Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Conducing a CSR Coaching Session

Coaching is a two-way street but there is a lot more traffic coming from the CSR to the coach than from the coach to the CSR. In fact, during my coach training, we discussed that in a coaching session, the coachee should be speaking 80% of the time. That’s a lot of listening for the coach!

Here’s how I conduct a personal coaching session. Before we begin a coaching relationship, I have an initial session where we discuss what the client wants to cover and what goals they want to achieve during our time together (usually three month increments).

As for the individual session, we start by discussing last week’s homework assignment (more on this later). Next, I ask the client what they want to focus on this week. We spend the majority of the time discussing that topic. It is my job to ask questions and get the client to come up with their own answers. It is not my job to dole out advice or instructions. As I listen, I reflect the salient points back to the client, make observations, and give acknowledgement. At the end of the session, the client and I determine together what the homework assignment for the next week will be.

Here is how I would tweak that for a CSR coaching session.

Normally, there are goals already established for individual CSRs as far as productivity. However, as a manager or supervisor, you also know what each CSR’s strong points and challenging areas are. Your coaching sessions should incorporate both of those.

If you don’t know what your individual CSRs strong or weak points are, ask them! I would send them an email and ask them for two to three strengths and two to three areas where they could use improvement. Ask them to send this to you at least one day before the session.

Since they will, hopefully, be your employee for a long time, give a set time frame to work within. In other words, what will you focus on for each three or six month increment? Set goals that you will want to achieve during that time frame. It’s important that you set goals together. This isn’t you dictating what you want, you want more than just their input, you want them to drive this discussion.

For the discussion:
  • Discuss any homework from the previous week. This creates accountability. If you give an assignment and don't follow-up, very soon, your employee won’t take the homework seriously.
  • Ask about successes or challenges from the previous week. Often times, you will find the subject for your session here, if not, ask what they want to discuss. If there is something you need to cover bring it up here.
  • As you discuss your topic, let the employee do the majority of the talking. Offer your observations and any encouragement as you go along.
  • At the end of the session, you can suggest a homework assignment or ask them what they think the homework should be. It’s important that you agree on an assignment. If the CSR thinks it might be too much (high work load or taking several days off), allow them to come up with a counter. Once the assignment is agreed upon, you will expect them to complete it and follow up on it.

Things to keep in mind:
  • You focus on the what, let the CSR focus on the how. If you have a goal, let them control how they want to reach it. Don’t micromanage.
  • Respect confidences. Coaching only works in an atmosphere of trust. Do not share anything that occurs within a coaching session without the CSRs approval.
  • Listen with intention. Be engaged. Make eye contact. Occasionally paraphrase what has been said to show that you are listening and hearing what’s being said.
  • Be balanced. Offer criticism when needed but do it constructively and let them help determine what can be done to improve the situation. On the other hand, give credit and praise when credit and praise is due.