Imagine you’re back in high school and it’s report card time. You have mostly As and Bs but a D- in your toughest class. You’re desperate to improve your GPA, so you ask the teacher what you can do next semester to improve. But instead of getting to the root of your struggle, she tosses you a textbook and says, “Figure it out.”
Unfortunately, this same problem applies to customer support agents who want to level up their skills. Only half of underperforming agents say they receive the training they need to do their job well, according to Salesforce.
So how can customer experience leaders bridge that gap? Customer service coaching.
Personalized, data-driven coaching sessions are the most powerful way to elevate agent performance and, in turn, improve customer experiences. In this article, we’ll outline five elements of a 30-minute coaching session to stay organized and accountable when delivering feedback.
Setting expectations ahead of time keeps coaching sessions focused and efficient. Unfortunately, 63% of meetings don't have an agenda, according to Attentiv. This is especially detrimental in a learning environment where structure fosters retention.
Effective customer service coaching starts before the session with an agenda, so agents can gather their thoughts ahead of time. You can share the agenda in a calendar invite, internal messaging, or a shared coaching dashboard.
For starters, encourage agents to come to coaching sessions with two to three questions or challenges, like “How can I balance First Call Resolution with Average Handle Time?” This works best asynchronously in a shared document, so coaches have time to digest the information, and agents aren’t put on the spot.
Likewise, the coach must come prepared with data and materials to guide the discussion with the agent, such as key wins, areas for improvement, transcripts, and screen recordings.
Quality Assurance (QA) scores should be the foundation of your coaching strategy because they provide granular, individualized insights—not arbitrary opinions—into how an agent performs against a company’s quality standards.
QA scores are calculated with a QA scorecard that includes rubrics for traits like friendliness, grammar, and adherence to approved processes.
In this phase of the coaching session, walk the agent through their recent QA scores along with their score trajectory over time to establish a mutual, clear understanding of the areas in which they excel and the areas where they need help.
Here are a few ways to analyze an agent's QA scores to uncover strengths and opportunities:
Evaluating customer service productivity metrics provides a snapshot of how effectively agents resolve customer issues, as well as how they influence customers’ perception of the company in general.
Here are four foundational productivity metrics CX teams track:
Productivity metrics typically aren’t as actionable as QA scores since they only tell you if but not why the agent performs up to par (or not). However, coaches can eliminate this blind spot by reviewing productivity metrics in tandem with QA scores.
For example, if an agent’s CSAT score declines, the coach can review their QA scores for that specific ticket side-by-side to identify the root cause of the issue, whether it was a harsh tone of voice or lack of empathy.
Agents get down on themselves if they struggle to improve these metrics, so it’s important to balance constructive criticism with praise during this phase of the session. Instead of fixating on weak spots, set aside a few minutes to highlight key wins, milestones, and improvements.
The more data you collect, the more you’ll see how no two agents have the same needs. Accordingly, coaching can’t be relegated to check-the-box modules or generalized training if you want optimum performance. It has to be a 1:1 experience.
For example, two agents could both score 81 out of 90 points on their QA scorecards but for vastly different reasons. That’s where data comes in to ensure each agent has an individualized path to improvement.
Maybe one agent struggled to use the brand voice in his interaction, while another agent needs to improve her use of visual aids to solve customer issues. Uncovering these nuances within QA scorecards keeps agents focused on growth and reassures their status as individuals, not just cogs in a big machine.
Another effective method for sharing feedback is walking through screen recordings of an agent’s interaction with a customer. Rather than relying on data alone, screen recordings give a 360 view into the agent’s problem-solving process, leading to more actionable and targeted feedback.
Take Tails.com, a dog food subscription service. It used MaestroQA’s Screen Capture feature to get full visibility into agent behavior. While watching one agent’s interactions with customers, the CX team identified 17 new opportunities for improvement, from simple keyboard shortcuts and optimized support ticket navigation to computer monitor configuration.
Tying those loose ends reduced the agent’s AHT by 50%.
“Instead of just giving someone a hard number, I can have a more complete conversation with them about everything that factored into their QA score,” said Daniel Jensen, CX quality and training team Leader, Tails.com. “We’re building agent confidence and rapport by coaching them on how to solve inquiries they struggled with.”
Collaborating with agents to set goals is great, but there’s a missing link between goals and results: action items.
Broad-brush suggestions like “improve CSAT” can confuse and frustrate agents if they don’t have a detailed roadmap to achieve that. However, time-bound action items keep agents accountable since they can be tracked and correlated with improved metrics or key milestones.
Let’s say a coach sets an objective for an agent to reduce their AHT by 10% by the end of the quarter. The coach can pair that objective with an action item, such as “Discuss ways to improve call processes with five peers by Friday, and bring ideas to discuss”, or “review Lessonly training material on improving AHT”.
The key to action items is staying organized. MaestroQA’s coaching dashboards make it easy to track and manage to-dos in a centralized dashboard. Every action item created in a coaching session appears on the coaching page. Then, as completed action items are marked off, coaches and agents alike can flip back and forth to view completed and incomplete action items. The dashboard also displays learning management system (LMS) materials and tutorials assigned to the agent to review.
From streaming services and social media to ecommerce brands, people crave customization. Individualized experiences, whether a recommendation for a show to binge or a book to buy, keep us engaged.
The same applies to professional development, especially when it comes to improving customer service agent performance. Implementing a coaching strategy without considering agents’ unique needs is like Netflix sending the same suggestions to all 200+ million of its subscribers.
But if you’re ready to arm yourself with data and help agents reach their potential, get a demo of MaestroQA and experience the new standard for customer service coaching.