In this article we talk about a common coaching challenge faced in the Contact Centre industry.
In a recent course, one of my students, ‘Roberta’ shared:
“Dan, I’ve just been promoted from Call Centre Agent to a Quality Assurance role.
And I’ve been asked to help the Centre improve its call quality.
But how do I handle a situation where the Agent believes that what they’re saying to the Customer is perfectly fine, even when I know it can be better?”
Roberta explained that there was an Agent, ‘Deborah’, in the Centre who had been there for many years and was set in her ways.
The Agent liked to use a colloquial expression when asking for the Customer name at the beginning of the call.
She would say –
“May I have your good name please?”
But this Centre served an international Customer base.
Roberta believed that the Deborah’s phrasing could be confusing for some of their international Clientele.
All it took was listening to a sample of the call recordings to prove out the hypothesis.
Awkward pauses from Customers made it clear that the phrasing was confusing.
The suggested phrasing for this Centre was simply, “May I know how to address you?”
When Roberta approached Deborah with the recommendation to change the phrasing, Deborah became defensive.
Her response was along the lines of:
“This standard is perfectly acceptable.
In fact, my sister in law who works in the Education Ministry in my home country told me that this standard appears in all the major textbooks in use in classrooms.”
Roberta was struggling with how to respond.
Handling the classic case of “My way is better”
When you conduct transactional coaching, it’s expected that there will be cases where Agents believe their way is ok.
And in some cases even better than what they’re asked to do.
My first suggestion is to listen to the Agent input without judging.
Remember that Agents do this for a living. They may have great points and suggestions to make.
Be ready to tell them that’s a great idea. And what you’re going to do to help put that idea up for consideration.
But to carry on with this story I advised Roberta to first honour Deborah’s input:
“Sure Deborah, I can see why you would suggest that phrasing.
I always appreciate Team Members with opinions because this means that you’re thinking about how we can deliver outstanding quality.”
Then direct your conversation over to the viewpoint of the organization.
I teach a 3 Parachute Technique when I share the organization’s viewpoint.
If the first parachute doesn’t open, then pull the second one.
But if the first parachute opens – and is accepted – then there’s no need to go further.
This approach is helpful for this particular common coaching challenge.
Let’s have a look.
Try Parachute #1 first:
“Deborah, each day when we come into work, we actively become part of _________(name the organization).
Through our individual efforts, we help bring ________’s vision, mission and objectives to life.
In the case of the Contact Centre and our quality standards, the Management Team worked hard to design the kind of Service we want to be known for.
In the case of asking for the Customer Name, given our international audience, we implemented a consistent standard which is “May I know how to address you?”
While I honour your opinion, we have a responsibility to deliver the kind of Service we want to be known for here at ________, regardless of our personal opinion.”
Remember to open Parachute #2 only if you believe it adds value to the Parachute #1 discussion.
“Deborah, do you know McDonald’s? Starbucks? Coffee Bean? Great – I guess we all do.
Can you imagine if someone who worked at Starbucks decided that they wanted to make a vanilla latte their own way?
That they simply changed up the recipe or added an additional ingredient because they thought it would be better prepared their way?
Imagine if at Starbucks around the city, the country or even the world, the Baristas each began to make up their own recipes?
One of the ways companies such as ours and Starbucks for that matter, impress their Customers is through consistency and design of how things are to be done.”
For my own training programs and coaching I typically use examples drawn from the countries where I’m working.
I urge caution here though my old VP, Operations persona comes out here and please do look for some tongue in cheek humour.
“Deborah, let’s put it this way.
When you decide to open up your own coffee shop, service consultancy, insurance company, etc., you can select whatever standards you think will work well for you.
And I’ll be the first person to come down, visit your business and talk to you about the standards you set.
But as long as we both work here and our paychecks say “_________” on them, we have a responsibility, along with everyone here, to bring our company standards to life.
Coaches – don’t let the common coaching challenge of “But my way is better” throw you for a loop.
Not only can this common coaching challenge be managed, it’s an opportunity to build trust since you honor the input and share organizational vision, mission and objectives with your Team.
Thank you for reading!