next to me on my calls were stressful.
Worse, they were unrepresentative; I almost always underperformed due to the fear that I would say something wrong while my manager was jacked into my phone line.
Thankfully for call center agents and the managers who try to help them improve, there’s now a better way than sitting next to an agent and making them nervous: Call recording as a tool for agent improvement.
Not all training sessions that involve call recording are created equal, however. For instance, successful calls need to be used in addition to those that fail.
“When only ‘bad’ calls are used, people know that they’ll get a kicking in a coaching session, which will result in a deflated advisor and a coach who has proven they know best,” according to a CallCentre Helper blog post on coaching. “This type of victory is Pyrrhic as the performance of the agent is unlikely to change for the better.”
Likewise, percentage scoring calls is not that useful because there’s a difference between making a mistake and being clueless about what should be happening on a call.
“The most common error in contact centers is that people re-train rather than coach,” the CallCentre Helper blog noted. “ I’ve seen many occasions when an agent has a great level of performance, then has a ‘bad’ call and the coach will conduct a session that’s right back at the level of someone who just walked out of induction training – rather than an open discussion asking “what’s going on here?”
A much better way to help agents improve through recordings is with self-evaluations and showcasing, which Greg Levin beautifully explains in a post at the Productivity Plus blog.
With self-evaluations, agents listen to their own recordings and provide performance evaluations of themselves before meeting with a coach.
“Contact centers new to this approach are often surprised by how candid and comprehensive agents [are] during self-evaluations,” wrote Levin. “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.”
Tackling areas of improvement in general go much more smoothly if the agent is the one leading the critique—there’s less defensiveness, generally, because both the manager and the agent are on the same team suddenly instead of it being a boss telling an employee what they did wrong.
The emphasis is shifted from blame to improvement.
“Agents know what good service and high performance sounds like,” added Levin. “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 also is a fantastic and somewhat underutilized method for improving agent performance. This consists of having agents listen to ideal call samples that represent agents at their best.
This approach shows agents what is expected instead of merely telling them how they should act. And we all know that showing is better than telling; it is much more concrete, and it gives agents a concrete model to follow
Creating a library of ideal call recordings can take time, but enterprising managers can use the very process of creating a best call library as an exercise in behavior mindfulness; agents can be tasked with nominating calls they think deserve to be featured in the library, offloading some of the process of selecting and labeling potential exemplary calls.
“To get even more out of your call showcasing initiative,” added Levin, “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.”
It also is a good way to make evaluation days a lot less stressful for agents!
Edited by Brooke Neuman