When a quarterback throws an interception in the opening minutes of the game, his coach gives him an earful about it as soon as he steps onto the sideline. This instant, in-the-moment feedback is what helps the quarterback course-correct and avoid the same mistake in the fourth quarter, when the game is on the line.
Alternatively, making the star quarterback wait a week to get pointers on his performance seems silly. He wouldn’t remember the context of the play or the sting of the mistake — that coaching moment would be lost to time. Similarly, it’s unreasonable to make your contact center agents wait for feedback on their call handling skills. To create a championship-caliber contact center, you need to provide timely feedback on each agent’s performance. Otherwise, teammates will continue to repeat the same mistakes and poor behavior patterns, while missing out on valuable growth opportunities.
This philosophy of instantaneous, easily digestible feedback is known as “micro-coaching.” Let’s dive into what micro-coaching is, why it’s important, and how you can use it to take your contact center agent performance to the next level.
Micro-coaching is the practice of giving your team members brief, easily digestible feedback immediately following a performance. Micro-coaching sessions are often impromptu and they can be initiated by either managers or their direct reports. This method improves performance by reinforcing good behaviors in a timely manner. It also allows you to quickly nip bad habits in the bud, before they worsen.
In a recent study, only 17% of contact center agents said they receive feedback on their performance as frequently as once a week — the most common response was once per month. These long gaps between coaching sessions can stunt employee growth and allow bad habits to fester, making them harder to correct down the line.
A lack of mentorship and personal attention can also contribute to high turnover rates, which are a growing problem in contact centers. The most recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average call center turnover rate is as high as 45% — at least twice the average turnover in other departments.
When you use micro-coaching, you build stronger relationships with your agents and help them improve performance at a faster rate. This can greatly improve retention rates, as your employees will have more opportunities to learn new skills and grow their careers. And since micro-coaching sessions are short and targeted, they’re easy to scale across your contact center.
Many contact centers shifted to remote or hybrid models during the pandemic, and have kept the same flexible work environments after social distancing measures eased. According to a recent study, about 60-80% of contact center agents currently work remotely. When your agents don’t share a physical space, there is little opportunity for impromptu coaching and providing timely feedback can be difficult. Thankfully, there are virtual coaching tools that can help you solve this issue.
Micro-learning is the practice of giving employees short, focused pieces of content for them to study at their own pace. These lessons focus on key skills that they need to develop in order to grow and become more successful in the organization. Oftentimes, the lessons are delivered via a learning management system (LMS), a central content hub that houses training materials or simply uploaded to YouTube.
Micro-learning is more scalable than micro-coaching, since the manager can recommend a resource that the employee can use to self-coach, rather than spending one-on-one time with them. These two practices are often used as compliments for one another.
Micro-learning materials are more targeted, directly relating to the area the agent is trying to improve. Because the lessons are short and easily digestible, agents are more likely to remember them. In addition, their bite-sized length allows agents can quickly reference them when needed.
Though the philosophy of micro-coaching is pretty straightforward, it can be a difficult task to get it implemented in your contact center. You first need to have the right technology in place to support it, and leaders willing to step outside the norm of calibration sessions. Below are our top tips for how you can easily implement a successful micro-coaching program.
Often, companies listen to only a small sample of calls for quality assurance and scoring agent performance. However, this method is flawed — your quality assurance is only scratching the surface of the calls you receive. It’s likely far too small a sample size to assess agent performance — you could be catching your best agents on their worst days or vice versa. In addition to being inaccurate, the manual QA process is time-consuming. When you finally finish reviewing a sample of your agents’ calls, it will be too late as your opportunity to effectively coach has passed. The agent will have already moved on and fielded dozens of new phone calls, solidifying poor behavior and potentially providing sub-par service to many more customers.
To solve this problem and provide accurate, timely feedback on contact center agent performance, leading brands use conversation intelligence solutions like Invoca to automatically QA every call in real time. Call scores are based on your unique criteria, which can include:
You can also set up separate scorecards for separate agent functions, for instance, one for sales and one for customer care. Invoca will ensure each call is scored using the corresponding scorecard.
