Blog Home

AllTop Stories
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Agent Coaching & Development

Customer Service Coaching 101: Improve Agent Performance

August 2, 2021
0 minute read

Letting underprepared customer service agents handle complex customer service issues isn’t just frustrating for customers—it’s expensive for businesses and bad for the overall customer experience (and customer satisfaction).

A steady increase in self-service support technologies means that customers now resolve simple questions on their own, leaving agents to handle tougher tickets. As a result, live support costs an average of $8.01 per contact compared to self-service channels, which cost about $0.10 per contact, according to Gartner.

Given this challenge, how can customer experience leaders set their agents up for success, and how can they provide exceptional customer service? 

Relying on check-the-box training modules doesn’t prepare agents for those nuanced challenges. On the other hand, micromanaging every interaction can lead to agents feeling resentful and resistant to change.

Instead, you need a customer service coaching strategy that’s informed by actionable data, two-way feedback, and a plan to keep everyone accountable. That’s the secret weapon for high-performing agents.

But before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a step back and start with the basics.

What Is Customer Service Coaching?

Customer service coaching is the ongoing process of improving a support agent’s skills so they can provide top-notch customer experiences.

Support agents are usually coached by a customer experience (CX) manager, aquality assurance (QA) analyst, or customer service supervisors. Regardless, coaches need strong customer service experience and good visibility into agents’ day-to-day work to ultimately impact customer satisfaction.

Customer service coaching isn’t a static practice—it’s a process that evolves based on organizational goals and what individual agents are struggling with on any given day.

Customer Service Training vs. Customer Service Coaching: What’s the Difference?

You might hear “coaching” and “training” used interchangeably in customer service. But these terms are actually quite different.

Customer service training refers to teaching baseline, check-the-list information and processes. This is one-to-many communication, usually for new employees to ramp up.

Customer service coaching refers to 1:1 sessions in which agents receive individualized feedback, performance reviews, and suggestions to improve their interactions. All agents should receive coaching, whether they’re brand new or seasoned veterans.

Think of it like tennis: you can attend a weekend camp to learn the basics like stroke types and how to keep score, but you need ongoing, one-on-one feedback to master advanced elements like footwork and positioning.

Why Is Customer Service Coaching Important?

More than half of people have higher expectations for customer service now compared to a year ago, according to Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service Report. Investing in coaching is the best way to help agents meet these stringent expectations.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Better Support Yields Loyal Customers

40% of customers say a brand can earn their loyalty when support agents surpass their expectations in resolving an issue, according to Zendesk.

This is critical for a company’s bottom line, considering it can be 5x more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain current ones.

2. Coaching Closes Knowledge Gaps

Even the most talented customer support agents will stumble at some point. Individualized coaching ensures those mistakes become learning opportunities.

For example, an experienced agent might have rockstar people skills but a weak spot when it comes to resolving questions efficiently. Rather than doubling down on boilerplate training sessions, coaching addresses their specific areas of need.

3. Coaching Keeps Agents Aligned on Organizational Goals

Agents perform better when they have tangible goals to work toward. Whether your goal is to improve performance metrics like First Call Resolution (FCR) or soft skills like empathy, coaching meetings clarify expectations and keep agents focused on what matters most.

How to Implement a Customer Service Coaching Program

So, you’re sold on the benefits of customer service coaching—great. Before you start a session or share any feedback, it’s important to map out your coaching plan ahead of time. This ensures you align on goals, hold yourself accountable, and maximize the ROI of coaching.

Here are three steps every customer support team leader should take to implement a coaching plan:

1. Collect QA Data to Find Opportunities for Improvement

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Accordingly, CX managers need to know what, exactly, agents need help with in order to maximize the effectiveness of coaching meetings. The most effective (and efficient) way to do this is by collecting quality data from customer-agent interactions.

This takes patience and strong attention to detail. So consider leveling up your data collection like, the project management software company.’s CX team struggled to fully understand the experiences their customers had.

“We needed a better barometer of how our customer interactions were going,” said MaShari Walker, CX Strategy and Operations Leader. “Metrics like NPS and CSAT were too one-dimensional and didn't result in any action items that allowed us to iterate on or improve the experience.”

