How to Use InsideOut Coaching in Call Centers

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While employees in call centers are no different than other employees within your organization, they do have different roles and challenges. These employees have inherently repetitive and scripted roles, yet still require a great deal of mental focus from employees; they work primarily as a customer services force, which has grown and is still growing to be one of the most essential aspects of a business. Their role is vital.

But with that role comes certain challenges. They work in a metric-heavy work environment, which includes constant evaluation and comparison; they also often face high environmental interference unique to call centers, including calls coming in consistently, distressing or abusive call-ins, non-stop noise from other agents calls, and more depending on the call center in question.

Their role is a draining one. The call center world is a difficult one for many employees; turnover rates for call centers are incredibly high, with an average annual turnover rate of 30-45%, double the average turnover rate of most jobs within the United States. Call center employees report struggling with low pay accompanied by high stress, few chances for advancement, not enough training, and poor leadership. All of these lead to more stress and lower engagement.

Employees are the fundamental cornerstone of a call center, and the high turnover rate is an understandably distressing indicator of how difficult it can be to have engaged employees present to fill that cornerstone.

However, engaged employees are not just miraculously found, but are the result of a fulfilling workplace culture. Creating a culture is not always easy to do. InsideOut Development provides a number of tools to help reach those results.

In order to create a fulfilling workplace culture, organizations need to provide certain things for all of their employees, as well as a few specific things for their managers and other leaders.

Providing Specifically for the Managers

Most of the elements of InsideOut Coaching listed above are meant to help all employees, no matter their role. But InsideOut Development believes that part of what makes any coaching program successful are the people managers.

This is especially relevant within call centers. Call centers have a tendency to promote from within. Incredible agents are promoted because they are incredible agents. Unfortunately, this does not always translate into being incredible leaders, which takes a different skillset. It’s never as easy as saying ‘this is what I did, so this is what you have to do.’ While advice like that may help some, it more often leads to frustration for both leader and agents. InsideOut Coaching helps leaders to become leaders, instead of just incredible agents in leadership positions.

Having leaders fulfilling their role as leaders is important in any organization, but it is perhaps particularly important in call centers. Call centers have a very structured, regimented reporting structure, which is particularly well suited for InsideOut Coaching. An HR representative can’t be in charge of coaching every employee; team leads, shift leads, and floor managers, however, are in a far better position to act as coach.

Part of this is because the numbers are in their favor. Team leads have a manageable number of agents as direct reports to act as coach for. However, the other reason team leads, shift leads, and floor managers are better suited to act as coach, is because there is a relationship between managers and employees, and that relationship means there is the possibility of trust.

InsideOut Coaching equips leaders to build that trust. In call centers, where the leaders are often pulled from the mass of agents, it’s especially important to reestablish that relationship of trust. Your leaders were originally just one of the agents, but a promotion has been a cause for strained relationships more than once. InsideOut Coaching helps to bridge that gap.

Providing for All of the Employees

As call centers are rife with interference, successful call centers support their teams to focus and reduce that interference. InsideOut Development offers unique solutions that work together to create focus and reduce interference, elevating performance. Those solutions include InsideOut Coaching and InsideOut Breakthroughs.

InsideOut Coaching is based in the eponymous InsideOut Mindset (the belief that everyone has the capacity to learn and perform at a higher level). Mindset matters. If a contact center supervisor believes in their team and their capacity to learn and perform at a higher level, their team members know it. If that supervisor doesn’t’ believe in their team, they know that too. The InsideOut approach, also known as the ask approach, focuses not on inundating employees with more information, but on helping to remove interference so that employees can focus. Increasing focus equips employees to learn faster and more easily act on existing knowledge.

Access to information (through onboarding, trainings, memos, employee resource portals, etc.) is only one element of performance. As the founder of InsideOut Development, Alan Fine says, “The key to higher performance isn’t knowing more about what to do, but doing more of what we already know.” InsideOut Coaching enables and empowers agents to be able to get past daily interference to shift their focus on doing what they know how to do.

Leaders are sometimes hesitant to take this approach though. Part of this is because it feels like coaching takes more time, while telling someone what to do only takes a few minutes. Thankfully, InsideOut Coaching and InsideOut Breakthroughs—a workshop designed to teach front-line employees skills and tools to solve their own problems—are both designed to enable check-in and feedback conversations that only take a few minutes while still increasing productivity and engagement.

These conversations also help agents to understand the problems they face and create their own solutions, which is time well spent. On the other hand, the more common ‘tell approach’, doesn’t solve the problem and leaders will waste more time having to give instructions over and over. If you feel like your managers are asking the question, “how many times do I have to tell you this?” then it may be time to consider taking the InsideOut approach.

While your agents know what to do, they still want to receive more constructive feedback. Contact centers are very metric heavy, your agents know their metrics, where they compare to others and to their own previous performance, and whether they are hitting organization standards.

InsideOut Development uses check in and feedback conversations—an integral element of both InsideOut Coaching and InsideOut Breakthroughs—to help agents feel like their progress and successes are being noticed, while still providing them with structure to determine how to further their progress.

Some of that structure is provided inherently through organizational metrics, which tell agents where they need to focus and what they need to do to be considered successful. But how individuals reach those metrics can be more flexible. People want to have discretion in how they make progress, and the GROW® Model helps enable that flexibility.

The GROW Model is one of the core elements of both InsideOut Coaching and Breakthroughs, and when used correctly, enables agents to take ownership of their own progress to evaluate their desired goals, their current reality, their options to successfully reach their goals, and establish a way forward. That sense of ownership will allow your agents to feel empowered in their attempts to reach and exceed organizational metrics.

The GROW Model not only helps empower employees through creating personal, realistic goals, it also helps agents more quickly navigate the decision-making process, improving decision velocity for your employees. Given the importance that is put on quickly and successfully helping customers through calls, agents will benefit from having more confidence in their decision-making abilities and will be better able to handle the occasionally difficult call without having to escalate the call to include their supervisor.

The increase in empowerment, improved decision velocity, and higher confidence levels all serve a secondary purpose of helping you decrease the amount of agents who will suffer from burnout, a common reason behind high turnover rates. These are not the only ways that InsideOut Coaching works to prevent and fight against burnout.

InsideOut Coaching and Breakthroughs help leaders remove barriers keeping call center agents from productivity by:

  • Establishing stronger relationships
  • Encouraging and enabling collaboration
  • Providing a safe place for agents to discuss workplace stress
  • Identifying problems causing unnecessary stress
  • Creating plans to reduce that stress
  • Empowering agents to take control of the problems they are facing
  • Providing 1:1 opportunities to combat burnout

Call Centers and InsideOut Coaching

The call center faces some challenges that are particular to itself, that can’t be denied. But that doesn’t mean that call centers need to create completely new solutions.

At their core, InsideOut Coaching and Breakthroughs are centered around reducing interference in individuals to dramatically improve performance. So, in an organization like call centers, where the most important resource is the individual agents, InsideOut Coaching puts the focus in the right place to help the entire organization benefit.

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