Why Customer Service Requires Coaching — Not Just Training

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Customer service has become a vital portion of the customer journey. As the customer experience has become more personalized, consumers expect an increased level of support after the point of purchase.

When handled well, customer service can lead to better retention rates, higher levels of loyalty, and superior word-of-mouth marketing. However, achieving quality customer service is becoming more and more challenging.

That’s where customer service coaching can make a difference.

What is Customer Service Coaching?

Customer service is an art as much as anything else. It requires a subtle combination of data, training, experience, confidence, creativity, and many other soft and hard skills.

Data has become an instrumental way to oversee and improve customer service. Analytics are applied using tools such as recordings, live chat, customer feedback, and surveys.

The problem that many companies face is figuring out how to apply the cold, hard facts to the fluid activity of being a customer service rep.

Training can only get you so far. The activity tends to focus on run-of-the-mill responsibilities. Using company software, understanding basic product features, and studying brand guidelines all factor into the mix.

Once trained, though, companies must look to a deeper solution for continual customer service improvement: coaching.

The Impact of Coaching

The QA experts at MaestroQA are quick to point out that live agents handle tougher tickets these days. Basic questions are answered by automated systems. That means, if a customer gets through to a human, they often have a detailed and personalized question in tow.

To understand the impact that this has on customer service, one needs to look no further than the numbers. The QA brand highlights a study by Gartner stating that self-service questions cost an average of $0.10 per contact. In contrast, live service solutions are a sizeable $8.01 per contact.

In other words, you’re paying an average of 80 times more per contact to have individuals talk to your customer service team members. This makes having high-quality support agents a priority. You need individuals who are able to think on their feet, act empowered, be creative, and always be learning

Coaching solves this by working one-on-one with agents in a constructive manner. Rather than micromanaging, it fosters an ongoing process of working with agents to improve their skills and knowledge. This leads to superior customer service that is worth every penny of that $8.01 per interaction.

The case for coaching is easy to make. However, actually implementing an effective, up-to-date, data-driven coaching strategy for your company is more challenging.

How to Be a Data-Driven Coach

Here are some actionable steps that you can use to keep your customer support agent coaching current and data-driven.

Set Clear Expectations

Coaching never works if the coach is the only one with their head in the game. Agents must also be clearly briefed regarding the intentions of a customer service coaching effort.

By setting clear expectations, you can create buy-in from your team. You can help them see the activity as an opportunity for professional development — rather than a responsibility or, even worse, criticism or punishment for past performance.

Make Wise Use of Your Data

It’s difficult to make improvements if you don’t know what areas are struggling. There are many ways to discover this, but in the modern world, nothing is as effective as data.

This isn’t just a case of setting up a third-party analytics tracker and letting it “do its thing.” It requires focused targeted efforts. Audit your customer service interactions through surveys, feedback, recordings, and whatever other tools you see fit.

Make sure to be purposeful throughout the process. Don’t just collect any and all data. Ask meaningful questions, and ensure that you’re working toward clearly defined OKRs (objectives and key results) that help you associate data with end goals.

Use Accountability

Accountability is a critical piece of sustainable improvement. The good news is, it doesn’t just consist of checking in on your support agents ad nauseam.

On the contrary, accountability is simply setting benchmarks and goals and then checking in on progress toward those objectives at select times. This gives you the chance to reevaluate unrealistic goals. It also helps you realign a support agent’s efforts if they aren’t producing the desired results.

Accountability also lets you celebrate when your coaching efforts reach recognizable milestones. This can go a long way in maintaining momentum and engagement for coaches and agents alike.

Cultivate Two-Way Feedback

As a final measure, don’t underestimate the value of two-way communication. Feedback from your agents is one of the most valuable pieces of data that a coach can receive.

This provides the opportunity to go beyond formulaic training. By communicating, a coach is able to learn about the specific needs and challenges that each agent is dealing with. This can lead to tailored solutions and superior results.

Coaching your customer support agents is a constructive and positive way to maintain a customer service edge over your competitors. It gives your workforce the tools and resources that they need. It also ensures that they are both inspired and empowered to do their jobs with excellence.

This leads to happier agents as well as satisfied and loyal clients.

So, in the future, approach coaching your customer support staff as an investment. Rather than a bother and an expense, you’re taking the time in the present to proactively pour into your team, your future, and eventually your bottom line.

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Becca Williams is a writer, editor, and small business owner. She writes a column for Smallbiztechnology.com and many more major media outlets.