To get richer CX insights, increased their volume of quality audits by 48% within three months. This enabled the team to find new areas for improvement that were previously overlooked.

The result? reduced their AHT from 24.1 minutes to 16.9 minutes—nearly a 30% improvement.

2. Establish a Coaching Cadence to Ensure Timely Feedback

Coaching needs to be conducted systematically, not arbitrarily, to hold agents and coaches accountable and ensure it doesn’t slip to the bottom of the to-do list.

There isn’t a set-in-stone rule for how often agents need coaching. It can range from once a week to once a year. However, there are a couple of questions that can help you settle on a cadence that works for you:

  • Are agents struggling? If the customer support team is consistently coming up short on KPIs, agents may need more frequent coaching sessions—perhaps every other week.
  • How experienced/talented is the agent? Veterans and top performers may only need to be coached once a month as opposed to newcomers who might benefit from weekly sessions.

No agent should be immune from coaching. Whether they have five weeks of experience or five years, routine coaching sessions can refine their skills and keep them motivated, while also serving as a touchpoint to discuss any work-related issues the agent might be facing.

3. Set Up a System to Track Agent Progress Over Time

CX managers should always have a pulse on the progress agents make to know whether coaching sessions drive results (or need reevaluation).

Take MeUndies, a direct-to-consumer underwear and apparel company, for example. MeUndies used CSAT to evaluate the strength of their agent performance. Their CX team coached agents against a high standard, and the results proved it was working. However, their CSAT score started to stagnate in the high 90s.

A CSAT in the 90s is considered masterful by any standard. But rather than resting on their laurels, the CX team at MeUndies revisited that data and asked, “Is this ticket really deserving of 100%?” With data at their fingertips, MeUndies dug into why CSAT stagnated and found areas that could be improved through coaching.

Tracking progress over time also lets CX teams celebrate key milestones that agents reach. You can even set up incentives—bonuses, prizes, etc.—to reach KPIs by a certain date.

Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your coaching program, it’s time to outline what an actual session involves.

What Does a Customer Service Coaching Session Look Like?

Effective coaching is so much more than walking agents through a metrics checklist. Here are five features of a productive session:

1. Set Expectations Ahead of Time

Agents should go into coaching sessions with a clear understanding of what topics and issues will be addressed.

For example, you might invite agents to come to each coaching session with three questions or challenges they face, like “How should I balance AHT with First Call Resolution targets?” This can be done asynchronously ahead of time so you can spend the majority of the session focusing on resolutions.

Likewise, coaches should set a clear agenda for each session to stay focused on key areas and keep the meeting organized. This agenda can be shared via email, internal messaging, or in a shared document.

2. Promote an Atmosphere That’s Bi-Directional and Open

Coaching isn’t a one-way street. The ideal coaching session is one where agents feel as comfortable sharing their experiences and point of view as they are receiving feedback. This minimizes communication gaps and helps get to the root cause of issues faster.

If an agent hesitates to give feedback on their own, prompt them with questions such as, “What would have made you feel more confident in this scenario?” or “Do you think this score accurately reflects the interaction, and why?”

Open-ended questions like these prompt agents to think through situations in a collaborative learning environment. When it comes to complex issues, active learning is almost always more effective than one-way lectures.

3. Cover All of the Bases

There are typically five general topics that are addressed in a coaching session:

  • Quality Assurance (QA) Scorecards: Reviewing QA scorecards provides two-way insights into how well the agent lives up to the business’ standards for quality customer service.
  • Customer Service Satisfaction (CSAT) Scores: Examining CSAT scores can help identify correlations between customer support and how satisfied customers are with a product or service.
  • Productivity-Based Metrics: Discuss how performance has improved (or declined) for metrics such as Average Handle Time (AHT) and First Call Resolution (FCR).
  • Professional Advancement: Take time to discuss potential promotions and how they perceive their current role on the team. Additionally, discussing long-term planning can motivate employees and help coaches zero in on what kind of training the agent needs.
  • Overall personal and emotional wellbeing: Agents are people first, not just cogs in a wheel. Take a few minutes for an open discussion about their stress levels and morale.

