What Do Gwen Stefani, Roger Federer and Jennifer Lopez Have That Every Call Center Manager Needs?

Mary Murcott

So, you’ve been told that your role as a supervisor is primarily that of coach. You "buy in" to all the theory and research that tells us that customer experience, employee engagement and company revenues all increase when call center representatives receive a significant amount of helpful feedback. You’ve even read that best-in-class level of call center coaching should represent 70 percent of your role. Now you are thinking, well if I am going to spend most of my working days as a call center coach, I might as well be great at it. I might as well be a call center expert.

What Does It Take to Become A Call Center Expert?

I am often referred to as a call center "guru" or a call center "expert" in the industry magazines on customer service. The other day, I was pondering, do I deserve that title? What qualifies someone as a call center expert? To attain expert status, I believe one needs to do three things:

1. Practice, Practice Practice

Some fascinating insights into the subject of expertise, are found in Daniel Levitin’s recent book, This is Your Brain on Music (Dutton). Levitin is an expert on cognitive psychology. In this book, Levitin states that: "Ten thousand hours of practice are required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything."

"In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, concert players, master criminals, or what have you, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day for 10 years."

"No one", he says, "has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise has been accomplished in less time."

There is no in-between: 10,000 hours is the tipping point between mastery and "wannabe" experts. So, we must ask ourselves, have we put in the time?

"The 10,000 hour theory is consistent with what we know about how the brain learns," says Levitin. "Learning requires the assimilation and consolidation of information in the neural tissue. The more experiences we have with something, the stronger the memory/learning trace for the experience becomes".

So, at 70 percent in a call center coaching role, 10,000 hours equates to about seven years in a supervisory role. Many supervisors have been in their role for seven years, and if they have been coaching at this rate, they meet the first criterion for being an expert call center coach.

2. You have to Really Care about Call Center Coaching

Still, simply putting in the time is not going to make you an expert call center coach. You must have passion about it to sustain your own interest and performance over this long period of time. You’ve got to ask yourself—do I really care about finding call center performance potential? Most coaching is not about bringing up the call center performance of poor performers. Assuming that we are hiring the right people for the position, it is about making good people better.


We must ask ourselves: am I the right fit for a position that requires 70 percent call center coaching? If so, you have met the second criterion for an expert call center coach. You have to really care about doing it, and believe you are making a difference.

3. Top Call Center Coaches Need Great Call Center Coaches: The Advent of Triangular Coaching

For many people, including sports stars, entertainers and artists, working with a dedicated coach can be a life-changing experience. You can bet that people like Gwen Stefani, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez all have at least one or more coaches. These coaches don’t just review their results (scores or box office proceeds) and pat them on the back and say "Good job!" Instead, the coaches watch them perform, and provide helpful feedback, positive criticism and encouragement

If as a supervisor you have never had your manager sit in on your coaching sessions, you may want to do what the experts in their fields do. Invite your call center supervisors in to observe your skills in action.

This best practice, called Triangular Coaching, is utilized by most world-class customer service centers. All experts have coaches, and all coaches must observe the expert (in this case, you the supervisor) doing the job. For the same reason you listen to customer calls and give feedback to reps, as an expert call center coach, you will want your call center manager to observe your coaching from time to time, and provide you with feedback on how to improve your call center performance. I recommend asking your call center manager to observe at least three of your coaching sessions a month in order to maintain your expert status.

First published on Call Center IQ.