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  • Part 3: Make a Resolution to Start Coaching!

    Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    by PhonePRO

It’s now time to go to the next topic and discover how a coach develops staff by giving feedback on performance.  Remember that a standard is an objective measure that applies to everyone. On the other hand, a style is a subjective measure that applies to just one person at a time.


How to set measurable standards for employees

How to set measurable standards for employees

A good way to get these two clear in our mind is to compare them to something we understand very well. Think about music and musicians. All sorts of music are written (same notes and words = standard) and the very same music is performed by artists who deliver it in many different ways (variety = style).


During the holidays, you probably hear your fair share of “Jingle Bells.” The tune and the words are standard. They’ve been around for years and no matter what artist does the song, the essential tune and the words remain. However, depending on what artist does the song, the style of the song is remarkably different. Think of how The Carpenters sing the classic song. Next, think of the Chipmunks. Now, think of Jimmy Buffett, Chicago, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, or the cast of Glee. We could list even more performers, but would still agree that while the music and words remain the same, the delivery of the song can be completely different. Some artists’ version you love and others you really dislike. Have you ever heard anyone “butcher” your favorite song? Like the Goo Goo Dolls version of ‘Give a Little Bit’ that was originally done by Supertramp in ‘77. OUCH!


Without standards, communication can become a free-for-all when speaking with your customers. This is why standards are the core, the rock bottom foundation of your coaching program. It’s wiser to set the standard and then have the style flow from it. By the way, setting a standard and not allowing style to flow is not wise. It’s stifling; for the rep and for your customer. It is sometimes too easy to tell when the rep isn’t the author of a word or phrase they’ve just spoken and reps can sound like robots to the customer.


Style gives communication life and personality. Everyone operates from their own base of personal style preferences. Your style and your view of the world play a strong role in developing your team. First, remember that it is impossible to require or impose our style on others. And when it comes to measuring style, we are on murky ground. Here’s a real story that made this crystal clear to me.


I was coaching in a consumer goods call center that supported a line of very popular marketplace products. The software used to capture the caller’s information was ordered in a linear sequence that made perfect sense to the programmer. As you know, callers are completely unaware of what order your program is in. And often, they tell stories with the data you need sprinkled throughout call.


In this call center, there were 30+ reps and yet two reps in particular stood out. One rep’s style was preferred because they had an innate ability to hear the caller’s story, capture the information needed, and at the same time flip back and forth between screens to input the data where it was required….all while never losing control of the call. The other rep found it impossible to do anything other than follow the linear layout of the program taking only the data each screen required. Knowing that, they carefully and skillfully guided each of their callers through the call in the order of the program and captured all the information they needed and still allowed the caller plenty of storytelling time.


The first style was impressive and preferred by management. I was asked to coach the “linear rep” to be more like the other rep. I knew I was on shaky ground. First, I requested to see both rep’s internal coaching/ monitoring scores and notes as well as customer satisfaction surveys. Both reps scored in the highest possible ranges and within points of each other with the linear rep scoring just under the other rep. Both reps nailed the standards perfectly. When compared with each other, these two reps had very different styles. When ranked by the customer though, both reps equally scored as excellent. This was purely a preference of style issue.


Absolutely no one, me included, knew how to reproduce and duplicate that innate skill in a way that could be demonstrated and taught to someone, anyone, else. Here’s the hard and fast truth – unless you can personally demonstrate what it is that you want to standardize in such a way that you can teach it to someone, anyone, else and they can duplicate it, it is a style and not a standard.


Standards apply to everyone. Styles are personal. So what’s a coach to do when faced with some of the day-to-day challenges of working with reps who are meeting standards, but you know they have potential to develop further in their personal style?


That’s where an “idea” comes in. First, recall that the purpose of this is not to make someone into anyone else. The purpose is to give everyone the tools to make themselves better. It’s taking their capability and with coaching, turning it into ability. No capability? Then no amount of coaching will give you ability. Remember that.


The definition of an “idea” is something that works for someone else and it might work for you. Notice it doesn’t say that an idea is something that works for me and might work for you, but works for someone else and might work for you. It’s the power of the third party. As a coach, monitor, or supervisor, you have a “parent” role, and by its nature that turns your advice into drivel. So the strategy is to use the power of the third party to gain attention and willingness to try something new.


Your best ideas will come by sharing what another rep, their peer, is doing. For example you might say, “I was sitting with Carl this morning in a coaching session when he received a call very much like the one you just took. When the caller asked him if we had any promotions coming up, he began to ask questions about what kind of promotions he liked and then went on to explain that there aren’t any current promos running. It worked really well. Instead of the caller getting upset that he didn’t have a promotion to use right now, he felt as if he contributed to the creation of future ones. You might try Carl’s approach the next time a caller corners you about not having enough promotions.”

Like the music and the musicians, there is an element of standard and an element of style in every call. Keeping a balance between the two is necessary and that balance can be found more easily when you set standards first.

Standards, Styles, Ideas: the three components of coaching frontline staff to excellent performance and getting rave reviews from your customers. In the next article, we’ll talk about the art of giving feedback to your staff so it’s accepted and acted on. Stay tuned!


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