4. Share Objective, Evidence-Based Feedback

Providing detailed examples of problems (and successes) from agent interactions is crucial for information retention and boosting confidence.

For example,, a pet food subscription service, struggled to provide constructive feedback to help remote agents identify and overcome roadblocks to better customer experiences.

“It’s difficult to know why some tasks take more time than others to complete,” said Daniel Jensen, Quality & Training Team Leader at “Unless you’re sitting in the same room with the agent, you just can’t tell what’s going on.”

After realizing they lacked the proper tools to diagnose and resolve these issues, used screen capture technology to literally visualize their agents working through problems, giving coaches more context and helping them provide concrete feedback.

For example, while watching one agent’s actual interactions with customers, Jensen’s team identified 17 specific opportunities for improvement, including simple keyboard shortcuts, computer monitor configuration, and support ticket navigation.

These insights reduced the agent’s AHT by 50%.

“Seeing someone’s work eliminates flawed assumptions and helps us understand the process that they went through,” said Jensen. “This creates a more forgiving QA score, so agents aren’t penalized for things outside of their control.”

5. Set Clear Action Items

In order for agents to improve, coaches need to assign specific action items before the next session. Having a tangible to-do list holds agents accountable to a result, as opposed to vague instructions like “try to be more empathetic.”

This could be an assignment to review a lesson on greeting techniques or a link to your internal knowledge base to buff up on product or industry knowledge.

Action items can be tough to keep track of as your team gets bigger and busier, which is why MaestroQA has features to keep them organized. For example, coaches and managers can document agreed upon "next steps" and improvement plans, and even track agents’ improvement over time.

5 Tips to Level Up Your Coaching

Here are five ways to kick your coaching up a notch.

1. Make QA the Foundation of Your Coaching Strategy

QA scores are your best source of intel for coaching agents effectively because they give a detailed breakdown of the areas in which they excel and the areas in which they need help. This could include grammar, friendliness, and tone.

The success of your quality assurance program hinges on your quality assurance scorecard—the better your QA scorecard, the more accurate your QA findings will be, and the more efficiently your graders can do their job.

Here are three simple, effective questions coaches can add to QA scorecards:

  • Did the agent use proper grammar and appropriate tone of voice?
  • Did the agent identify the root cause and tag the ticket accordingly?
  • Did the agent choose the appropriate resolution to the customer’s issue?

Ideally, CX teams should test scorecards for 3-4 weeks to ensure graders understand the questions.

2. Close the Feedback Loop

Closing the feedback loop between coaches and agents frees up bandwidth for busy teams and helps agents make adjustments faster.

Zola, the wedding planning service, needed a faster way to onboard and empower new customer support agents. However, that was a tall task considering it was a busy season. Their solution was implementing MaestroQA’s in tandem with Lessonly, a team training system. This integration enabled QA graders to assign relevant training lessons with a single click from any scorecard.

For example, Zola’s CX team found that agents needed help with call de-escalation. They assigned training lessons in real-time before following up and augmenting that training with regularly scheduled coaching sessions.

“Now that we have a great workflow for assigning lessons from MaestroQA, we’re experiencing more lightbulb moments,” said Rachel Livingston, Senior Director, Operations at Zola. “Integrating MaestroQA with Lessonly has helped Zola close the feedback loop between quality and training.”

3. Standardize Ticket Grading with a Calibration Workflow

Agents might struggle to balance customer issues with the fear of being graded harshly, especially if they feel QA rubrics fluctuate arbitrarily. The solution is implementing a standardized, department-wide calibration workflow that takes each team member’s perspective into account.

To see what this means in action, consider Stitch Fix, a personal styling service with a team of more than 200 support agents. Their team leads were calibrating in silos, which meant agent evaluation varied widely.

Stich Fix bridged that gap with a “ticket of the week” program where the quality team selects a ticket that’s graded by all members of the CX department. Meanwhile, Stitch Fix’s quality council calibrates on the ticket and develops an answer key.

