20 Customer Service Coaching Tips to Boost Agent Performance

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The legendary "zen master" NBA coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson, was at the helm of some of the most exciting championship teams and players in the entire league's franchise. Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal (to name a few) count Phil Jackson as the reason that they were able to shine bright as major basketball superstars. 

Phil Jackson was a powerful example of how good coaching brings out the best performance in a team, despite different personalities, talents, and ways of doing things. This is what a good coach does in any organization - and if you're coaching customer service agents, you need to keep your skills sharp as well. 

We've gathered twenty tips to help you design a coaching strategy that supports you in showing up as the best customer service coach you can be. Though we'll focus more on a coaching session with an individual, these tips can mostly be applied to group sessions as well. Get ready to build a customer service coaching program that leads your team to championship status through impactful training sessions embodying brand values and keeping the team on a positive note!

1. Build a Foundation Based on Planning and QA

The foundation of any skills training is having a well-defined outcome for your agents to work toward to improve service quality. You can say "customer service" and "quality assurance" all day long, but within your organization, what do those things mean in real, tangible terms? Creating a customer interaction path to a well-satisfied, even ecstatic, customer that your agents can follow from the beginning is the first step in quality assurance. 

Knowing what common pitfalls are part of the customer experience and designing a customer service training program that gives your agents the tools to anticipate and mitigate mistakes is key. However, even with the best-laid plans, there are still times where things go wrong. Having a plan for mitigation in a variety of circumstances gives a new team member the tools to handle an unsatisfied customer with ease instead of floundering in a high-pressure situation.  

2. Build Customer Service Coaching Templates

Though every agent is unique, a scalable coaching strategy will involve coaching templates for training sessions. Templates will give you a quantifiable coaching session process to help your agents grow from beginners to excellent customer service champions and you won't have to reinvent the wheel every single time. 

Templates can certainly account for different personality types and styles, but overall should work toward the common goal of increasing customer service capabilities. An added bonus of templates? Coaches can study and practice them so that coaching sessions feel more organic and effective: as the templated foundation is mastered, the coach has more room for creativity and intuition. 

3. Emphasize Skill Building

The best coaches in every industry are constantly growing and working on their skills so they can stay sharp in their roles. As a customer service agent, learning new skills, sharpening your foundational tools, and learning and growing in your abilities are essential to leading your team to success. There are plenty of resources out there from podcasts and webinars, books, and online learning, and as events are opening up in real life, network gatherings and seminars are a great way to get inspired so you can go back to your team and inspire them.

4. Be Strategic With Your Coaching 

Do you have a Kobe Bryant on your team? Congratulations! That person still needs encouragement, affirmation, and guidance - your job is to let them know how they're appreciated. Not everyone on the team is a Kobe, and this is where strategic coaching comes in. 

By coaching your agents where they're at, you can be more hands-on with the ones that are still finding their footing and help them develop the skills they need to catch up to their other teammates. Encouragement is key here; communicate that you believe in them, what you see as their strengths, and bring home the point that once they build where they're currently lacking in a skillset that they have a bright future ahead of them. 

5. 1:1 is Always Preferred

One of the gifts of one-on-one feedback is truly being "seen" as an individual, and taking the time to give truly personal attention during a coaching session will do wonders in terms of boosting morale and motivation. 

Group training can be useful from time to time, but during a one-on-one coaching session, customer service supervisors can acknowledge and nurture individual's strengths, while the sometimes awkward topic of areas for improvement won't be aired out to a room full of colleagues. As an added bonus, individual coaching sessions give you and your agents a chance to build a trusted relationship as coach and coachee, one which will truly create a win-win situation for everyone.

6. Set Expectations Ahead of Time

Have you ever sat down on a Sunday afternoon to plan out what's ahead for your week? If you have, you probably found that you felt more clear, focused, and effective through the coming days knowing what you set out to accomplish and what needed to be done to get there. 