To improve micro-coaching, you can use Invoca’s Slack integration to automatically receive timely notifications when your agents miss a particular criteria on your scorecard — for example, when they miss part of a security check or fail to overcome a common objection. This will allow you to quickly detect issues and micro-coach your agents so they can correct them before they repeat the error. Not only does this improve agent performance, but can significantly reduce risk to the business.
As a supplement to micro-coaching, you can facilitate micro-learning by giving your agents access to their own scorecards. This gives them the autonomy to learn from their mistakes and self-coach. They’ll no longer have to wait to speak with you to get coaching insights — they can track their progress on each call continually improving their skills on their own time.
While it’s easy to pull agents aside for a quick coaching session when they’re in the office with you, it can be more challenging to give timely feedback to agents working remotely. Invoca solves this challenge by giving you the tools to coach agents virtually.
With Invoca, you and your agents receive transcriptions and recordings of phone calls immediately after they end. Invoca also automatically QAs the calls and identifies where certain issues are taking place. You can then highlight these key moments in the call transcriptions and @mention agents to give them feedback in the platform. This allows them to see exactly where their pain points are and to easily correct issues on the fly or to acknowledge a job well done. This asynchronous feedback mechanism provides the messaging the agents need to hear without interruption.
When you shake things up with a new micro-coaching program, it may be hard to get buy-in from your organization. Humans, after all, are resistant to change. Anecdotal evidence usually isn’t enough to convert them into believers — you need to get hard numbers to prove the effectiveness of your micro-coaching efforts. In addition, when you track metrics, you’ll be able to see what’s working and make the right adjustments over time to improve your micro-coaching strategy.
With Invoca’s automated quality assurance, you can easily track how well your agents are hitting their talking points and closing sales — they’ll receive a score for every call. Gamification is a great way to create some friendly competition and build camaraderie amongst your agents. To accomplish this, you can create leaderboards where agents can compare their scores and allow leaders to spotlight agents' success. Since the process is powered by artificial intelligence and free from human biases, your team can rest assured that the scores are accurate and fair.
You can then use your agents’ scorecards to benchmark how your micro-coaching is impacting their performance. If you see the scores go up over time, you know that your approach is working. If scores are remaining stagnant — or dropping — you know you need to tweak your approach.
Maybe you need to check in more frequently, or you need to keep your sessions shorter and more focused. Or perhaps you need to tailor your micro-coaching approach for each agent — some people respond better to positive reinforcement, while others need you to call them out on their bad habits. In any case, most managers will need to experiment with a few different micro-coaching techniques to fine-tune the program.
Your micro-coaching strategy will only be successful if you have the right culture in place. Your agents need to be receptive to receiving frequent feedback on their performance and they need to have the drive to constantly improve their skill sets. Invoca’s automated call QA can help transform the culture at your organization by offering fair, unbiased, and transparent feedback on agent performance. It removes the noise from the process and allows agents to focus on doing their jobs and getting better each day.
Invoca helped MoneySolver transform the culture at its contact center. The company has about 100 sales agents in total. With such a large team, giving each agent meaningful feedback about their performance was a challenge. To solve this problem, MoneySolver rolled out Invoca conversation intelligence. This allowed them set up AI-powered scorecards to automatically QA agent performance on every call. With the help of Invoca’s QA, MoneySolver implemented a successful micro-coaching program and doubled their close rate at the contact center.
“Invoca has helped keep our contact center agents engaged. I recently got a call on my cell phone from a 13-year employee, who wanted to know how she could get more 100% scores and move up on the leaderboard,” said Mark Roblez, director of call center operations at MoneySolver. “With Invoca, I was able to quickly pinpoint a question she was forgetting to ask and help her to improve. It’s amazing that Invoca can help me quickly find coaching opportunities for even my most experienced team members.”
Read the full MoneySolver case study here
Want to learn more about how micro-coaching can help your contact center agents thrive? Check out these resources: