There are three components to any successful digital customer service team: the process, the people, and the platform they use to provide care. At Sparkcentral, we provide that platform and we work closely with loved brands to build, improve, and grow their digital care programs. Getting the right team in place starts at hiring, but requires thought and attention as your care team scales and as digital venues continue to evolve. Well-coached and trained teams are often hailed as leaders and elevate digital care programs. Based on our work with customer service leaders, we are sharing six ways continuous coaching can help your team and improve your customer service processes, as well as six warning signs that indicate opportunities for immediate improvement through agent coaching.

16.2% of customer service agents believe ongoing training and career development opportunities has the greatest impact on their performance.

– 2015 ICMI Agent Apathy Report

Coaching keeps agents informed of changes to software and channels they are using

For decades, phone and fax were the two primary options for contacting a brand for customer support. The advent of email introduced new technology to both consumers and companies and took years to be widely adopted for customer support purposes. Nowadays, new technology develops every day and your customers are looking for the easiest way to get in touch when they need help. Your team must be able to quickly adapt to these changes or your service reputation can suffer. Your brand could miss opportunities to engage with customers on messaging channels like WeChat and Messenger. (This is huge, since BI Intelligence reports that more people use messaging apps than social networks.)

Take a look at your interactions on digital channels: are your agents asking customers to “follow to DM” on Twitter? Are they asking for personally identifiable information on public-facing channels? Are they hesitant to use a newer messaging channel, even though customers are using it to try to talk to your company? If so, these are indicators that your team needs coaching on the platforms and technology they are using to provide customer service.

Fact: Messaging apps have now surpassed social networks in terms of monthly actives users

Coaching improves agent confidence and knowledge when assisting customers

Your customer support agents should feel confident and knowledgeable when answering questions, regardless of the technology they are using to do so. Social media customer support can be incredibly public, so it is essential that agents who are providing care on digital channels are armed with the right information to help. When agents lack the resources needed to provide helpful responses, everyone loses: your customers will be frustrated, your agents are at risk of attrition, and it will difficult to get the buy-in needed from leadership to make investing in digital care a priority. Through training and coaching sessions, successful managers fill gaps in knowledge and boost agent confidence.

Not sure this applies to you? If your team is constantly pushing customers to another service channel, such as phone or email, that is a great indicator that they are not informed enough to provide the desired amount of care. With the right technology, collecting personally identifiable information on social channels is effortless and secure, so there are few excuses to move a digital customer to a traditional call center channel. If your team has the right software and processes in place, but still makes getting service a challenge for customers, plan coaching sessions to address this problem.

Coaching encourages teamwork and collaboration

Continuous coaching is a great place to start building a culture of collaboration and teamwork. When handling customer questions, it is important to have an open channel of communication that facilitates knowledge sharing. The more complex your product or service is, the less likely it will be that any one team member would be able to answer every question customers may have. In cases of not having the resources or answers needed, agents must feel comfortable asking a coworker for help. Additionally, intra-team communication can better arm agents on how to best escalate a customer’s issue to a more experienced teammate.

You should focus on coaching with an intent to encourage teamwork and collaboration if you notice the following behavior in agents: hesitancy to ask for help during complicated service interactions, passive-aggressive behavior between two or more agents, or agents working in silos without sharing updates or information that impacts the entire team. Assess your team’s strengths if you see any of these indicators and provide your top performers with an opportunity to mentor and coach the rest of the team. By doing so, you can involve the entire team in this effort to improve performance via coaching.

Pro-tip: Pair trainees with more experienced digital care agents so they can learn firsthand how to work in your digital customer service system, as well as gain needed information to get up and running quickly. This way trainees can get feedback from their experienced counterparts in real-time and make changes at the right moments.

Coaching discourages agents from taking uninformed risks

While agents that are lacking coaching may be prone to deflecting a customer to another channel, the opposite can also be true. Without coaching, guidance, and help from leadership, some agents find themselves taking risks that are uninformed and unnecessary. Since American Express research found that 7 out of 10 customers are willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service, it’s important that your agents deliver first-class assistance. When customers are able to talk agents into making exceptions and getting additional discounts or freebies, it begins a detrimental cycle where customers begin to expect giveaways instead of actual help.

Unsure if your team is taking risks that could be avoided by better training on policies and procedures? Ask your team directly and role-play interactions between customers and support agents. Give them situations where exceptions have been made in the past or provide examples of demands that are made by customers looking for free things instead of assistance. Take it to the next level by guiding your team on how to make the right decisions and then provide them with flexibility to go above and beyond, as the situation allows. Teams made up of agents who are empowered to take action on behalf of a customer won’t take chances that could put your brand in a sticky situation.

Coaching increases employee engagement

An engaged workforce is essential to a top-performing team. If you have an engaged team, you’re at an advantage in multiple aspects. To begin with, your engaged employees can help mentor and coach their teammates, which helps foster a sense of collaboration and community. Additionally, studies from indicate that companies with engaged employees outperform other teams by 202%!

Is your team checked-out? Agents self-report that having a clear understanding of how their job contributes to the overall business strategy has the biggest impact on their performance. Begin employee engagement-focused coaching sessions with an explanation of the value of the team’s work. If you’re in need of stats about social media customer care or digital messaging, we’ve got you covered. You can subscribe to the Sparkcentral blog to get insights delivered to your inbox each week that you can use to spark conversations and lead team brainstorming sessions and discussions.

Stat: Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%

Coaching enables managers to provide quality reviews with actionable feedback

Measuring team performance can be difficult to standardize across different teams, but a good place to start is to match digital care service metrics to those in the rest of the contact center. This helps you forecast staffing and plan for expected upticks in volume. However, you must be able to supplement quantitative data (such as number of replies sent and average handle time) with qualitative data. Coaching provides 1:1 time with agents to discuss strengths and areas of opportunity. Ultimately, by having these conversations during coaching sessions, you are able to correct bad habits without waiting until a scheduled review.

Have you had difficulty determining how well your team is performing or found yourself lacking contextual information needed to provide actionable feedback to an agent? If this sounds familiar, you will likely benefit most from this aspect of coaching. Your team will feel informed and aware of how their performance is measured. As a manager, you will be better armed with information needed to justify staffing, hiring, and termination decisions.

“When you coach your team on a regular basis, you will have a team that is aware of changes to the software they’re using and the channels on which they are supporting customers. Agents will feel confident and knowledgeable and are more likely to collaborate with each other and exercise critical thinking skills without taking uninformed risks. As a manager, you will not only increase employee engagement, but you’ll also arm yourself with the quantitative and qualitative data you need when it comes time for reviews, promotions, and terminations.”

– Jerry Fletcher, VP Customer Support & Service, Sparkcentral

We are here to help you improve your customer service processes

Agent performance is directly dependent on having the right tools, incentives, and leadership in place to support agents. At Sparkcentral, we want to work with you to improve your digital care program. In addition to creating a solution built for enterprise digital care teams, we have written an ebook about social customer care agents that you can download for free today! We’re only a quick message away and look forward to talking with you about opportunities to take your social and digital customer service to the next level!

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