A version of this post was originally published by Jeffrey Newman as part of his series and upcoming book, ‘Quality Quality — Building a Quality Assurance Program That Changes Employee’s Lives and Improves Your Customer Experience’.
As a consumer and business leader in these unprecedented and rapidly evolving times, I greatly appreciate and admire how deftly organizations that haven’t normally had a work-at-home model for their contact centers have transitioned.
Not only are they grappling with the new, unimagined challenges that come with remote working, but (as many organizations will attest to) they’re likely facing an inordinate and unplanned explosion in volume, and looking for ways to stretch the resources they have so the customer experience doesn’t suffer.
Cutting down on the ‘nice-to-haves’
I imagine most companies have a playbook for how to respond during sustained volume increases, and still achieve their expected Service Levels.
The list includes, but is not limited to:
- Voluntary overtime
- Mandatory overtime
- Removal of all non-mandatory training
- Removal of huddles
- Removal of meetings
- Removal of coaching
But it’s the last item, ‘removal of coaching’, that I would challenge you to hold on to with all your might.
Because as challenging as it may be to carve out that time and—perhaps the even tougher ask—the energy to both coach and be coached, it’s truly one of the most valuable times for coaching to happen.
Why you need to coach through the tough times
As I’m certain you’re well aware, when volumes are high, Service Levels tend to drop, and you’re likely to ask (or require) your agents to work longer hours to help manage your high volumes.
While no doubt necessary, it can be extremely trying on your teams and can have several negative impacts:
Interactions with customers may suffer. As agents are pushed to help more customers, faster, and have less time to recharge, that increases stress for your agents, which may play out in their communications with your customers.
Service Levels may drop further. The domino effect of sustained high volumes and stress may result in agents taking longer to help customers or taking more unplanned breaks (eg. with longer After Call Work) putting you further on the backfoot when it comes to maintaining your Service Levels
Employee burnout. As human beings, it’s hard to keep up with such a high pace of work, especially when a lot of that work may involve talking to upset customers. The risk of that unrelenting pace is having your employees burning out faster—first, during their shifts and then ultimately, burning out overall.
This is exactly why during times like these I recommend that companies hold on to coaching sessions.
Your employees need planned time off the phone to look forward to.
They need to hear words of encouragement and empathy from their leaders.
They need to be reminded of their strengths and have the opportunity to build upon their skills—in fact, it’s these trying times that will likely offer the best lessons to your agents.
And your customers need you to keep your employees fresh, recharged, and focused on development.
Many thanks again to all the companies who have managed to so quickly adopt your organizations to new work environments and operational design. I know you’re going out of your way to show appreciation for those who are putting aside their own personal fears and concerns with current events to do what they can to maintain some sense of normalcy for your customers.
And I’m certain they will be even more appreciative if you maintain your coaching program.
This post was contributed by Jeffrey Newman, Customer Care Manager at Porsche Cars (North America) where he oversees the operations and quality assurance across their contact centers. Jeffrey’s passion lies in quality assurance, and sharing his eponymous ‘Newmanisms’ with the world (which is what he calls the lessons he’s gathered over his 10 years in customer care) in the hopes of helping agents reach their full potential and ensuring customers receive the best experience possible. He is currently working on his debut quality assurance and training book ‘Quality Quality — Building a Quality Assurance Program That Changes Employee’s Lives and Improves Your Customer Experience’.