Are Your Call Center Agents Truly Uncoachable?

According to an SBA survey, Our Customers Leave because….
• 1% die or go out of business
• 3% move away
• 5% follow a friends recommendation to go elsewhere
• 9% leave for price – a common misconception is that customers are price sensitive
• 14% leave for product dissatisfaction
• 68% leave because they sense that you don’t care about them (attitude of indifference from Employee)

When I monitor and coach, my goal is always to think about the Customer at every "moment of truth" in that call.

I love to stop and start recordings and ask the rep what they are hearing from the customer in terms of words but also tone of voice. Likewise, I’m hearing the choice or words and tone of the Representative at each moment of the call. We know that the Customer is making decisions about us, about our company and that one poor word or perceived bad tone from the agent can mean a change in their own attitude. One way to show interest is by having a positive, friendly, can-do tone which displays concern, interest in their needs and treats them as an individual rather than call number 5,260 this month.

Sometimes, I find that Managers accept skill issues as being inherent rather than "Coachable". They accept the skill "as is" because they think the Representative is incapable of changing their communication style. Tone is one of these.

My favorite Coach comment is: "Well, that’s just the way Nancy talks", as if it is out of our control to coach or assist her and as if the Customer will just understand that’s how Nancy is. My first thought is perhaps Nancy should not have been hired if she didn’t display a great speaking voice and tone. However, you have her as an employee now, so how do you prevent having to remove her from a Customer contact role if the tone affects her interactions.

Tone is one of the tougher skills to coach, but also one of the most important for meeting Customer Expectation. A Representative who can’t offer a tone of understanding, interest and friendliness is a real problem for Customers seeking this "connection" with them. I work with the skill Coaches to find ways to overcome these challenging skill issues. Many times, we have great success. One way to work is connecting the Rep’s challenging skill to their own life experiences.

The first step is making the employee aware of how they sound and why they sound that way. During a recent monitoring and coaching session with a Supervisor who had given up on the Representative’s Tone improvement months ago, I found that she had never made the Representative aware that her facial expression and narrowed mouth type of speech which was the major cause of her poor Tone.

Once I did some Tone exercises with the Rep, discovered she loved to sing with a church choir, and linked singing to her speaking tone, the light bulb moment happened. The Rep recalled her choir conductor explaining how to sing more open mouth to get the best musical note "tones". She now realized that she was keeping her face and mouth too rigid and small to have a great tone when speaking as well. After further discussion she also saw the value of smiling more to get that open tone and thinking of the run of musical notes to fluctuate her pitch. I gave her suggestions for "punching" certain words to vary her speech pattern.

In order for the voice tone to improve, the Supervisor needed to monitor within a few days and reward the Rep for making efforts to improve. The monitoring and feedback should be done weekly for a while to provide encouragement and recognize improvement. The more she hears positive feedback and gets more in sync with caller’s need for the tone connection to feel "appreciated" and shown interest, the more the Rep will continue to improve.

Melissa Kovacevic is the Founder and President of CommPlan Consulting. Melissa consults with Contact Center and Retail Customer Service clients on ways to improve and blend People, Process and Technology for a winning Customer Experience.