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A fully remote team! 📱
Empathy, vulnerability, coaching from the couch 🛋
It’s a really weird time for all of us right now. Teams that are so used to being physically together are now kept socially distant, connected only by a webcam and daily Zoom meetings. A lot of us are only starting to get accustomed to running our usual business functions over-the-air instead of face-to-face. Running regular coaching sessions, a key part of the CX professional’s job scope, has become even more complex.
In our webinar with Bonni Poch from Staples, we talked about the cultural shift in QA - where quality used to mean catching mistakes made by agents, timely and empathetic coaching is now seen as an integral part of the process of delivering quality customer service. But what are you supposed to do when your team is now 100% remote? How do you deliver the same empathetic, uplifting coaching experience over a video call?
The team at Plangrid is an awesome example of remote coaching done right. Through a combination of tech and culture, they’ve been running remote coaching sessions for the past four years on a highly technical product – while keeping morale and inclusivity high.
Grading is an essential step before coaching. While grading, a manager/analyst is collecting data points for giving feedback at the team and agent level. Quality assurance data and quality scores overall give managers an idea of how agents are performing in their interactions with customers – from following internal protocol and processes, to answering questions correctly, to using an empathetic tone with customers.
At Plangrid, the MaestroQA platform is used to automatically assign tickets for managers to grade. They’re sent tickets handled by agents who they don’t manage. (One note: This isn’t the standard, often we see that managers are responsible for QAing their team only). Feedback on these tickets is collected in the Coaching tab for each agent, which managers use as an important tool in their customer service training sessions.
In the coaching tab, managers can see all QA data for that agent over time – all ticket audits, QA score across channels, CSAT score, and historical feedback. It serves as the source of truth on agent performance that managers can bring into their 1:1s with them, and address the facts with agents on how they’re doing. Other teams sometimes use customer service coaching templates to keep these sessions on track.
Remote coaching adds another layer of complexity to the mix. You don’t have the benefit of seeing body language, or smoothing uncomfortable situations out in person. And you can’t tell how people are receiving the feedback that you’re giving as easily. But the Plangrid team has been running weekly coaching sessions for a fully remote team for the past four years. Here’s how they think about it:
To make it work, the team at Plangrid utilizes a mixture of technology and culture in their coaching.
As Joshua Jenkins, Customer Support Manager, puts it:
"The most important ingredients for the remote coach are diligent documentation and fearless communication. The MaestroQA platform’s reporting and coaching tabs allow us to document every bit of feedback we’re giving while tracking the agent’s improvement over time. The grading automations also keep graders honest and on their toes - because managers grade each others’ teams, we know that if we don’t work through our grading assignments for the week, another team will not get timely feedback on their performance."
So they record quality assurance data diligently, as the source of truth in agent feedback conversations. By having managers grade the teams of other managers, it holds people more accountable to finishing their allotted grading assignment each week. Then managers communicate openly, and without fear, with their reports on areas of improvement.
On the culture side, Joshua and his fellow managers advocate for an open culture of empathy and vulnerability across the board.
“How do you coach customer service skills for a highly complex product? Plangrid is extremely technical and extensive, taking up to 6 months to learn. We pair each new hire with a mentor on a 1:1 basis, but that was not enough.
I started to see smoke signals of a need for a more open and empathetic culture when I first became a manager. A new team member was struggling with delivering solutions for our customers, and I realized that the agent’s tickets didn’t match up with requests for help in the wider Slack channel.”
Mentorship wasn’t enough. They needed to address their team culture to make sure that agents felt comfortable asking for help.
For the Plangrid team, being open and vulnerable enough to admit needing help has to start from the top. Having managers grade tickets for each other’s teams promotes a sense of transparency between teams, and lays areas for improvement bare for all to see.
New hires know that the onboarding process is a long one, but the openness and thoughtful mentorship provided ensures that attrition rates on the Plangrid team remain low.
The Plangrid Support team is proof that we can adapt to our circumstances, and that a thoughtful combination of technology and culture goes a long way in reducing the distance between remote teams.
Check out the full webinar below, or request a free trial👇