Make a Resolution to Start Coaching!

If you work in the call center industry, you are probably very familiar with the terms “coaching” and “monitoring.” Although two different activities, the terms are frequently used interchangeably. In reality, they are two separate and distinct activities that should be clearly set apart from each other. If you want to know who has a handle on how different these activities are, ask the people involved – management and the frontline. You will discover one question gets two different answers every time.

Do You Coach?

The question, first put to management, is “Do you coach?” The resounding answer is “YES!” Take this question to the frontline and ask, “Are you coached?” and the answer is, “No. But we are monitored.” The recipients of coaching and monitoring know very well the difference between these two disciplines. It’s management and the industry who are confused.Before we get to the differences, I will admit that making this important distinction and sticking to it won’t initially make life easier. Sorry, that’s only on TV or Internet ads. Learning, accepting and then implementing the difference between coaching and monitoring will likely tighten up your schedule, demand further juggling of priorities, and result in increased interaction with staff. In return, the promises dangled out in front of you include: a higher level of satisfaction for the customer; improved consistency between people and teams; personal growth and development of each person; and even increasing job satisfaction and retention. Sound good? You bet!

Before you get too excited, a “buyer beware” warning. The world you live in, like mine, is a microwave world and few people are willing to take the crockpot approach. Coaching is crockpotting. Monitoring is microwaving. Coaching takes time, energy and focus if not caring and mentoring. Monitoring takes a pen or pencil and a score sheet dropped off in a mailbox. The good monitoring programs at least have a counseling session where results are discussed, but I challenge the effectiveness of real change from that session.

Here are the quick, down and dirty, definitions for coaching and monitoring.

Coaching is an out-in-the-open activity for the purpose of self-development. You may also know it as “side-by-sides” or “double-jacking.” When you coach, feedback is given at the end of the call with the expectation of change in the very next call. Monitoring is a behind-the-scenes activity for the purpose of quality control or assurance. When you monitor, feedback is given later, after-the-fact with the expectation of “proving” a change has or has not occurred in overall success.Think sports specifically.

Where is the coach in football, basketball, swimming or golf? On the field, court, pool or course with the player. Sometimes the coach stands next to a particular player, giving input on how best to handle the task at hand. Only the actual game itself forces the coach to the sidelines, but the coach is still there. In fact, most coaches have an entire language of signs developed to continue the communication with players. Why? So that improvement, changes, and yes, even encouragement for a job well done can happen NOW before the very next play, or the very next call. Think sports specifically, again – Is there a monitor?

Absolutely! The monitor is in the press box filming the game, and on the morning after the game the team gathers to view the evidence! Yes, the evidence of how successful your coaching sessions were – who implemented or who didn’t implement the agreed upon changes, and at another level, how good the coaches are doing their job! Monitoring does exactly what the name implies – it monitors what has happened and provides a quality assurance and quality control check on the “players.” How many players are covered in this QC routine? Your frontline rep and their coach, of course. You can also include others who impact the results of the center, for example, your product and service training team. You may decide that the coaches need calibration. Maybe training programs need updated, or maybe a rep needs more coaching session time.

The key is to remember that monitoring is historical. It looks back at what happened and reports on the outcome. Coaching is NOW! Coaching is about developing the talents of the person being coached. It concerns itself with giving personal assistance in the present moment to affect change and provides the person a partner and encourager who helps them facilitate the change. So if Coaching is NOW, why is it a crockpot approach and not a microwave? Because it takes humans lots of “nows” to add up to real change. Monitoring does not foster change. It is a report, and a report will never cause a developmental change. It might cause a change for adherence sake (which we too often accept as real change), but it is a short-term change resulting in high turnover, but wait, retention is a subject for another time!

And finally, just in case you are wondering if monitoring has just taken a fatal fall from grace, the answer is no. Every call center needs the pair, coaching and monitoring for the very reasons defined above. One develops and the other checks on the success of that effort. It’s a two-pronged approach to success. In the articles that follow in future newsletter issues, we’ll look at other issues that affect the success of coaching programs. What can be coached? How do you deal with individual style issues? Calibration issues and nuance lists and the all-important, how to give the actual feedback to reps. In the meantime, take a look at your coaching and monitoring programs and decide which you do more – report or develop.