Creating a coaching culture

If you wants to deliver a differentiated service to mark you out from the competition, the first place to look is within your existing team.  Your best  people deliver your values and behaviours in their customer interactions, but from a line manager’s perspective, it’s not easy to bring these aspects to life in brief weekly meetings (which invariably focus on operational performance.)  Whilst your SLAs and KPIs get frequent focus, nurturing the right behaviours that deliver the best customer experience can get overlooked. One way to address this is to create a coaching culture, where coaching is separate to performance management.

For some businesses, it starts with how to differentiate  for their highest value customers, for others, it’s around continuing to scale AND deliver consistent service.  At this point, the business may have a typical contact centre set up – team leaders, trainers, quality assurance, each with silo’d roles.  As a business grows, the tasks and activities the colleagues need to deliver become more complex. Historically, businesses rely on depth of knowledge, addressed through training, but humans reach a natural limit in terms of knowledge capacity – that’s when to shift focus toward behaviours. Focus less on AHT (average handling time)  and speed of answer and more time on connecting with customers on a personal level by using coaching.

To establish a coaching culture,  you need to split out coaching from line management, creating two parallel functions – every colleague has a coach and a line manager.  The colleague feels engaged, with clearly defined personal goals, set by their line manager.  At the same time, how the colleague behaves and why is supported by the coach.  There may be some friction between the two functions in the early days around priorities, but with the right forums and discussions, you can achieve alignment.  Ultimately, both line managers and coaches reach the conclusion that we are all focused on the same outcome, but both bring different perspectives.

Combining Lean / 6-sigma with a coaching culture delivers greater transformation.  Where a business used to focus on business excellence (through 6-sigma black belts and Lean methodology), with coaching, Lean and 6-sigma support the development of the people as they drive change.  Both functions feed each other with new ideas to get things done.

Even where you may have chosen to outsource, most providers often have established coaching and team leader development programmes.  Rather than imposing a programme on them, leverage theirs, incorporating your business behaviours to deliver your ideal customer experience.  This is a much more respectful approach where partners are able to own their own coaching and you won’t need to police an exact prescribed model.

The person leading this charge needs a bold vision; acknowledging that this transformation may take months or years, not weeks or days.  The leader must keep supporting the goal throughout the short term.  If you cancel coaching every time an SLA is breached, the team members will doubt your commitment to the change.  Coaching focuses on WHY you behaved that way, linked back to what the colleague delivered for customers.  It’s like splitting the “head part” (systems, tools, reporting) from the “heart part” (coaching, soft skills, values.)  It empowers the individual and help to create consistent culture, which still delivering the day job.

The revelation is that your culture shifts so that coaching takes precedence over SLAs.  If you start with leadership coaching, you can cascade a top down culture of coaching.  This creates a sense of humility, a willingness to receive feedback and share ideas.  The difference in the customer experience, but just as much, the employee experience cannot be underestimated.  Take the leap of faith, and start the conversation about coaching culture in your business today!

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