Coaching on the Positive: 3 Steps to Enhance Contact Center Performance

Do your call center agents scatter like ants when they see you coming? Do they look for any excuse to reschedule your 1:1s or coaching sessions? If you seem confused by this behavior, it may be time to look at your coaching and engagement style to help enhance your contact center performance.

A good way to do this is to think of when you verbally praised one of your agents, or recognized them for positive performance. Additionally, think about the last time you provided verbal feedback about lagging performance. If you are like most of us, the latter probably outweighs the former.

For some reason, humans seem to be programmed to focus on the negative more than the positive. We see this is in all facets of life – customers spread bad publicity about your company twice as quickly as good; studies show parents scold their children more often than they praise. Thus, it’s not surprising to see this behavior in coaching and management as well.

If call center agents know that they are only going to hear bad news from you, then it’s only natural that they want to avoid you. However, you can’t effectively impact performance change when your agents avoid you. So, how do you address this possible issue?

  1. Be deliberately positive.

In engaging with others, psychologists suggest striving for the 5:1 rule – try to provide five instances of positive or neutral feedback for every negative instance. Coming up with positive feedback on the spot can be difficult when the “bad” is staring you in the face. Thus, prep before every 1:1 coaching session and identify if there is at least one positive thing you can recognize in their performance. Lead with those positives, and then provide constructive feedback related to the performance gaps on your mind.

When you think about positive interactions don’t only focus on work performance. With your low-performing agents, positive interactions might mean just talking to them about their hobbies and interests. While you are still not positively praising their performance, at least they will now associate you with more than just bad news.

Additionally, try to change the overall tone of your staff meetings. Many staff meetings begin and end with the contact center manager discussing the areas in which they are under performing, and reviewing the new processes being implemented to fix inadequacies. Be deliberate in your staff meeting to also incorporate highlights on the team’s accomplishments and recognize individual performance.

  1. Implement performance management tools.

Manual reporting and lack of real-time performance visibility contributes to the dearth of positive manager-agent interactions. Without effective tools, monitoring performance can be so time consuming that when the data is finally gathered, managers only have enough bandwidth to put out the fires and talk to the negative to get back on track.

Luckily the market now offers powerful data aggregation and performance management tools that automate these processes and proactively notify managers on both negative and positive agent performance. Additionally, you can employ gamification and recognition to track agent performance and reward them with coins and achievements that positively reinforce desired behaviors. This makes work fun and engaging for agents.

Automated quality management tools can also be configured to be more positive. Just tweaking the verbiage on the QA form questions can shift the focus from negative actions to desired behaviors. For example, the question “Did the agent talk over or interrupt the customer?” frames the question through the lens of the negative habit you’re trying to break. Whereas “Did the agent allow the customer to fully and completely articulate their point before responding?” focuses on the desired behavior instead of the undesirable habit you’re trying to break.

  1. Practice and build self-awareness.

Increasing positivity in your coaching may not happen overnight, but building self-awareness and asking for constructive feedback is a great way to start. At the end of each day, cycle through the interactions that you had with agents, categorizing them into positive and negative. If you’re positive to negative ratio isn’t at your goal, then plan ways to improve tomorrow.

Positivity ripple effects

Remember – the point is to increase positive engagement between you and your team. In turn, employee satisfaction resulting from this positivity may contribute to overall improvement in call center agent performance and increased productivity… making it even easier for you to find positive things to praise! You might additionally see a ripple effect from this increased engagement, including a reduction in agent turnover. So, put on your positive pants – it’s time to engage your agents.