Frontline Coaching: Don't Fix the Agent, Fix Your Approach
By Susan Hash

Despite the critical role that they play in employee satisfaction and retention, frontline supervisors often are not provided with the skills to drive engagement—for instance, coaching and developing their teams.

Supervisors tend to approach agent coaching with the notion that the agents who are underperforming can be "fixed," says Christine Frishholz, managing director of The Cicerone Group. "Their view is generally, 'How am I going to fix them?' as opposed to 'How am I going to fix me?'" she says.

In evaluating their coaching approach, supervisors should consider: What is it that I'm going to do differently to have a more productive and fulfilling relationship with my team? How do I infuse my agents with passion and a sense of fulfillment that they made a difference in their customers' lives and for the company?

One challenge is that prevailing coaching models are based on "telling"—giving direction and instruction, says Timothy Clark, author of The Employee Engagement Mindset, and CEO of TRClark.

"The traditional coaching model begins with, 'Here's what you need to do…'" says Clark. Instead, the coach should begin with, 'Tell me what you see.' They need to guide the discovery and accelerate that agent's development by having them participate and figure it out by themselves as much as possible. It requires an additional time investment by the supervisor at the front end, but it will accelerate the employee's time to competency, and the contact center will make greater gains."

Practical Pointer: Identify the teams within your center that have high retention, engagement and collaboration among team members. Make those leaders the models for your supervisor training. "Those individuals have tapped into something. Did they hire the right people? Are they bending the rules in a way that serves both ends?" Frishholz says. "Analyze what works well and what doesn't, and when you find success, think about how you can replicate it."

INSIDE VIEW: Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind
Studies have shown that people who are visually impaired or blind have the skills and motivation to perform well in a contact center environment. In fact, they often outperform their sighted colleagues. The primary employment obstacle that blind adults face is overcoming the misconceptions commonly held by employers that people who are blind won't be able to accomplish tasks that are considered to be visually oriented, such as accessing the computer.

Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind (WSIFB) is working to change that perception by placing blind and visually impaired customer service reps in government and commercial call centers across the United States. Established in 1936, WSIFB is a qualified AbilityOne not-for-profit corporation, and is the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the country. There are currently about 1,000 agents employed in call centers operated by or on behalf of the federal government through the AbilityOne program. Finding jobs for blind and visually impaired individuals is just one part of WSIFB's employment services. In addition to candidate screening and hiring, WSIFB provides its call center clients with other resources, including assistive technology, new-hire training, employer education and ongoing support to ensure that employees continue to grow and be successful in their careers.

Read the full story here. (PDF)


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