The quality team tabulates all feedback and compares it to the quality council’s answer key. The data is aggregated into charts and graphs, a summary recap is written, and the newsletter is shared with the entire department.

“Regularly looking at tickets as a department makes it easier for agents to build the muscle for dealing with difficult situations,” said Jenni Bacich, CX Global Programs Manager at Stitch Fix. “We’ve normalized the expectation that we’re driving toward commitment, not consensus.”

4. Have Managers Grade Other Managers’ Teams

Coaches, through no fault of their own, can fall victim to complacency or biases. One effective way to keep them on their toes is having them grade tickets for teams besides their own.

Plangrid, a construction planning software company, implemented this strategy and found that it was easier to communicate openly about areas of improvement. It also keeps 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," says Joshua Jenkins, Customer Support Manager, Plangrid.

This promotes a sense of transparency between teams and highlights areas for improvement.

5. Track Coaching Sessions to Spot Trends

Keeping track of sessions over time helps CX teams better understand how agent success correlates with coaching. Pro tip: don’t rely on clunky spreadsheets to track your sessions.

MaestroQA’s Coaching Sessions charts keep everything you need to know organized, including who coached the agent, the number of sessions a coach has conducted, and the number of sessions an agent has marked as complete. You can even attach customer support tickets or CSAT survey results to coaching sessions.

Customer Service Coaching Isn’t a Cost—It’s an Investment

High-performing customer support teams aren’t a coincidence—they’re the result of methodical, data-driven coaching.

If you’re on the fence about the ROI of customer service coaching, research from Avanade found that companies expect to see a $3 return on investment for every $1 invested in the customer experience, including the development of CX skills.

Ready to see how MaestroQA’s coaching features can elevate your agent performance and enhance your customer experience? Request a free demo today.

Previous Article

Mastering Customer Interactions in the Age of DSAT

The Essential Guide to Chatbot Quality Assurance: Ensuring Excellence in Every Interaction

Navigating AI Implementation Strategy in Customer Experience: Risks and Strategies

Elevating Call Center Performance with Six Sigma and MaestroQA

Elevating Business Excellence Through Non-Customer-Facing QA: A Strategic Imperative

Elevating Trust and Safety through QA: How TaskRabbit Sets the Standard

Unlocking Superior CX: The Bombas Blueprint for Quality and Coaching

Unleashing the Power of Customer Conversations: Top 6 Tech Trends Revealed at the CX Summit

Important Factors to Consider when Exploring Sentiment Analysis in Customer Support QA: A CX Community Discussion

Agent Empowerment: 5 Tactics for Customer Retention from Industry Leaders

Mastering Agent Onboarding: Quality Assurance Lessons from ClassPass

Driving Business Impact with Targeted QA: Insights from an Expert

The Transformation of QA: Driving Business Results - Key Takeaways from MaestroQA’s CX Summit

How Angi Unlocked Growth and Continuous Improvement with QA

De-Villainizing QA Scorecards with Hims & Hers Customer Service

How to Revamp QA Scorecards for Enhanced Quality Assurance

The Art of Outsourcing Customer Support: Lessons from Stitch Fix's BPO Partnership

Writing the Auto QA Playbook & Transforming Customer Support

Advancing Customer Service Metrics with AI Classifiers

MaestroQA Named One of Comparably’s 2023 Best Workplaces in New York for the Second Consecutive Year

How to Maximize Call Center & BPO Performance | MaestroQA

MaestroQA Named on Comparably’s Best Workplaces in New York

CX Strategy: The Future of AI in Quality Assurance

Elevating Customer Satisfaction with Visibility & Coaching

Champion-Challenger Model: Improve Customer Service In BPOs

5 Key Strategies to Supercharge Your BPO Partnership

How Customers Collaborate with Their BPO Partners Today

Kick Start Your Customer Service BPO Partnership Successfully

BPO Call Centers: Best Practices for Quality Assurance

Empathy in Customer Service: Everything You Need to Know

Call Calibration: What is It & What are the Benefits?