Setting an agenda or plan for a customer service training session helps both the agent and the coach in the same way: both parties know what to expect so there are no surprises, why they're there, so there's less likelihood of sidetracking from the conversation on hand, and a set amount of time so your agent can get to work implementing their performance data, positive feedback and enhance self-directed learning. Read more about how to prepare for a successful coaching session here.

7. Have a QA Scorecard to Review

Your Kobes and your rising stars alike both need something quantifiable to work toward and "prove" that they're making progress with performance data. A QA scorecard, or quality assurance scorecard, is an essential customer service training tool to orient team leaders, managers, and customer service agents to real measurable results so that the idea of customer service transforms from something subjective to something quantifiable. That way, neither the coach nor the customer service agent needs to wonder, second-guess or manipulate information. 

Even better, a scorecard gives your customer service staff something to strive for or beat, as they have quantitative guidance on delivering outstanding customer service. To learn more about creating an effective QA scorecard, read here.  

8. Assign Specific, Measurable, Action Items

Life and business happen in action, so you must be able to translate your coaching sessions from talking to doing. Using the foundational guides of your company's customer service metrics, your QA scorecard, and any other metrics that your agent would benefit from developing, at the end of your coaching session ask the agent what action items they're going to take between now and the next session. This will imprint in their mind what they are committing to while showing you what they heard and took away from your session. 

All action items must be measurable and specific. For example, "I commit to producing a 10% decrease in my average handle time (AHT)," as opposed to "I'll respond faster."  

9. Keep Your Customer Service Training Engaging

Have you ever had a friend who went to a Tony Robbins seminar and they just would not stop posting about it for what felt like 5,000 weeks afterward and you were wondering why they were so obsessed? Well, if you've been to one yourself, you would know that the world's most famous life coach holds performance seminars that are much more experience than they are lectures. He literally gets his attendees to walk across fire to show them they can achieve anything they desire. We are not recommending you have your agents walk across fire, but by incorporating heightened emotional states into your training programs, your agents will connect powerfully to the messages and takeaways. 

This is where your continued skill-building comes in as a coach. Take them through visualizations of success, remind them of a time they achieved something they thought they couldn't, or help them get out of their head and into a flow state during your training sessions. Monthly or quarterly group training can be an excellent opportunity to create experiential training programs.

10. Customer Satisfaction is the Goal

Have you ever gotten into your car without a predetermined destination? You probably ran into some cool things or a little town off the beaten path, but your company isn't going to be driven to success without direction. Knowing that you're after a very specific destination - high-quality customer interactions - and repeating that destination and goal helps your team stay focused on where you are all going. 

Repetition is key, as it's human nature to get distracted, so don't worry about sounding like a broken record. Don't forget a huge part of customer service coaching through individual coaching sessions is providing your agents with the tools to handle tricky customer encounters.

11. Exceptional Customer Service Starts with Exceptional Management

This tip ties back to number three: as a business leader, management team members should set the tone and example for what they would like to see echoed from any team member expected to deliver exceptional service. 

Walking your talk shows your team that you have integrity and gives your agents an actual model of behavior and performance to model. They must see this consistently as it will permeate their mindset and boost their morale over time. You're asking your agents to step up their game and go outside of their comfort zone and your performance needs to reflect that, too.

12. Start Your Coaching Sessions Early

Customer service coaching success is all about building a foundation and setting a tone from the very start. Making it clear to your agents that strategic coaching resulting in commitments to measurable and specific action items from the beginning of their employment with you makes growth, feedback, and accountability an expectation, not something that pops up quarterly or yearly. 

The added bonus of giving your agents the experience of mentorship from the very beginning is that your agents' morale is likely to be boosted from the very start, as they won't feel like they're treading water or have to play guessing games. Don't forget to integrate your agent's personal goals into their coaching plan for some personalized added excitement while they're tracking progress.

13. Be Strategic with Positive and Negative Feedback

As uncomfortable as it is, everyone on your team is going to need to hear the ugly along with the good - yes, even your Kobe Bryant. As pleasant as it is to have coaching sessions full of high-fives and nothing-but-net celebrations, this is never the norm. 

Remember, as a coach, it is your job to create a container where people are inspired to grow, and that growth happens outside of their comfort zone through constructive feedback that might be difficult to hear and deliver. 

Delivering less-than-positive feedback needs to be done differently with each agent; some can receive it and implement it without taking it personally, while others need more coddling. As a member of workforce management, it's up to you to take note of personality traits from your very first coaching sessions so you can provide constructive feedback. Conversely, understanding how each individual can hear and receive positive feedback is just as important. Knowing what they're doing right will help soften the blow if they have to undergo a particularly intense customer service coaching session.

14. Don't Forget About Soft Skills

Speaking of different personalities, it's important to get off the metrics checklist every once in a while to acknowledge the interpersonal skills that each agent brings to the table. Even though you can't measure psychological factors, using positive language and specific feedback about integral personality traits that an agent possesses is just as important as metric performance. 

If you have an agent who's especially adept at active listening and transforming an irate customer into a brand advocate after feeling heard and understood for five minutes, let them know how valuable that is.

If you have a Type A agent with charm and charisma reaching to the stratosphere, let them know that you see that and you love it. These are more personal touchstones that your agents will appreciate you taking a minute or two to acknowledge. Conversely, you can invite agents to identify opportunities for developing communication methods that could enhance the customer experience.

15. Pair New Agents With Experienced Ones

Another way to motivate employees is by pairing new agents with experienced team leads for an added layer of mentorship that promotes employee engagement amongst individual employees. This supports effective coaching and gives new agents a glimpse into a positive service experience. A coach who is constantly honing their soft skills will eventually develop an intuitive sense of which experienced agents new agents will respond and connect with. Every person has a different learning and personality style, and keeping certain compatibilities in mind will maximize the value of this tip in the long run.

16. Periodically Refresh Skills 

Why would Kobe continue to practice his free-throws day after day even after proving himself as one of the greatest of all time? Because it's fundamental - and no champion is above the fundamentals. 

Practicing foundational skills and going back to the basics might seem unnecessary, especially if you're watching the numbers on a QA scorecard go up. However, that's exactly the time to guide your agents back to the free throw. 

As adults, we learn by repetition, and this is another spot where you shouldn't worry about being a broken record. If you're worried about an agent getting bored, remember tip number nine and find ways to keep the experience engaging. 

17. Make Sure Your Agents Have a Deep Understanding

Do your agents understand your product, service, mission, vision, and values inside and out? Even if the knowledge doesn't relate exactly to their job description, possessing deep knowledge of everything the company stands for and is capable of gives your agents useful backup tools that could come in handy in unexpected customer interactions. 

On top of that, when your agents are connected with the company "why," they're able to connect deeper with tip number ten in a way that gives their role a powerful context from which to work.

18. Role Playing

Role-playing can be a powerful tool for helping your agents practice their skills, whether they're brand new and are learning the ropes or they need a confidence boost in connection with areas with room for improvement. 

Be sure to keep this exercise fun and expect that the agent might be a little shy and awkward at first. Remind them they're in a safe space to practice and it's the perfect way to get out all their nerves so they can rock it when it's game time.

19. Make Sure Individual Agents are on the Same Page

While your coaching style should be tailored to individual personality types, the overall results of your coaching program are designed to help you coach employees so that there is a uniform understanding of training priorities within a company's values and brand identity. 

Be sure that your coaching guides your entire team toward the same goal: awesome customer service. They're all sure to talk amongst each other, and discrepancies in messaging and goals will be sniffed out. 

If there is a current initiative, all sessions should reinforce it. Values and mission should be clear to all players involved and if someone seems like they're having trouble grasping the destination, gently remind them of the overarching vision for the company.

20. Invest in QA Software to Help with Customer Coaching

Your coaching skills are the personal touch that your customer agents need and as a coach, you need as much support as you can get as well. Investing in QA software helps streamline the customer coaching process with sophisticated features and ease of use, creating an overall elegant solution that is perfect parts your magic and perfect parts the support you need from modern-day technology. Learn more about what MaestroQA can do to help maximize the magic of your customer service coaching!

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