An Advice Column Only for
Contact Center Managers
In last month’s Challenge Solved
, Dina Vance, Senior Vice President, from Ulysses Learning described a “30-Day Contact Center Challenge” that received several enthusiastic thumbs up from our readers! If you didn’t catch it, review it now
After reading Dina’s response, we had a reader ask her if she had any other similar challenges that she could share. As luck would have it, Dina did! She received feedback from another client who shared her own version of the 30-Day Challenge. As was the case with last month’s 30-Day Challenge, this challenge is another wonderful way to quickly improve contact center team performance and customer experience, while leveraging the performance improvement programs you already have in place.
Q: Thanks for your comments last month on the 30-Day Contact Center Challenge. I really thought that was a creative way to rev up rep performance and found it to be quite helpful. Just wondering if you had experience with any other 30-Day Challenges that would work in a contact center environment?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
Senior Vice President, Managing Director North America
A: I really loved sharing that 30-Day Challenge with our readers last month. I agree with you and thought my client’s experience certainly was a winning one. Now, to your question – yes, I do have another 30-Day Challenge story that I am happy to share with you!
As with any 30-Day Challenge, the goal is to do something that’s truly meaningful to you for 30 days in a row. By doing so, it becomes a habit that’s more likely to stick. The best news about most 30-Day Challenges is that they actually work. Now, here’s the story.
I have a client who manages a team at a large call center. She recently shared her frustration with complaints she received from her supervisors telling her they simply didn’t have the time to coach rep performance. Twenty years ago, I received the same complaints from my call center team leads. I remember wishing that if I could just do their jobs for them, I could show them that coaching doesn’t have to be that hard and they could move past the perceived obstacle.
I was delighted when my client told me that is exactly what she did…and she made it into a 30-Day Challenge!
Here’s her version of a 30-Day Contact Center Challenge: My client told each of her five supervisors to assign her two of their reps that she would personally coach for 30-minutes per week per rep for 30 days. (If you’re doing the math, that’s two hours of coaching per rep per month.) She made a point to coach reps for a total of one hour each day. Plus, she added the coaching task to her already hefty job and kept up with all her emails, meetings, and reporting responsibilities. She did it all without missing a beat.
I have a tremendous respect for what my client accomplished. She was able to show her supervisors how to fit coaching reps into any day, no matter how busy, and because she was able to “live their lives” as coaches, she experienced many of their challenges. This last point proved to be especially illuminating for her and put her in a unique position to show them how to handle these challenges as well. I wanted to share with you her five top takeaways from her 30-Day Challenge experience.
#1. Make coaching time “sacred”. This means you block the time and schedule your coaching sessions with your reps just like any other meeting.
My client was adamant to schedule one hour of coaching every day. There was no overlapping with other meetings, no rescheduling, and no canceling coaching sessions for other priorities. Coaching was non-negotiable. Those sessions were happening each day. Period.
#2. Schedule coaching sessions first thing in the workday.
The first coaching session started early in the day, right after my client spent about 30 minutes reviewing emails. She made it a priority to coach reps at the beginning of her workday before the fires started and everybody started knocking on her door. She did one-on-one coaching sessions in her office, as well as side-by-sides and fly-bys. What I found remarkable is that she coached each of her 10 reps for a total of two hours per month (30 minutes per week), as I noted earlier. This is double the coaching standard to which her supervisors were held (one hour of coaching per rep accomplished in two, 30-minute sessions per month). This certainly got the attention of her supervisors. If she could coach each rep for two hours a month, they could coach each rep for an hour a month.
#3. Start each coaching session with an agenda and stick to it.
I remember from my days coaching reps how easy it is to gobble up 15 minutes of precious coaching time chatting about family or events outside of work, which is exactly what my client experienced. What she did to keep her sessions on track was create a meeting agenda that she gave each rep at the start of their coaching session. It worked like a charm. The agenda helped her keep the conversation on point and the rep focused on performance development. She also made it a priority to chat with people as well, just not during their coaching sessions. She chatted with team members when she came into work in the morning, got her morning coffee, and when she walked the aisles periodically throughout the day. She also used these quick connects to “warm up” her coaching sessions. For example, she would say a quick “Good to see you, Sean. Looking forward to our coaching session this morning” as she walked to her office.
#4. Add time to your day – decline “observer” meetings.
This takeaway is one I personally put into action and I can tell you it definitely works! My client looked at each of her scheduled meetings and asked herself this question – Am I an observer or contributor at this meeting? She then declined all “observer” meetings. She would send the meeting organizer a simple response such as “I realize that I am there to observe this meeting and I don’t want to miss the content. Please send me a high-level overview of the meeting.” Alternatively, if she knew one of her peers was planning to attend the same meeting, she would check in with her peer and suggest that if she or he could observe the meeting, she’d observe the next meeting and her peer wouldn’t have to attend that one. They would take turns observing and reporting updates. This takeaway can be a game changer and add hours of availability to your schedule each week.
#5. Add more time to your day – calibrate reporting expectations with your boss.
This is another powerful suggestion. My client took a hard look at all the daily and weekly reports she ran for her boss (the list was long). She then sent a note to her boss that said “I know you ask for these reports (she listed them all). I’m showing my supervisors how they can create their workday schedules so they have time to coach their people. To do that, I’m coaching a total of 10 of their reps, combined, for 30 days. My question to you is this: Which reports do you review as soon as I send them and which reports do you use as a reference if needed?” Her boss told her that there were three reports that she didn’t look at regularly. My client then made a deal with her boss to continue to send the reports that were reviewed daily, and not send the other reports unless requested. If her boss needed any of the other reports she would quickly produce them for her. Over the course of the 30 days, my client’s boss never asked her for any of those three reports. And the time saved from not having to prepare the three reports daily resulted in her having more time to coach.
What do you think about this 30-Day Contact Center Challenge? Can you imagine the positive change it created for this contact center? Because it did!
Plus, another terrific perk attributed to this particular 30-Day Challenge is that now, whenever my client’s supervisors say they don’t have time to coach, she uses these five takeaways as a checklist to guide them back on track. I encourage you to do the same. Ask your supervisors if they remembered to block their calendar for an hour of coaching, conduct coaching at the start of their workday, give their reps a coaching agenda, decline their “observer” meetings, and calibrate reporting expectations. I think it’s a winning combination. And remember to let me know how that goes for you. I’d love to share your feedback in an upcoming Challenge Solved.
This month’s featured expert is…
Senior Vice President, Managing Director, North America
In her current capacity with Ulysses Learning, Dina is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and also serves as the chief client relationship executive, working with Fortune 100 clients and other progressive organizations to redefine the way customers are cared for. Under her leadership, Ulysses has become well known for its work in transforming customer service, sales and coaching cultures through the development of emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently and expertly applied on every call. The company has special expertise in serving the insurance, utilities and financial services industries.
Before joining Ulysses in 1999, Dina was responsible for the ground-level startup of two contact centers which led to her accepting a role as call center lead consultant and division manager for an international bank training organization.
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UlyssesLearningwas founded in 1995 as a joint venture with Northwestern University’s Learning Sciences department and continues to bring clients new, innovative enhancements to its industry-leading training. Contact centers achieve profound business results, ahead of schedule, with Ulysses Learnings’ artful blend of patented simulation-based e-learning, facilitated exercises, coaching and tools, that redefine the way customers are cared for and transform customer service, sales, and coaching cultures. Ulysses has the only training proven to build emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently, and expertly applied on every call.
Ulysses Learning is a recent recipient of the Gold Stevie© Award for best contact center customer service training.