Increase QA Team Alignment with Call Calibration & GraderQA

Measuring An Organization's 3 Ps: People, Process and Product

How to Onboard Your Customer Service Team to a New QA Program

Average Handle Time (AHT): How to Calculate & Reduce It

Should You Have Dedicated Quality Assurance Specialists?

The Top 4 CX Books Recommended by Our QA Community

How Top eCommerce Brands Ensure Exceptional Customer Service in a Remote World

21 Key Customer Experience Definitions for QA Professionals

5 Key Components of a Remarkable Customer Service Experience

Customer Service Management 101: Everything You Need to Know

A Guide to Customer Service Quality Assurance Programs

The Ultimate Guide to Improving First Call Resolution (FCR)

The Key to Customer Service Coaching Is More Data (and Fewer Opinions)

How to Refresh Your Call Center Quality Monitoring Scorecard

How to Update Your QA Scorecard

The 9 Customer Service KPIs Needed To Improve CX

3 Ways to Test Your Call Center Quality Assurance Scorecard

Leveraging Customer Sentiment to Improve CX in Call Centers

This Is What an Effective Customer Service Coaching Session Looks Like

What is DSAT and 5 Steps to Improve It

Customer Experience Management and Quality Assurance Jobs

How Deeper CX Analytics Lead to Better CSAT | MaestroQA

Achieving Effortless Customer Experiences (CX) with QA

How to Create an Omnichannel Call Center Quality Assurance Scorecard

Beyond Low CSAT Scores: Finding the Root Cause of Poor CX

Customer Service Coaching 101: Improve Agent Performance

Build the Ultimate QA Scorecard Process for Email and Chat

MaestroQA's Aircall Integration: Bring Your Calls to Life

Call Center Quality Assurance with Zola and Peloton

Auto-Fail in Call Center QA: What It Means and When to Use It

Why Poor Agent Experiences Happen (and How to Fix Yours)

20 Call Center Coaching Tips to Boost Agent Performance

Why Getting Buy-in for Quality Assurance is Essential

Setting Up a Grading Cadence for Your QA Scorecard

How to Avoid Bad Customer Service as you Scale your Business

Building a New Call Center Quality Assurance Scorecard

What CX Leaders Need to Know About Ecommerce Industry Trends

Call Center Cost Per Call: How to Calculate & Reduce It

6 Tips to Automate Your Customer Service Management Process

Quality Assurance and Training with Seismic Learning & MaestroQA

11 Customer Service Training Ideas and Skills for Your Agents

The Past, Present, and Future of Quality Assurance

고객센터 품질관리를 위한 QA전문가가 꼭 필요할까요?

Improve CSAT Scores: Understanding Your Experience Blindspot

What CX Leaders Need to Know About Security and Compliance

Streamline Your Call Center's QA Program With 4 Key Features

How Customer Experience Teams Can Impact a Company's Brand

Customer Loyalty vs. Customer Retention: Which Matters More?

Empathy & Authenticity: Customer Service Skills to Improve CX

How High-Performing CX Teams Build Accountability

Five Questions to Jumpstart your QA Scorecard Research Process

How to Improve Call Center Agent Performance: 6 Key Tips

3 Ways to Improve Your CSAT Score through Quality Assurance

3 Strategies on How to Increase Customer Loyalty

A Guide to Net Promotor Score (NPS) for Customer Service

Reasons for Call Center Attrition Rate and How to Reduce It

Voice of the Customer (VOC): A Guide for Great CX Teams

What’s Really Behind Your CSAT Scores? Diving Deeper

How CX University Improves Brooklinen’s Agents Performance

Understanding Customer Effort Score (CES) & How to Measure It

Improving the Customer Experience with DSAT Scores

5 Tips for Customer Service Coaches in Call Centers

Your Most Important CX Metric Is Your QA Score - Here's Why

How Agents Can Make the Most of Customer Service Coaching

How to Grade Customer Service Calls

Why Top-Performing CX Teams Focus on Workforce Engagement

Improve Customer Satisfaction with a CX Quality Management Program

Customer Service Training and Quality Assurance – How Lessonly and MaestroQA Close the Loop

How to Calculate CX Quality Assurance Scores