Evaluating customer interaction quality is important for any contact center or sales organization. To provide the best customer experience while improving agent performance, customer-facing conversations need to be monitored in one way or another, whether it’s through live monitoring or post-call coaching. Yet there is debate around which method is superior.
Most quality management programs utilize a combination of live call monitoring and post-call reviewing of recordings. This is typically overseen by a quality assurance (QA) team, but oftentimes team leaders are also involved in the process. The problem is that these programs aren’t built around coaching call center agents. In fact, what some centers refer to as coaching isn’t about skills and behaviors in customer interactions at all–it’s used for discussing too-long bathroom break or code abuse.
So which quality monitoring method is superior for driving contact center performance? Let’s dive into the key differences and advantages of live call monitoring and post-call coaching.
What is Live Call Coaching or Monitoring?
Live call coaching or real-time monitoring is the process of listening to a call as it’s happening. This may look like sitting side-by-side with the agent or silent monitoring, done by the manager or QA.
During some live call monitoring, team leaders may ‘whisper’ alternate words or phrases to more effectively address a customer’s needs. It can also supply important information or supplement the knowledge base to help the agent answer a customer’s question more quickly. If the agent is unable to progress the call or it’s evident the call should be escalated, listeners may ‘barge’ in or take over the conversation. This can be helpful on sales calls to ensure the deal closes, but most often, real-time, micro corrections will not create behavior change.
What is Post-Call Coaching?
Post-call coaching is a review of the conversation where evaluation forms are completed and some additional feedback is provided. This function usually rolls up to QA and the feedback may be provided through the managers or directly to the agents.
Organizations that provide targeted, direct feedback to agents through post-call coaching have a significant advantage over others. Their post-call coaching is a macro-level, big picture approach designed to address individual skills and behaviors through the lens of a larger goal: professional development and quality customer service.
In QA-led coaching, call recordings are typically selected at random for review, with just a handful selected from each rep per month. While this is often the most efficient way to provide everyone with quality evaluations, it can skew true performance data due to the small sample size. How do you know if someone was having an off day or if it’s a true skills gap?
Post-call reviews and coaching are an integral part of any call center quality monitoring program. While live monitoring can offer useful tips to reps in the moment, post-call coaching is far more likely to lead to sustained behavior change that supports the overall quality of service provided to customers. Post-call coaching can also be seamlessly integrated into other forms of performance coaching, allowing it to be part of an employee’s overall professional development plan. This makes the results of post-call coaching sessions likely to be permanently adopted, as reps are more willing to take ownership of the results.
Maximize the Impact of Coaching & Quality Monitoring
You can maximize the impact of all quality monitoring by providing direct, targeted feedback to your agents. This may include the introduction of Quality Assurance (QA) scorecards and coaching forms, and the regular practice of coaching your reps around the results of their scorecards. Coaching should give agents clear directions for improving the skills and behaviors necessary for success. Simply providing scores to managers isn’t enough.
One of many ways to optimize contact center coaching and training is by introducing conversation intelligence technology. This software can surface important insights across all of the agents’ calls, allowing managers to pinpoint their efforts on areas for improvement. Conversation intelligence combines speech analytics, transcription, and call activity data with a way to facilitate coaching and feedback alongside the data.
Regardless of your technology stack, to make the most of call reviews, center leaders need to:
Set Expectations & Prepare Agents
Agents should know, going into any conversation, what the manager’s expectations are for their performance, and how they will be scored or evaluated. Not every center provides agents access to their ongoing metrics, but doing so has a huge advantage in driving self-correction. When agents can monitor their day-to-day performance, they can adjust how they handle interactions much faster than waiting for a manager to point out areas they should work on.
Neither live monitoring or call coaching should be presented as a “big brother” tactic designed to catch an agent in their mistakes. Yes, both systems identify areas for improvement, but the desired result isn’t punitive. It’s a win-win approach where the customer receives better service and the agent can improve and progress in their career development.
If you integrate real-time monitoring into your call center’s QA function, communicate in advance the reason this tool has been adopted. Keep the focus on improving the customer experience, which on a micro-level may include decreasing call hold times, improving average handling time, or increasing first-call resolution. Live call coaching is just one of many tools supporting your Quality Assurance KPIs.
For post-call coaching, frame the conversation in such a way that the agent knows it’s about improving their performance for the sake of the customer experience and also for their own professional development. Improved employee performance leads to quicker resolution times, increased sales, and higher customer satisfaction, which can, in turn, drive revenue.
Implement Quality Assurance Scorecards
QA scorecards can be developed by leadership or adapted together with your team. The scorecards should be updated on a regular basis as offerings and customer needs change, your team grows, or metrics change. Since coaching is designed to improve specific outcomes—closing more sales, improving average handling time—QA scorecards help maintain a backbone of excellent customer service by evaluating things like friendliness and compliance. A good QA scorecard assesses specific actions, and a rep should clearly see whether or not they have successfully delivered on each benchmark.
Consider Using a Performance Coaching Model
In many ways, post-call coaching works backward, identifying the goal (what needs to improve), then focusing on specific steps that can be taken to achieve that goal. Several performance coaching models are available to help you structure a successful post-call coaching session. The GROW coaching model is one of the most popular, as it’s malleable and easily adapted.
Coaching models like GROW provide tips and training for effective performance coaching by managers. After prepping your agents, implementing QA scorecards, and familiarizing yourself with the various coaching models, you will be ready to integrate post-call coaching sessions with your team members into your management routine.
Example Structure of a Post-Call Coaching Session
In general, a post-call coaching session will look something like this:
1. Identify the objective of the call being reviewed. Ask the employee to identify the objective of the call being reviewed and what happened. If necessary, add to their answer, but be sure to incorporate their response into your summary, as this will help increase their ownership over their own performance. If there was something positive in the conversation, be sure to provide praise in addition to constructive criticism.
2. Identify the objective of your coaching session. If the call being reviewed did not meet quality standards, the goal is to help the agent build up the skills necessary to hit your KPIs. Phrase it in a way that empowers your employee and makes it obvious to both of you when the objective has been met. For example, “The objective of today’s session is to equip you to respond in more positive ways to frustrated customers,” rather than, “We want to review why you reacted the way you did and how that contributed to a less-than-desirable outcome.” Tie coaching to numbers whenever possible–such as “I’d like to see you improve your empathy score by 10% this month.”
3. Work backward through the call. Start with the outcome, then ask open-ended questions that allow your agent to break down what happened and identify how their actions contributed to the outcome. The goal is not to make the agent feel bad, but to lead them to areas where a modified approach or behavior change could have influenced the call’s outcome.
4. What could the agent have done differently? Let your employee answer this question first. While managers may identify the visible behavior that led to or created a problem, a self-aware employee may also be able to identify emotional or contextual triggers that contributed to their own responses. Work together to identify what behavior needs to change, and what training, resources, or support your agent may need to make those changes.
5. Actionable steps: what’s next? Now that the necessary training, resources, or behavior changes have been identified, work with your employee to put together a timeline for next steps. Make sure to include a follow-up conversation, if necessary, to address any additional challenges that may arise. If things go well, you can use that conversation to celebrate your employee’s improved performance.
Encourage Employee Ownership over Performance Improvement
Remember that coaching involves asking (primarily) open-ended questions that encourage the employee to take ownership of their part of the conversation and their own performance. Personal responsibility and accountability lead to more growth, both personally and professionally. Your role as a manager is to frame the conversation, keep the focus where it needs to be, keep the conversation moving forward, and offer resources and support where needed.
Coaching done well will improve your own performance as a manager, improve your call center agents’ ability to adapt and handle calls with skill and ease, increase sales revenue, and improve the quality of service provided by your call center.